Humour of Narayan is the direct course of his intellectual analysis of the contradictions in human experience tragically or comically. But this view of irony raises some issues which require explanation. The basic feature of every irony is a contrast between a reality and its appearance. But the matter is not so simple: the ironist is not sure which is reality and which merely seems.
Who, for instance, would dare say that Don Quixote’s tragic and lovable ‘illusions’ are only appearance and the real world is that of Sancho Panza? How then are we to judge the issues involved? Professor Chevalier’s answer is that irony is ‘a mode of escape from the fundamental problems and responsibilities of life. More specifically, he says, ‘Irony characterizes the attitude of one, who when confronted with the choice of two things that are mutually exclusive, chooses both. This is but another way of saying that he chooses neither. He cannot bring himself to give up one for the other, and gives up both. But he reserves his right to derive from each the greatest possible passive enjoyment. And this enjoyment is irony. There is a general tendency to accept that irony and humour must co-exist. Sainsbury, for example, remarks that “an ironist without humour is almost inconceivable.”
Irony can be tragic also, but in Narayan our concern is mainly the irony that works as a base for Narayan’s humour the instances of which are found at every step in his novels. Take the most glaring example, Raju; the guide- turned-saint who had embarked on a fast for fourteen days and his condition was serious—so serious that he collapses on the twelfth day. And on that height of the tragic scene, Narayan sends crowds of people who come to see the saint as if they were going to a fair. An American takes a movie of the scene.