Write a critical note on the plot construction in Untouchable.


Write a critical note on the plot construction in Untouchable.

Untouchable has no story interest; it is just an impassioned plea for a social cause. And it is this singleness of purpose i.e. exposing the evil of untouchability and analysing its various aspects-social, moral, psychological, religion-based, etc.-that provides structural unity to the plot. The plot of Untouchable can, unmistakably, be hailed as one of the most compact and coherent plots in Indian English fiction. This view finds confirmation in the fact that getting convinced of the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, Anand reduced the size of his manuscript to almost half of the original, keeping out extraneous details. In his well-known essay On the Genesw of Untouchable, Anand observes:

In retrospect, I feel that, under the tutelage of the Mahatma, who did not pretend to be an artist, I was able to exorcise all those self-conscious literary lements which I had woven into the narrative in anticipation of what the critics might approve. He thought that the paragraphs of hlgh-sounding words, in which I had tried to unite the miscellaneous elements, in what was essentially a walk through the small town of my hero, must go. Also. the old man suggested the removal of my deliberate attempts at melodramatic contrasts of the comic and tragic motifs, through which the spontaneous feelings, moods and lurking chaos in the soul of Bakha,’had been somewhat suppressed.

And the Mahatma asked for the deflation of those clever tricks, which had made the expression of concrete detail into a deliberate effort at style. Out of two hundred and fifty pages, hundred and fifty were left.

Observing the three Aristotelian unities, though unconsciously, the novel records a day’s events in Bakha’s life which serve as a mirror to 4he pathetic condition of the untouchables who form the lower stratum of society in the caste-ridden orthodox Hindu society, especially in the pre-Partition times.

The novel begins with an autumn morning in Bakha’s life. He is in bed, half-awake. “covered by a worn-out greasy blanket, on a faded blue carpet which was Spread on the floor, in a corner of the cave-like, dingy, dark, one-roomed mud-house.” It is so early that the sun has not risen.

Bakha is the son of Lakha, the ‘Jemadar’ all the sweepers in the town and the cantonment. His chief duty is to keep the three rows of public latrines clean These latrines are used by men from both the town and the cantonment Bakha has for sometime worked in the barracks of a British regiment. He had looked at the Tommies, with wonder and amazement when he first went to live at the British regimental barracks with his uncle. He had had glimpses, during his sojourn there. of the life the Tommies lived: sleeping on low canvas beds covered tightly with blankets; eating eggs, drinking tea and wine in tin mugs; going to parade and then walking down to the bazaar with cigarettes in their mouths and small silver mounted canes in their hands. And he had soon become obsessed with an overwhelming desire
to live their life. He knew they were white sahibs. So he tried to copy them as much as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances. His father had been angry at his extravagance, and the boys of the outcastes’ colony teased him on account of his eccentric dresses and called him ‘Pilpali sahib’. And he knew, of course, that except for his English clothes, there was nothing English in his life.

As he is still lying in his bed, Bakha hears his father’s stem and authoritative call, “Get up, ohe you Bakhya, ohe son of a pig!” (U, p. 13) He is angered at the abuse as he is already feeling depressed that morning. His father’s abuses create a growing dislike in his heart for the short-tempered, sickly old man. But he has fond memories of his mother and thinks of the days when she was alive. She showed him all the affection that warmed his heart. She used to give him a brass tankard full of a boiling hot mixture of water, tea-leaves and milk from the steaming earthen saucepan. It was so delightful, the taste of that hot, sugary liquid, that Bakha’s mouth watered for it or the night before the morning on which he had to drink it.

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Saroj Meher

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