Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable: Escaping Through Mimicry and Mimesis

Untouchable describes a day in the life of a young sweeper boy, Bakha, who has been denied even a chance for a free and open-air walk because of his occupation. The novel introduces the caste system of rural India as the setting, and portrays a series of significant images that make up a comprehensive composite of the life of an Untouchable. The concept of mimicry has an added dimension for Bakha. He is not merely copying the colonial masters because he wants to be like them. While copying them he also recognizes the Western ideals as separate and superior to those of his people, and simultaneously tries to reconstruct his given identity of sub-human within the Indian caste system. Though the novel lacks a colonial discourse as there is a marked physical absence of the colonial masters, Bakha as well as other Indians' worship of the West constructs one that allows the reinvention of Bakha’s identity. This essay borrows Homi K. Bhabha’s discussion of colonial discourse and mimicry in his seminal book, The Location of Culture. Through his ideas, mimicry becomes a vehicle for colonial discourse and Untouchable is not simply a critique of the divisive caste system, but transcends that and becomes a colonial discourse that...

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