The only logical link they have with each other is that the same hero, Chandran, figures in each of them. However, a little careful study of the novel reveals that it has thematic and emotional unity and that Part III is the structural centre of the novel.
Part one which consists of five chapters is mainly concerned with Chandran’s college life and its comedy:
The novel is closely organized under four parts, and each part presents a certain stage in the growth of the protagonist Chandran as he leaves college as a graduate to face the odds of worldly life before he finally settles down as a happily married man with a loving wife and a rewarding job. Part one which consists of five chapters is mainly concerned with Chandran’s college life and its comedy. It gently exposes his ambitions, vanities and snobbery. It also shows him at home in the company of his parents and his younger brother Seenu.
Part two of the novel, consisting of another five chapters, deals with Chandran’s falling obsessively in love with a girl called Malathi:
Part two of the novel, consisting of another five chapters, deals with Chandran’s falling obsessively in love with a girl called Malathi. This “love-at-first-sight trauma” makes a decisive turning point in Chandran’s life. It creates tension in the family and brings him apparently into sharp conflict with his parents; with the long-cherished customs, conventions, and beliefs of their clan.
In spite of the best efforts of his father, the marriage does not fructify as the father of Malathi sternly refuses to consider the marriage of his daughter with Chandran in view of the adverse position of Mars in the horoscope of Chandran. When Chandran learns that the Wedding Notice of Malathi for her marriage with her cousin is being celebrated, all his hopes of marrying Malathi collapse like a house of cards. He loses his cheer and his health is broken. He desires a change of place and with his father’s consent; he leaves for Madras to stay with his uncle there.
Part Three of the novel, though consisting only of two chapters, is structurally most important:
Part Three of the novel, though consisting only of two chapters, is structurally most important. As per the original plan, Chandran is supposed to go to his uncle’s house in Madras. But on reaching Egmore Station, he gives a slip to his cousin who has come to receive him and takes up lodging near People’s Park.
At the hotel, a middle-aged man by name Kailas thrusts his friendship on Chandran and virtually takes complete charge of him. Kailas is a well to do man living in a nearby village with his two wives. Now and then he comes to Madras to have a good time by drinking and whoring till his purse becomes lean and thin. Chandran’s excellent brought up helps him avoid the temptations of wine and women thrown at his disposal by his lavishing friend, Kailas. Detested by the ways of Kailas, Chandran flees his presence as if from a ghost.
But he decides not to return to Malgudi as he will be tormented by the memory of Malathi. He feels totally depressed and finds no interest in life. He pitches on the idea of becoming a sanyasi as it will be an easy alternative to suicide. With the help of a good barber by name Ragavan at Mylapore, he tonsures his head and gets a pair of loin-clothes dyed in ochre and becomes a sanyasi.
Chandran as a sanyasi realizes that he is totally different from other sannyasis:
Chandran as a sanyasi realizes that he is totally different from other sannyasis. Others may renounce with a spiritual motive seeking inner peace. Renunciation may be to them a means to attain inner-harmony. They are perhaps dead in time, but they do live in eternity in view of their spiritual bliss. But Chandran’s renunciation is not of that kind.
It is an alternative to suicide. He does not resort to suicide in view of its social stigma. Perhaps he does not have the barest physical courage to resort to that. He is a sanyasi because it pleases him to mortify his flesh. His renunciation is a revenge on society, circumstances, and perhaps, too, on destiny.
Part Four, consisting of six chapters, deals with Chandran’s return home and his rehabilitation:
Part Four, consisting of six chapters, deals with Chandran’s return home and his rehabilitation. He understands the immense love, concern and affection of his parents and his younger brother. He is sorry that he gave them tons of worry during his eight-month wanderings as a sanyasi totally out of touch with his family barring the first letter he wrote asking them not to worry about him as he intends to be wandering for long. Chandran soon decides that his idea of going to England for his higher studies is yet another illusion like that of his love and friendship.
He decides to stand on his own leg without sponging on his father’s money. He becomes the Malgudi agent of The Daily Messenger, a newspaper published from Madras as suggested by his friend Mohan with the help of his uncle’s contacts there. By his systematic planning and excellent scheme of canvassing, he improves the circulation of the daily in Malgudi.
He sees Susila, a beautiful young girl proposed to him by his parents and finds her ‘divine’. He marries her. He shares his new-found joy of his marriage rites and the intelligence and precocity of his wife with his friend, Mohan who is instrumental in making him accept the marriage proposal and turn a new leaf in his life.