To put on their clothes made one a sahib too: Mimicry and the Carnivalesque in Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable

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To put on their clothes made one a sahib too: Mimicry and the Carnivalesque in Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable

The character of Bakha, in Anand’s Untouchable, is drawn from the lowest caste in Indian society, that of sweeper, or cleaner of human ordure. Despite his unpromising station in life, the central figure in the novel operates at a variety of levels in order to critique the status quo of caste in India. Well aware of his position at the nadir of Indian society, Bakha is able-via his untouchability-to interrogate issues well above his station in life, such as caste and its inequities, economics and the role of the colonizer. Due to the very characteristics of the character's position, Anand is able to examine issues such as society’s
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Firmly placed by caste at the bottom of society, he is aware of its taboos, and yet cheerfully breaks out of these strictures. Later, when attacked by the crowd for inadvertently touching a man in the street, the insecurities of caste are exposed. One old man says, "These swine are getting more and more uppish!" (48). This theme is developed when Bakha is in the silversmiths’ alley, and the lady observes that "they are a superior lot these days!… They are getting more and more uppish."(74). This is no less than Hamlet’s lament that "the age is grown so picked that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier he galls his kibe"(Act V Sc I). The parallels between the carnivalesque gravedigger scene from Hamlet and the episode in the alley are irresistible, with both the Prince of Denmark and the housewife bemoaning a perceived threat to the social order from punning, articulate, discourteous persons of lowly rank. Elevated rank can only exist in opposition to-and in the light of-the servile, and when the lowly refuse to offer civility then the highborn can only assume the advent of chaos.

Bakha poses more than a mere verbal or religious threat to society. Anand dwells on his physicality, describing him as "strong and able-bodied"(9) and "A superb
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