Tag Archives: failure

Never Clever Enough

“Swami went to his seat with a bleeding heart. He had never met a man so good as Samuel. The teacher was inspecting the home lessons, which usually produced (at least, according to Swami’s impression) scenes of great violence. Notebooks would be flung at faces, boys would be abused, caned, and made to stand up on benches. But today Samuel appeared to have developed more tolerance and gentleness. He pushed away the bad books, just touched people with the cane, never made anyone stand up for more than a few minutes. Swami’s turn came. He almost thanked God for the chance.”

Narayan, R.K. Malgudi Days. New York: Penguin, 2006.

Notes: Complete 360: polar opposite versions of the character [Samuel] leads the audience to fall for the trap like Swami does. “The chance” he should have taken was to behave well and not test Samuel’s limits. Swami’s naivety is apparent as he tries to be clever, which ultimately lands him in more trouble than at the start. It also makes me question whether he actually had a headache in the first place. He asked his mother rather than his father because he knew she would allow him to stay home. Swami is a character that attempts to have things his way, but is most times unsuccessful because he does not think rationally.


When the possibilities themselves had, accordingly, turned stale, when the secret of the gods had grown faint, had perhaps even quite evaporated, that, and that only, was failure. It wouldn’t have been failure to be bankrupt, dishonoured, pilloried, hanged; it was failure not to be anything.

Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle,” in The Complete Tales of Henry James
(New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1964), 379.

Notes: expectancy, failure = not accomplishing anything?, false modesty = egotism/pride