Tag Archives: untouchable

Cleanliness in “Untouchable”

“And though his job was dirty he remained comparatively clean. He didn’t even soil his sleeves, handling the commodes, sweeping and scrubbing them. ‘A bit superior to his job’, they always said, ‘not the kind of man who ought to be doing this.’ For he looked intelligent, even sensitive, with a sort of dignity that does not belong to the ordinary scavenger, who is as a rule uncouth and unclean.”

Notes: Repitition of “cleanly” features throughout the novel, caste distinctions, dignity

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1935, 16.

Strange Reverence

“‘For this man’, he said to himself, ‘I wouldn’t mind being a sweeper all my life. I would do anything for him.'”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin Books, 1935. Print.

Notes: Interesting because Bakha has to do terrible work for people like the Havildar but due to his fame Bakha doesn’t mind. The lower class still manages to revere the upper class, despite the fact that the upper class is the reason they have duties like being a sweeper.

“Dirty” Work

And though [Bakha’s] job was dirty he remained comparatively clean…’A bit superior to his job,’ they always said, ‘not the kind of man who ought to be doing this.’ For he looked intelligent, even sensitive, with a sort of dignity that does not belong to the ordinary scavenger, who is as a rule uncouth and unclean.

Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable, (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 16.

Notes: Irony. Apparently, you can have dignity while holding the job of sweeping latrines. It is unfortunate that people will make judgments based on the jobs people have and what caste they are in. Also unfortunate that some people are referred to as “scavengers.” It is unfortunate that he is seen as an exception to a rule simply because he does not seem Indian. It is unfortunate that he feels he should separate himself from his Indianness.


“Bakha’s turban fell off and the jalebis in the paper bag in his hand were scattered in the dust. He stood aghast. Then his whole countenance lit with fire and his hands were no more joined. Tears welled up in his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. The strength, the power of his giant body glistened with the desire for revenge in his eyes, while horror, rage, indignation swept over his frame. In a moment he had lost all his humility, and he would have lost his temper too, but the man who had struck him the blow had slipped beyond reach into the street. (50)

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1935. Print.

It feels like this is the same as the way his father treats him, and how he feels being in the untouchable caste. It reinforces his low position, but emphasizes that he does not feel worthy of such treatment. He works hard, yet can’t seem to rise above his class. If the man hadn’t gotten away, I wonder what would have happened. Even his behavior wearing white men’s clothes, smoking and indulging in candy makes him seem sinful, trying to be what he is not.


“As he sauntered along a spark of some intuition suddenly set him ablaze. He was fired with a desire to burst out from the shadow of silence and obscurity in which he lay enshrouded.” pg. 95. Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin Group, 1940. Print.

“But there was a smouldering rage in his soul.” pg. 51.

“Quickly it flared up, suddenly illuminating the furnace with its leaping red,’ gold and black flames, an angry consuming power, something apart, something detached from the heaps of straw it fed on.” pg 21.

Fire. The last quote describes the furnace that Bakha puts the latrine refuse in to get rid of it. The first two quotes describe a fire inside of Bakha, one that rages and dies down throughout his day as he deals with endless discrimination. I think it is a perfect metaphor. Bakha has reached an age where the caste system and his fate are being illuminated for him.


“But Bakha was a child of modern India. The clean-cut styles of European dress had impressed his naive mind. This stark simplicity had furrowed his old Indian consciousness and cut deep new lines where all the considerations which made India evolve a skirty costume as best fitted for the human body, lay dormant.” (10)

Notes: I like how this passage clearly distinguishes Bakha as someone from modern India as opposed to an older more traditional India, like his father. It shows how colonialism has made a deep impression on Bakha’s mind beginning through things such as clothing.



“The toil of the body had built up for him a very fine physique. It seemed to suit him, to give a homogeneity, a wonderful wholeness to his body, so that you could turn round and say: ‘Here is a man.’ And it seemed to give him a nobility, strangely in contrast with his filthy profession and with the sub-human status to which he was condemned from birth” (Anand 20).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1940.

Notes: Class is an incredibly important aspect of life for Bakha. It is not enough just to be defined as a “man” but his class status greatly affects how he views life. It has been ingrained in his mind that because he is not part of the “nobility” that he is “sub-human.” His humanity is deeply tied to his status. He resents his status and sees it as a form of condemnation.



Cold Nights

“The nights had been cold, as they always are in the town of Bulashah, as cold as the days are hot. And though, both during winter and summer, he slept with his day clothes on, the sharp, bitter wind that blew from the brook at dawn had penetrated to his skin, past the inadequate blanket, through the regulation overcoat, breeches, puttees and ammunition boots of the military uniform that clothed him.” (page 10)

This quote really makes the reader understand what he is going through. This quotes tells the reader the environment Bakha is living in, it gives us a visual of his situation. I feel as if Bakha is very uncomfortable about his arrangement, but he sleeps with his day clothes on still.

Notes: uncomfortable; cold dark nights, but hot days; military lifestyle

Language and castes

“Bakha turned abruptly and noticed Ramanand the peevish old black moneylender shouting at him in his sharp southern diction” (19).

“And he was, as he said, in the language characteristic of the Indian lover, ‘dead over her'” (31).

Anand, Mulik Raj. Untouchable. New York: Penguin Books. 1940.

Notes: It is notable how deeply important class and caste is in this society. And this even is reflected in Anand’s close attention to language, and how he portrays language and what characters say, as well as how these things are viewed by others in the community. Further, it’s as if the text itself is very aware of and making a conscious decision to use language to discuss these class issues, as well as to draw attention to how language is also a very ingrained aspect of each caste (and the levels within those castes as well) in society as a whole.


A small, thin man, naked except for a loin-cloth, stood outside with a small brass jug in his left hand, a round white cotton skull-cap on his head, a pair of wooden sandals on his feet, and the apron of his loin-cloth lifted to his nose.

It was Havildar Charat Singh, the famous hockey player of the 28th Dogras regiment , as celebrated for his humour as for the fact, which with characteristic Indian openness he acknowledged, that he suffered from chronic piles (15).

Anand, M. R. (1935). Untouchable. (p. 15). New York: Penguin Books.

Notes:  When reading the first part of the passage I expected the “small, thin man” to just be a regular towns-person, so I was very surprised to learn that this man who is dressed very simply, is a “famous” hockey player. It shows that no matter the profession, there are very  few wealthy citizens in this community.