Nightwood/Historical Line

“Robin was outside the ‘human type’—a wild thing caught in a woman’s skin, monstrously alone, monstrously vain”

Barnes, Djuna, and T. S. Eliot. Nightwood. New York: New Directions, 1961. Print. 155.

One of the biggest themes explored in not only Nightwood, but also The Beast in the Jungle, Cane, and Untouchable is being “outside” of the norm when it comes to identity. Marcher is not like anyone else when it comes to love. He does not show it, understand it, or really ever feel it. In the end, he is forced to question his life and identity. In Cane, the story of Bona and Paul focuses on the same idea of identity where Paul is extremely confused with who he is and ultimately loses Bona. This is where we see a fragmentation of identity. Untouchable creates a separation in society due to identity because they were seen as outsiders, as “outside the ‘human type'” as this quote from Nightwood states.


“Both Ram Charan and Chota were surprised. Never before had they seen Bakha behave like that. Ram Charan was admitted to be of the higher caste among them, because he was a washerman.”

Mulk Raj Anand. Untouchable. (New York: Penguin Books, 1940). 83.

This excerpt has a lot of choppy and easy-to-understand sentences which I feel is a description applicable to the entire book. It is not too hard to analyze.


“But he kept up his new form, rigidly adhering to his clothes day and night and guarding them from all base taint of Indianness, not even risking the formlessness of an Indian quilt, though he shivered with the cold at night”

Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 12


“Meanwhile he began to feel hungry as if rats were running about in his belly searching for food. He began to spit a white flocculent spittle on the dust as he hurried out of the town, homewards. His limbs sagged. He felt the sweat trickling down his face from under his turban as soon as he got into the open.” (74)

The passage just struck me as very modern and also builds upon this pattern of narrative distance between the character and the words used to describe a situation, like ‘flocculent.’


“‘No tea, no piece of bread, and I am dying of hunger!…’ Then he frowned in the gruff manner of a man who was really good and kind at heart, but who knew he was weak and infirm and so bullied his children, to preserve his authority, lest he should be repudiated by them, refused and rejected as the difficult old rubbish he was.”

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. (New York: Penguin Books, 1940). 31.

This moment of insight by Sohini of her father seems to be something of forgiveness for his abusive nature. She is almost describing the expectation of abuse because of his “really good and kind heart” but to “preserve his authority” it was normal.

British Obsession in Untouchable

“Now that he had been to the British barracks and known that the English didn’t like jewellry, he was full of disgust for the florid, minutely studded designs of the native ornaments. So he walked along without noticing the big ear-rings and nose-rings and hair-flowers and other gold-plated ornaments which shone out from the background of green paper against which the smiths had ingeniously set them” (45).

Repudiation of upper-caste fashion through idealizing/desire to emulate imperialists’ fashion; Bakha’s admiration for the rulers–British– of his rulers–elite castes. Bitterness toward (his) oppressor manifests through appreciation of the Ultimate Oppressor–a bit ironic.

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London, England: Penguin, 1986. Print.



“Bakha felt the keen edge of his sense of anticipation draw before his eyes the horrible prospect of all the future days of service in the town and the insults that would come from them. He could see himself being shouted at by a crowd; he could see a little priest fling his arms in the air and cry, ‘defiled, defiled.’ He could see the lady who had thrown the bread down at him reprimanding him for not cleaning the gutter. “No, no,’ his mind seemed to say…”

Mulk Raj Anand. Untouchable. (New York: Penguin Books, 1940). 77-78.

Bakha’s father just told him that he should make an effort to get to know the townspeople because he has to work for them for “the rest of your life”. This moment of realization, that he would have to spend the rest of his life on the receiving end of this kind of abuse, strikes him kind of numb. His mind floods with the events that just happened, and they all collectively remind him that that is his life. He is doomed to this life of “untouchable-ness”. “He could see himself”, putting himself at an outside perspective of what’s happening. He’s shocked. He’s scared. He’s almost in denial


” ‘I must get another blanket,’ he said to himself. ‘Then father won’t ask me to put a quilt on. He always keeps abusing me. I do all his work for him. He appropriates the pay all right. He is afraid of the sepoys. They call him names. He abuses me.” (Anand, 12)

These short sentences are very similar to those we have examined in Hemingway’s work. The shortness of his thoughts makes his thoughts very direct and concise. In this short section, I would have maybe expected to read free indirect discourse but instead Anand chooses to portray his thoughts by really fast and small quotes.


“The expectant outcastes were busy getting their pitchers ready, but as that only meant shifting themselves into position so to be nearest to this most bountiful, most generous of men, all their attention was fixed on him. And as that disclosed the apparent effort the athlete was making, they exerted all their energies, all their will-power to aid him in his task.”

Anand, Mulk Raj, Untouchable. New York: Penguin Books, 1940. Print. 28.

They perceive the priest as “bountiful,” “generous,” and an “athlete” simply due to his ability to retrieve water. Their perspectives are clearly very skewed, and they are clearly very underprivileged and desperate.


“The bully!’ Bakha exclaimed under his breath as he listened to the last accents of his father’s voice die out in a clumsy, asthmatic cough”

Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 23

Bakha remarks that his father is a bully. Lakha scolds Bakha to get out of bed as he lies in his own bed. In this moment he exposes his hypocrisy and verbally abusive nature. Lakha is a lazy, cruel, and unsupportive father.


“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.”

Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 84

This description of Rakha as the “true child” of the Untouchables paints a desolate and dark picture about life as a lower caste individual.


“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.”

Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 52.

I think prior to this scene, Bakha identified his sweeper status as something that dictated his everyday duties, not something that “touched” his inner self or defined his character. But in writing that the light, or Bakha’s “recognition of his position,” had “illuminated the inner chambers of his mind,” Anand illustrates that Bakha has internalized others’ views of himself as “untouchable.” His sweeper status and the way the upper castes and non-sweeper outcastes treat him aren’t just external forces to him anymore, as they have now corrupted his own sense of self.