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Edexcel English IGCSE: A Hero by R.K Narayan

Q3. How does R.K. Narayan bring out the tensions in the relationship between Father and Swami and to what extent have these been resolved by the end of the story?

You should consider the following points:

  • their differing views on the newspaper article
  • their disagreement about where Swami should sleep
  • the impact of the incident with the burglar in the office
  • the writer’s use of language.

You should refer closely to the text to support your answer. You may use brief quotations.

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

In ‘A Hero’, Swami and his father have a tense relationship, as Father is often harsh towards Swami. Although the conflict about where Swami sleeps seems to be resolved at the end of the story, the writer implies that this peace might be temporary.

The story opens with disagreement over a newspaper article, prompting the increasing tension between Swami and Father. Father addresses Swami with an imperative – “Swami, listen” – which highlights the instructive and demanding nature of their relationship. Language of disagreement and conflict highlights the tension between them: Father “sneered” at Swami and Swami “disputed” Father’s theory about courage. When he makes the valid point that courage would be pointless if he were attacked by a tiger, Father shifts the argument to question Swami’s courage, rather than arguing reasonably with his son. This defensive style of argument implies great tension in their relationship.

The relationship between Father and Swami continues to worsen, as the subject of their dispute changes to where Swami sleeps at night. Swami “tried to change the subject”, implying that he is unwilling to argue with his father directly, perhaps because he knows he will lose. Swami also knows “his father’s tenacity at such moments”. These facts imply that Swami knows his father well, meaning that this tension probably exists in their relationship all the time. Nevertheless, Swami attempts to compromise with his Father, but this is met with derision: Father replies with a definite “No” and cruelly compares Swami to a “baby”. This reveals an ultimate tension in their relationship, since Father is not even prepared to compromise.

Although Swami is allowed to sleep back with his Granny after the burglar incident, the tension with his father isn’t resolved. It is not clear whether Father praised Swami; the passive voice in “congratulations were showered” is ambiguous about who praised him. He is also still angry about the sleeping arrangements, which suggests that the incident didn’t impact their relationship much. It implies that Father cannot accept that Swami was courageous, even though Swami passed his test of sleeping in another room, and even attacked an intruder. Father also refers to Swami as “the boy”, implying a lack of respect. The only change is that he decides not to pursue the issue this time, but this could be due to Mother’s influence. The story ends with Swami being “tremendously relieved” that Father was “giving him up” – this suggests a mere break in open conflict, rather than a resolution of tension in their relationship.

In conclusion, the relationship between Father and Swami is clearly tense, and this is only partially resolved at the end of the story, in spite of the dramatic events of Swami’s night in the office.

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