Untouchable Irony

Bakha’s Father

Bakha’s father is a prime example of the novel’s irony. For example, he calls his children lazy and yells at them for neglecting their sweeper duties whilst he is the one faking illnesses and pains so he can shirk off working (Anand 61). It is also a comical type of irony when Lakha reprimands and insults his children by calling them sons and daughters of pigs because in effect he is calling himself a pig.

Pricing of Goods for Outcasts

When Bakha buys sweets with his pocket money, we see a glance of the unjust and ironic pricing of goods for outcastes. The shopkeepers charge sweepers and other poor people much higher prices, “as if to compensate themselves for the pollution they courted by dealing with the outcastes” (Anand 87). Not only is it discriminatory that the poor pay higher prices than the wealthy, it is also ironic that the people with the least amount of money are made to pay the most.

Educating the Untouchable

From a young age, Bakha has had the burning desire to go to school and get an education. In particular, he wishes to learn how to read so he can read classic Hindi and Punjab works. However, no schools would admit him because the parents of other children refused to “allow their sons to be contaminated by the touch of the low-caste man’s sons” (Anand 75). Bakha notes the absurdity and irony of this situation when he thinks about all the Hindu children that willingly play contact hockey with him and thus are already “contaminated” by him.

Sohini’s Assault

In addition to being one of the novel’s major plot points, Sohini’s assault by Pundit Kali Nath is also an example of the corrupt Hindu caste system and Untouchable’s irony. The caste people purportedly live in fear of an untouchable’s touch. And yet, here is a high-caste man willingly touching Sohini in a salacious manner. Rather than repudiating physical contact with an untouchable, Nath is actively seeking it out. Sohini, accustomed to people shying away from physical contact with her, must now defend herself against unwanted physical advances from the unlikeliest of sources. Furthermore, when Sohini spurns him, Nath goes on the defensive and accuses her of defiling him. These three ironic elements of Sohini’s assault exist because of the rigid Hindu caste system that says contact with untouchables is anathema.