Discuss the plot and the theme of Mulk Raj Anand's Untouchable.
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Untouchable, written by the Indo-English writer Mulk Raj Anand, has a simple but very uncomfortable, depressing plot. The novel’s protagonist is "Bhaka", who is an untouchable, outcast boy. The novel is historical in the sense that it touches upon the caste system, which gave rise to the practice of “Untouchability” that was much prevalent in the Indian society.
The entire plot gives an account of events happening in a single day in the life of Bhaka. It exposes the harsh life and struggles of the so-called Untouchable people. Bhaka doesn’t like to do toilet cleaning. He wants to study and be a learned man. Much of the novel’s success lies in the revolutionary idea of education of Untouchables. The outcasts were not allowed to draw water from wells, enter temples or basically touch anything, as everyone believed that their touch would make anything impure and corrupt. Bhaka is also mentally and physically abused by the upper caste Hindus. Pandits, or the upper-caste Hindus, are hypocrites as one of them tries to touch Sohini’s (Bhaka’s sister) breasts but claims to have been defiled when touched accidentally by an "Untouchable".
In the end of the novel, Mulk Raj Anand presents three answers to this malpractice. Bhaka is offered to accept Christianity that has no caste system, and so in this way he will no longer be an outcast. But Bhaka fears such a religion change, even if that means equal treatment and opportunity to visit a church. After that Mahatma Gandhi comes to Bhaka’s village and educates everyone on Untouchability. Bhaka loves to hear someone talking on behalf of people of his caste. In the concluding paragraphs, a person randomly comes into the scene and informs everyone about a machine (toilet-flush machine, perhaps) that will clean faecal matter automatically, ending manual collection of excreta. Bhaka thinks that this will be a solution to all his problems.
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