There are two main themes in Vendor of Sweets: One is the father-son conflict which can be generalized as a conflict between the east and west or between good and evil. The other theme is man’s quest for identity and self-renewal. The protagonist Jagan is a sweet-vendor by profession, follower of the Gita in thinking and talker of Gandian principles but he indulges in double dealing in matters of money, and also cheats sales-tax authorities. He comes to realize that money is evil when his son, Mali, comes back to India with a Korean girl, Grace and asks for money for his business. Jagan finds new life or a new birth in his retirement, when he surrenders his business to his cousin. His fragile Gandhian self-regard collapses before his much-loved son’s strange actions; and after Mali ends up disastrously in prison as a result of driving drunk around Malgudi, Jagan has no option but a Hindu-style renunciation of the world, bewilderment and retreat to a simpler life. But even here his ideal of Sanyasa is not serious  as he still holds the purse string.


Mulgudi, Narayan’s famous Indian township provides the backdrop for this novel with its interesting mixture of the traditional and colonial heritage.The love and marriage, their devotion to God .and their celebration of the festivals make the Malgudians come alive. The simplicity of the vendor and the naivety of his customers is touching when they spend half an hour discussing politics., before asking for sweet meats and their price.


Jagan and his son Mali are the main characters and two other minor characters are Jagan’s cousin and the KoreanAmerican girl, Grace. Jagan looks a typical travesty of Mahatma Gandhi dressed in khadi clothes but crazy over money, he cheats the salestax authorities with no scruples and spoils Mali by giving money. Mali, mediocre degenerate usual youth longs to have western way of life like American studies possession of foreign gadgets, consumption of meat, wine and free sex. Jagan represents the superficial aspects of the East and Mali the weaker aspects of the West. A college drop out, Mali attracted by the West contracts relationship with a foreign girl, Grace. Mali rejects his Indian past and tries to imitate Western life. His driving in a drunken state brings him to jail. Jagan-Grace relationship proves that East–West synthesis is also possible. Grace, the unmarried, casteless, foreign girl, has concern and solicitude for Jagan in her attempt to be a good Hindu daughter-in-law. She learns diligently the Indian way of life and maintains the house clean. Jagan on his part understands her predicament brought by the misdeeds of his son. What prevents Grace from settling down in India is not any error on her part, but her money gets exhausted and Mali would have nothing to do with her. Jagan is willing to get her an air ticket if that would be of help to her. Earlier he ignored the ostracisation by his relatives for bringing a foreign lady into the household. But Jagan is not without his weaknesses. He follows Gandhism but cheats income tax people consoling himself that Gandhi did not mention anything about income tax. He reads Gita but cares for caste.

Point of View:

In The Vendor of Sweets , Narayan adopts the selective third person point of view. It is the father–son relationship or the conflict of two generations which plays the dominant role in developing the action and shaping the narrative. The experiences and events in the life of both the father and the son, therefore, occupy equal importance in the novel, Narayan, however, focalises the story  from the point of view of the father. All the events and happenings in the novel are described as seen through the eyes and mind of Jagan . To provide the full view of Jagan’s life and character, Narayan uses “flash on”and flash back techniques.

Socio-cultural  Context:

The Western Influence :

 As western modernity enters Malgudi , its own indigenous values are corroded. Presence of an Insurance company in The Dark Room, , the studio on the bank of river Sarayu in Mr.Sampath, and story writing machine brought by Mali in The Vendor of Sweets indicate that Malgudi is already growing as a civilized commercial centre. Change is not only spatial and temporal but also cultural and social . Mali lives with Grace, an American-Korean even when they are not married. The orthodox Hindu society of Mulgudi, ostracises  Jagan for being a Gandhian  and punishes Mali for anti-social behavior in the end.

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