M.R. Anand, “Untouchable”

“Rakha was at length in sight, a basket of food on his bare clean-shaven head, a pan slung by a string handle in his hand, and his feet dragging a pair of Bakha’s old ammunition boots, laceless and noisy and too big for him. His tattered flannel shirt, grimy with the blowings of his ever-running nose, obstructed his walk slightly. The discomfort resulting from this, the fatigue, assumed or genuine, due to the work he had put in that morning, gave a rather drawn, long-jawed look to his dirty face on which the flies congregated in abundance to taste of the sweet delights of saliva on the corners of his lips. The quizzical, not-there look defined by his small eyes and his narrow, very narrow forehead, was positively ugly. And yet his ears, ┬álong and transparent in the sunlight, had something intelligent about them, something impish. He seemed a true child of the outcaste colony, where there are no drains, no light, no water; of the marshland where people live among the latrines of the townsmen, and in the stink of their own dung scattered about here, there and everywhere; of the world where the day is dark as the night and the night pitch-dark. He had wallowed in its mire, bathed in its marshes, played among its rubbish-heaps; his listless, lazy, lousy manner was a result of his surroundings. He was the vehicle of a life-force, the culminating point in the destiny of which would never come, because malaria lingered in his bones, and that disease does not kill but merely dissipates the energy. He was a friend of the flies and the mosquitoes, their boon companion since his childhood.”

–Mulk Raj Anand, “Untouchable,” p. 84

Notes: characterization (foil to protagonist); relationship between person described and the setting; decadence of setting=decadence of character?; narration/omniscience(?)/whose P.O.V.?; wordplay and poetics (alliteration, puns, etc.); strange commentary; historical context of novel; postcolonial literary theory; sociological poststructuralism; Westernization; language, ethnicity and narrative

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