Untouchable Metaphors and Similes

Bakha’s Father (Simile)

Anand makes liberal use of similes in Untouchable. One of the most effective of these is a simile comparing the voice of Bakha’s father to a bullet searching for its target. This simile is particularly striking because of the violent language Lakha uses with his children. The simile shows how the delivery of Lakha’s words is a mirror of the words’ mean-spirited, aggressive content.

Bakha’s Work Ethic (Simile)

A plethora of similes are used to describe Bakha’s work ethic when he is cleaning the latrines. His active engagement with his task is likened to the constant flow of water from a spring. His muscles when working “seem to shine forth like glass,” and his disposition is “as easy as a wave sailing away on a deep-bedded river” (Anand 29). In all of these examples Bakha is light and easy. Taken all together, these three similes suggest that while Bakha may hate aspects of his life as an untouchable, he derives some level of pride and pleasure from his job. Others may look down upon his job as a sweeper and persecute him for it, but Bakha doesn’t necessarily think that the act of sweeping warrants such derision and hatred.

Ancestral Connections (Simile)

When thinking about his “countless outcaste ancestors,” Bakha imagines the connection between himself and them as “fixed, yet flowing like a wave, confirmed at the beginning of each generation” (Anand 127). This simile suggests that the connection is primordial, natural, and enduring, something that has withstood the passage of time. It alludes to Bakha’s and his siblings’ inherited untouchability, a status that is fixed and confirmed at the beginning of each generation by the Hindu caste system.

Burning the Refuse (Metaphor)

The burning of refuse is a metaphor for the power to eradicate and destroy. After collecting the refuse from the latrines, Bakha must take it to a pyre for burning. As he burns the waste, Bakha feels powerful. He thinks, “the burning flame seemed to ally itself with him. It seemed to give him a sense of power, the power to destroy. It seemed to infuse into him a masterful instinct” (Anand 39). This passage suggests that when he is burning the waste, Bakha believes he can be a figure of destruction, imbued with the ability to destroy anything that stands in his path.

Trampling Blades of Grass (Metaphor)

After Gandhi’s speech, the crowd disperses and walks over patches of garden bowers. Anand describes this grass as being planted by the Hindu kings but henceforth neglected and now trampled under the feet of Gandhi’s progressive listeners. This grass is a metaphor for the facets of traditional Hindu society and civilization that “must be destroyed in order to make room for those of the new [civilization].” By trampling the grass, the crowd is crushing “everything, however beautiful or powerful, that lay in the way of their achievement of all that Gandhi stood for” (Anand 266). The implication is that one of these beautiful and powerful things is the Hindu caste system, a system central to Hindu society since the time of the kings but now something that prevents the progression of the Hindi.