Discuss The Theme Of Untouchability

Comment on theme of social alienation in Untouchable.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The theme of social alienation is of vital importance in Untouchable.  Essentially, social alienation is what defines Bakha's life.  Anand's work depicts Bakha as one who is filled with dreams and aspirations for his future.  In other words, Bakha is no different than any other human being.  Yet, social alienation subjects him to some of the most cruel realities.  Social alienation is what results in Bakha being from a lower caste.  This is the condition that allows his social alienation to continue.  Social alienation exists in the form of a caste system that relegates people to fixed roles.  This is the reality in which Bakha lives and against which struggle is inevitable.

Anand's condemnation of the caste system is made on the grounds that a system that labels people like Bakha as "untouchable" is rooted in social alienation.  Bakha recognizes that there is an intense collision between the world of his aspirations and a caste system in which someone like him is forever marginalized.  This is where social alienation presents itself.  It is social alienation through the caste system that regards Bakha's life as "disgraceful."  While he had nothing to do with the construction of such a system, social alienation is seen in all aspects of his being.  He is powerless to stop it and cannot even protect his sister from being violated by it. Bakha is a “dexterous workman," and is able- bodied.  He works to the best of his abilities. Yet, social alienation in the form of the caste system ensures that he will never receive anything in accordance to his fair share or anything reasonable.  While he has a strong work ethic, he will never be anything more than his untouchable caste designation. The caste system that Bakha must endure locks him into a condition where he is escape in the form of social mobility is impossible. It is the condemnation of this form of social alienation that made Anand "concerned with inequities, inequalities and injustices." 

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