The Free Radio by Salman Rushdie questions and answers
The Free Radio
Short Essay Type Questions with Answers
Q. 1.Comment on the Setting and Language in “The Free Radio”
Ans. The action takes place in a tightly-knit community in India. the language is conversational, which is achieved by the use of netorical questions, repetition, and discourse markers such as ‘you now’:
We felt bad for him, but who listens to the wisdom of the old oday?
I say: who listens?
Exactly; nobody, certainly not a stone-head like Ramani, the ickshaw-wallah. But I blame the widow. I saw it happen, you know, saw most of it until I couldn’t stand it any more.
The narration resembles village gossip. This is especially vident in the following passage in which the narrator implies that ne thief’s widow prostitutes herself:
The thief’s widow had gone to the bania shop to buy some hree grains of dal and I won’t say where the money came from, but people saw men at night near her rut-putty shack, even the bania aimself they were telling me but I personally will not comment.
The passage reveals the narrator’s hypocrisy; he likes to pretend hat he doesn’t stoop to gossip, and yet his insinuations are clear enough
Q.2. Comment on The Narrator in “The Free Radio”
Ans. The story is written in the first person. The narrator is an old teacher who is an important part of the community. He used to know Ramani’s parents. The narrator often switches between the singular “l’ and the plural ‘we’, which means that he assumes the tole of the community’s spokesperson.
The narration is unreliable, as it is filtered through the marrator’s biases and preconceptions. What is more, his knowledge s limited to gossip and what he can witness. Unreliable narrators ire fairly common in modernism and postmodernism (Salman kushdie belongs to the latter movement)
The narrator is particularly prejudiced against the thiefs widow. The fact that he never addresses her by her own name restris a lot about the narrator’s views on gender. The widow is only defined by her disreputable dead husband as if her identity were ties inextricably with his. In the narrator’s view, women are sent independent beings.
The widow was certainly attractive, no point denying, ina sort of hard vicious way she was all right, but it is her mentality that was rotten. Ten years older than Ramani she must have been five children alive and two dead, what that thief did besides robbing and making babies God only knows, but he left her not one new paisa, so of course she would be interested in Ramani.
The narrator also safeguards conventional morality by frowning on the fact that Ramani and the widow are seen in public But after that Ramani and the thief’s widow were seen everywhere, shamelessly, in public places, and I was glad his mother was dead because if she had lived to see this her face would have fallen off from shame.
The fact that the narrator is a teacher is significant, given the story’s clearly didactic tone. The narrator wants to lecture the reader about the importance of listening to elders and the dangers of succumbing to fantasies.
Q. 3. Comment on the use of Reality and Fiction “The Free Radio”
Ans. One of the story’s main themes is the relationship between reality and fiction. Ramani easily believes in fantasies about being a film star or receiving a free radio from the government for undergoing a vasectomy. The boundary between fiction and reality becomes blurred when Ramani starts pretending to already have the radio. Even the community half-participates in these dreams:
“Ram always had the rare quality of total belief in his dreams, and there were times when his faith in the imaginary radio almost took us in, so that we half-believed it was really on its way, or even that it was already there, cupped invisibly against his ear as he rode his rickshaw around the streets of the town.The Free Radio
Further, the narrator says:
But when I saw him now, there was a new thing in his face, a strained thing, as if he were having to make a phenomenal effort, which was much more tiring even than pulling a rickshaw containing a thief’s widow and her five living children and the ghosts of two dead ones; as if all the energy of his young body was being poured into that fictional space between his ear and his hand, and he was trying to bring the radio into existence by a might, and possibly fatal, act of will.
The excerpts question the nature of fiction and reality, almost blurring the distinction between the two. They also point to the dangers of delusions; Ramani’s act of imagination is potentially fatal. Rushdie’s treatment of the nature of fiction in this story has political undertones; the imaginary radio can be read as a comment on the dangers of propaganda.
Q. 4. Comment on the chaacter of “Teacher sahib” in “The Free Radio”.
Ans. The Free Radio is one of the three stories of the East section of Rushdie’s East, West collection, published in 1994. These stories, as the section’s title also suggests,are set in an eastern setting, where the people of orient (Indian people) are influenced by the West, so much so that their traditions and way of life becomes in a way “corrupted” by western standards and culture.
Therefore, the characters even start to think about life like the idolized westerners do by trying to break free from the traditions and having new ambitions different from the ones their culture would approve of or normally tolerate. No matter how dangerous this may seem, this opposition of their inner characteristics towards the orient actually helps to make the story also relevant for the people of the West.
“Teacher sahib” is an old retired teacher, a respected figure who spends his old days according to the tradition, sitting under a banyan tree smoking his hookah and observing the life of everyday people. He has healthy curiosity towards other people’s business and in particular towards Ramani’s whom he feels responsible for and genuinely worries about, since he used to know his deceased parents. It is important to note that he is the one who narrates the story, therefore it is mostly only his biased point of view that we see.
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