Engine Trouble by R.K. Narayan Summary

Engine Trouble by R.K. Narayan Summary
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  • 0:03 Big Winnings
  • 0:36 Summary of 'Engine Trouble'
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

When does a prize become a headache? For the narrator of our story, 'Engine Trouble,' almost immediately! In this lesson, we'll summarize this short story from Indo-Anglian writer R.K. Narayan.

Big Winnings

Did you know that if you win the lottery, you also inherit a hefty tax bill to go along with it? The same goes for other type of winnings, too, such as a car, jewelry, or a trip. The short story is that the U.S. government considers your winnings to be income, and they want their cut (of course). While you may still be glad to win that money or a new set of wheels, your winnings also come with an extra bit of aggravation. But, it's nothing like the aggravation our narrator experiences when he finds himself with the winning raffle ticket. Continue on to see what happens.

Summary of ''Engine Trouble''

What starts off as a prize winning quickly becomes a nightmare for our narrator, known only as the ''Talkative Man.'' At the start of the story, it appears that a carnival of sorts has rolled into town. The author describes the affair as ''all sorts of fun and gambling and side-shows,'' brought to town by ''a showman owning an institution called the Gaiety Land.'' Gaiety means happiness or excitement.

And, it's certainly exciting for the narrator, who finds himself the lucky winner of a road engine. The narrator had purchased tickets for a type of raffle drawing. His ticket was drawn, and he was an instant winner.

Winner Winner

To win a road engine was a pretty big ordeal, and the narrator was stunned. Now he had to figure out how to get the large and heavy engine home. Unable to transport it himself, he works out a deal with the Gymkhana Grounds, where the event was taking place, to keep the engine there until the season was over and he could make arrangements to get it moved.

Despite the peculiarity of the win, many came to congratulate the Talkative Man on his winnings. Friends and family were sure it would fetch a lot of money if he were to sell it.

The event concludes and the narrator is instructed to come and remove the engine or pay rent (totaling 10 rupees per month or roughly 16 cents in U.S. currency) to leave it where it sat. The narrator, a poor man, could scarcely afford the rent: ''Even the house which I and my wife occupied cost me only four rupees a month,'' he offers by comparison.

What to Do?

The narrator seeks the advice of many in determining what to do with his winnings. Most advised him to sell it. The local priest, finally, offers the help of the temple elephant and several men (at a cost, of course) to move the road engine to a nearby field owned by the narrator's friend. From there, he would have some time to determine his next step.

The plan didn't go quite according to plan, unfortunately. The engine veered off course, frightening the elephant and the men, and causing damage to a section of wall close by. The owner of the wall was none too pleased and had the narrator arrested for the damage to his property.

Let Go

Once he was released from jail, the narrator discovered his troubles had multiplied: he was being charged for the services of the men who tried to help move the engine (even though they failed to complete the job) as well as costs to treat the elephant's knee. He was also tasked with rebuilding the section of damaged wall.

The narrator, then, hatches a plan to skip town and disappear from those he owed money to. It's exactly what he would have done, except potential relief is right around the corner.

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