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Commentary: An Astrologer's Day

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A Commentary on 'An Astrologer's Day' The writer's description of the astrologer leaves us in no doubt that he is a charlatan - his equipment, costume and appearance all have a deliberate, theatrical quality designed to convey the impression of a mystic power which he does not possess. Notice the author's wryly ironic comment that the abnormal gleam in his eye is "really an outcome of a continual searching for customers" and his dry observation that "even a half wit's eyes would sparkle" between such a painted forehead and dark whiskers. The deliberate artifice of the astrologer is further underlined by the author's use of phrases such as "To crown the effect" and "This color scheme". The illusion is enhanced by the fact that the astrologer works in the eerie glow of a smoky flare which adds to the "enchantment" of the place. The astrologer's customers are depicted as gullible creatures who are irresistibly attracted to him like bees. But although the author portrays the astrologer as a fraud, his innocent customers are not shown in the light of hapless victims. ...read more.


It is only after the bet has been agreed that the astrologer glimpses the man's face whilst the latter is lighting a charoot. The sight of the man's face seems to shock the astrologer but again we are purposely given no explanation why. The astrologer is so dismayed that he tries to retract the wager and hurriedly leave but the man is ruthlessly insistent and becomes threatening. Surprisingly, the astrologer agrees to speak but only if the wager is increased to one rupee. Both the reader and the man are surprised to hear the astrologer's seemingly miraculous divinations as he accurately describes the man's grisly past. The man is dismayed to learn that his thirst for revenge cannot be quenched since his enemy is already dead. He is further stunned to discover that the astrologer knows his name and accepts his admonition to return home and never travel southward again. The astrologer leaves the man with one consolation: he tells him that his enemy received his just deserts by dying a deservedly painful death. ...read more.


We also share the astrologer's final sense of relief, partly because we find Guru Nayak unpleasant but mainly because we admire the way in which he skilfully and successfully handles such a crisis of circumstance and manages to extricate himself from an extremely dangerous situation. Rising to the occasion, he uses his "professional" acting skills and sharp wits to turn the tables on his overawed antagonist and transform a perilous predicament into godsend. Finally, the author's effective use of irony is worth commenting. Near the beginning of the story, he writes that the astrologer "... knew no more of what was going to happen to others than he knew what was going to happen to himself next minute". Given what is about to occur, these words become prophetically ironic. Note also the wry irony of the astrologer's final complaint to his wife ("The swine has cheated me!") when he himself had perpetrated the greater deception and cleverly cheated Guru Nayak of his revenge . Lastly, the matter-of-fact title is a masterpiece of ironic understatement. "An Astrologer's Day" implies that the story will describe an average or "typical" day in the astrologer' life whereas the event related is both extraordinary and fateful. ...read more.

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