Realization of a Condition

Like a ray of light shooting through the darkness, the recognition of his position, the significance of his lot dawned upon him. It illuminated the inner chambers of his mind. Everything that had happened to him traced its course up to this light and got the answer. The contempt of those who came to the latrines daily and complained that there weren’t any latrines clean, the sneers of the people in the outcastes’ colony, the abuse of the crowd which had gathered round him this morning. It was all explicable now. A shock of which this was the name had passed through his perceptions, previously numb and torpid, and had sent a quiver into his being, stirred his nerves of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste, all into a quickening. ‘ I am an Untouchable ! ‘ he said to himself, ‘an Untouchable ! ‘ He repeated the words in his mind, for it was still a bit hazy and he felt afraid it might be immersed in the darkness again. Then, aware of his position, he began to shout aloud the warning word with which he used to announce his approach : ‘ Posh, posh, sweeper coming. ‘ The undertone, ‘ Untouchable, Untouchable, ‘ was in his heart ; the warning shout, ‘ Posh, posh, sweeper coming ! ‘ was in his mouth. (52)

Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable, Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Editions, 1935

Notes : Realization of his condition, his social status in the Indian’s society, his identity, his caste. Use of an extended metaphor of light/darkness to represent the realization/ignorance of his identity. Focus on the senses and perceptions. Character abruptly brought back to reality of his condition, endowed with confusion between what he says and what he feels and thinks.

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