Why is Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable considered as a powerful critique of India’s caste ridden society? Give examples from the text and comment critically?


Why is Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable considered as a powerful critique of India’s caste-ridden society? Give examples from the text and comment critically?



Untouchable is a  powerful critique of India’s caste-ridden society in which Mulk  Raj  Anand attacks the social evil of caste system inviting the attention of the people. He plays as an activist in this novel. How his novel ” Untouchable” actively manifests the social evil of the caste system that makes his novel considered as a powerful critique of India’s caste ridden society is displayed highlighting Bhakha’s life, his encounter; Lakha’s struggle and Sohiny’s tragic experience of being molested with reference to the text.


The novel “Untouchable” is a faithfully powerful critique of Mulk Raj Anand who depicts the miserable condition of the subalturns, untouchables in the caste ridden society of India. He speaks of the beastly attitude of the high-class people toward the low caste society. Lakha, the jamadar of the sweepers, Bakha and Shohini, a victim of molestation in the novel are the victims of the caste ridden society in India. The author not only focuses on their poverty but the life of a  low caste society how much suffering, anguish, sorrow, tyranny, and alienation people go through under the foolish caste system.


The day of Bakha, in the novel, starts with shock, distress, and humiliation. In a single day, he cleans three rows of latrines with his father followed by abuses:


          “Get up, ohe, you Bakhya, ohe son of a pig! …Are you up? Get up, you illegally begotten”.


The novel itself is the vivid society of how low caste system tormented the life of the untouchables in India in every sphere of their life. A man of a low class couldn’t walk in the road when a man of high class would come on the same road. To draw water from the tube-well an untouchable had to wait till other people of high class finish taking water. All these pictures are brilliantly portrayed in the novel. Bakha in the novel was scolded when he accidentally touched a babu. The babu scolded him:


             “oh, son of a pig. You have made me dirty. I have to take bath again”.


These are the real episodes the lower class people endure in life which is very much seen in the novel.


Anand’s  purpose  behind  the creation of Untouchable was as he sates:


Untouchable was in its sources  a ballad born of the  freedom I  had  tried to  win for  truth against  the  age-old  lies  of  the  Hindus  by which  they  upheld  discrimination”.


Untouchability is the  mostly debated  issue in the  Indian  Subcontinent,  particularly  in  the Union  of  India,  not  only  for  its  religious  and economical  code  but  also  for  its  oppression  to overcome  the  subalterns  as  well  as  the  lower caste people in both ancient and modern Indian society. Originally,  untouchability  began  with the religion  of  Hinduism and  later  it blows  out into  the  origin of  the Hindu  societies  in  India. Mostly,  the  aristocratic  people  like  Brahmins, use  the  religion  to  defend  a  strongly  defined ordered  structure  of  society  to  control  the economically  lower-class  people.  The hierarchical  structure  brings  caste  system  in practice  which  has  been  determined  by  one’s profession  inherited  by  birth.  The  status  of subalterns  is  carried  out  mainly  on  the  lower caste and lower-class people. They  are common victims and they  accept suppression as  they  do not  have  the  economic  and  political  power  to fight  back  the  upper-class  people’s  supremacy. They are not able to raise the voice to speak out their condition  and  portray  themselves  before  the world as in the novel. The concept of subaltern covers not only the  untouchables  but  also  all  the  poor  and marginalized  groups  of  people.  These untouchables  have  very  few  chances  to  change their  fate in  society  which  is  measured  by  the upper  class  and  closes  the  options  like consciousness,  education  and  equal  rights  to raise their status.



Bakha, he  faces  a  lot  of  humiliation  and  oppression everywhere in  his  daily life.  Wherever he  goes, he  is  welcomed  with  the  words,  ‘defiled’  and ‘polluted’.  He  wants to  improve  and  to get  his social  status  but  he  realizes  his  subalternity when  a  betel-leaves-seller  flung  ‘Red-Lamp’ cigarettes  at  him  as


a  “butcher  might  throw  a bone  to  an  insistent  dog  sniffing  around  the corner  of  his  shop”  (Anand,34),  a  confectioner threw  a  packet  of  jalebis  at  him  like


“a  cricket ball”  (Anand,37)  and  a  high-caste  housewife throw  away  chapattis  at him  as if  thrown  at a dog. This subalternity makes him to feel inferior everywhere.  After  getting  chapattis  Bakha returns  home, and  his  father  Lakha,  scolds him  because  he  gets  few  chapattis.  Lakha,  the father  of  Bakha,  dreams  of  the  past  when  he used to  bring a  lot  of  food  from the  marriages.  Anand’s humanistic approach is clear  in  the  novel when Lakha recited the past experiences as:


“I  tried  to fall  at  the  feet  of every  passerby and  prayed  them  to  tell  the  Sarkar,  your honour,  that  my  child  was  suffering”.



So, Mulk Raj Anand as social critic conveys a strong message through his novel “Untouchable” and raise  the  voice  against caste segregation, as an activist, in the  Indian  society. He  echoed the  real situation of Subalterns, their mentality and reality. In the Indian  cultural  context,  untouchability occurs  on the  basis  of  caste,  class  and  gender.  The  caste system  has  played  a  great  destruction  to  the people  of  India as is stated clearly in the novel.  Although  India Government  abolished  the  practice  of untouchability  by  law  but  mental,  social  and traditional  outlook  of  the  people  remained  the same.



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