King Lear vs Hero’s Walk: Compare & Contrast
In both William Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and Anita Rau Badami’s “Hero’s Walk,” the characters learn through a series of heartbreaking and misguided assumptions that relationships are the key to our rise or downfall. In Shakespeare’s tale, the classic Greek hero structure is revealed as King Lear painfully learns the folly of his ways in listening to his evil daughters Goneril and Regan and rejects his loving daughter Cordelia. In Badami’s more modernized “Hero’s Walk,” Sripathi discovers the child he rejected is the child who would bring him the salvation he’s been searching for most of his life. In this, the characters of King Lear and Sripathi are quite similar, both learning to open their eyes to the truth in their relationships despite the inclusion of new ideas when it’s nearly too late for either of them to save themselves from the damning mistakes of their individual pasts.
King Lear is depicted as a strong king gone weak with age. He is tired of the burdens of ruling a country and makes plans to divide his kingdom among his three daughters and then to live out his last years in peace and comfort, being provided for by those daughters he so lovingly set up to be rulers in their own right. However, when his youngest daughter, Cordelia, crosses him in this plan, pointing out the tremendous vulnerability he is bringing upon himself given the untrustworthy nature of each of her older sisters, it is Cordelia he banishes from the realm, having been fooled by the sweeter sounding words of Goneril and Regan. Servants and others who work to turn the king’s ear again to his youngest and most wise daughter are banished along with her. It is only after he has been turned out of the house and disrespected by each of his other daughters that he finally realizes his mistake and accepts Cordelia again as his daughter. This acceptance comes almost too late as Cordelia is hanged for treason and King Lear himself dies shortly afterward.
For Sripathi, forgiveness to his daughter will never reach her ears as she dies in a car accident in Canada at the opening of the story. Even here, when the call comes in, Sripathi is still nursing a deep resentment toward her for abandoning her Brahmin heritage in India to marry a Caucasian man and moving away. Believing duty should come before all else, Sripathi hasn’t spoken to Maya in years, having made it a habit to go out for a long walk precisely ten minutes before her weekly call to her mother was expected. Like King Lear, Sripathi sees his world crumbling around him as he inherits yet another family responsibility in the form of his small, silent, eight-year-old granddaughter, Nandana, who is now his ward. He views his son with disdain, describing him as lazy and worthless, while his sister wastes away in resentful maidenhood, his wife seethes within and his mother criticizes constantly. However, it is in the loss of his daughter that Sripathi finally begins to understand the value of the people surrounding him, seeing them in a deeper way than he had before. His wife suddenly takes on imagination as she describes his mouth as a purse’s zipper and his son becomes a thoughtful individual when he shows Sripathi where the sea turtles return each year to lay their eggs.
In both “King Lear” and “Hero’s Walk,” the main characters are very similar in that they expect their children and those who depend upon them to behave appropriately and with proper respect for the father. However, in each case, these men, King Lear and Sripathi, fail to recognize the greater depth of character each of these people has and therefore come dangerously close to losing the treasure or treachery each relationship has to offer. Only in the final hours before all is lost do they each learn the true value of the relationships they’ve had.
Badami, Anita Rau. The Hero’s Walk. New York: Ballantine, 2000.
Shakespeare, William. “King Lear.” The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. Ed. Alfred Harbage. New York: Penguin, 1969.