Colonel Hutchinson: Character Analysis in Untouchable

Also Read

An Ardent and Dedicated Missionary

      Colonel Hutchinson is an ardent, dedicated and committed chief of the Salvation Army—a Christian missionary organisation which is inspired by the only objective to propagate the gospels of Christ. This is a highly motivated organisation. Its only mission is to convert people to Christianity To realise their mission the missionary cadets are ready to efface themselves. At Bulashah, there is an ardent and dedicated missionary whose only mission is to convert the non-Christians to Christianity. The young and zealous missionary visits the outcastes colony frequently lie delivers his sermons and holy lectures on the teachings of Christ. He persuades them to convert to Christianity Specially, the missionary finds that Bakha is docile and susceptible and easy to convert. He works on him continuously But ultimately Bakha repudiates Christianity and stands by the religion of his ancestors.

His Notion

      Colonel Hutchinson’s only notion is that no missionaries can be successful in India unless they develop an insight into the language, culture and tradition of the land. Missionary should win the people’s hearts. He transformed himself into a Hindustani.

The Absurdities

      Colonel Hutchinson is not a military officer. He holds a high rank in the Salvation Army. It seems quite absurd. The way he behaves is characterized by the elements of absurdity. He sings while he brings Bakha to Church. He betrays his euphoria of converting an outcaste to Christianity. Besides his twenty years of arduous mission does not bring any substantial change. He converts only five people to Christianity. Bakha does not follow his missionary preaching. The Colonel sings the following song when Bakha asks, “Who is Yessuh Massih Saheb.”

Life is found in Jesus,
Only there its offered thee;
Offered without price or money
’Tis the gift of God sent free.

      Bakha fails to comprehend and repeats the same questions. The Colonel sings again:

He died that we might be forgiven
He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to heaven
Saved by his precious blood.

      The lines from Untouchable depict his ennui:

Bakha was a bit bored by this ecstatic hymn-singing. But the white man had condescended to speak to him, and he was happy and proud to be in touch with a sahib. He suffered the priest and even reiterated his enquiry: ‘Do you pray to Yessih Massih in your girija ghar, Sahib?’

      Han, han replied the Colonel breaking into the rhythm of a new hymn:

‘Jesus, tender shepherd, hear me.
Let my sins be forgiven!
Let there be light
Oh, shed thy light in the heart of this boy.’

      Bakha again fails to understand and loses his interests. The Colonel realises that his preachings are beyond Bakha’s understanding. He simplifies the theme and renders in a more precise version. He says. “Yessuh Massih is the son of God. We are sinners. He died for us. He sacrificed himself for us. Again it seems to Bakha too mysterious to understand. He does not care. The Colonel goes on singing:

O Calvary; O Calvary;
It was for me that Jesus died
On the cross of Calvary

      His mission suffers a setback. Bakha fails to understand. Ultimately, the young sweeper boy repudiates Christianity and says, “The religion which my ancestors follow is enough for me also.”

His Woeful Marital Life

      The poor Colonel’s honeymoon with Christian missionary work brings a breech between him and his wife. She does not recognise his new image. She scolds her husband for being a new avatar of Christ. She is human. She loves to fulfill her legitimate human desires. But Colonel has renounced the worldly pleasure to be a perfect monk. Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson love each other in the beginning but the passion wares away when he is married to mission—Salvation Army. Mrs. Hutchinson cannot tolerate that her husband should take more interest in scavengers than in his own wife. But Colonel Hutchinson finds solace in his mission—his second love.

His Ignorance of Indians

      The novelist ridicules priests and religions. He makes a mockery of the Christian missionary who is committed and dedicated to his mission to convert the untouchables, the down-troddens, the underdogs who are forced to live in misery; into Christians. Anand has followed the tradition of progressive writers to ridicule religions and hypocrisy of religious authority M.K. Naik writes, “One aspect of the theme of exploitation is presented in many of Anand’s novels. This is the exploitation of the Indian by the white man. In Untouchable however, the relationship between the white man and the Indian is viewed from a different angle, yet the picture of this relationship here emphasises some motifs which are stressed in the other novels as well. The episodes of Bakha’s meeting with Colonel Hutchinson of the Salvation Army illustrates this. Anand seems to suggest here, as elsewhere, that the whiteman and the colonial Indian can never understand each other. The Colonel’s proselytizing zeal and blundering humanitarianism only confuse and repel Bakha, who runs away from him. There is also the tremendous inferiority complex from which the colonial Indian often suffered, in dealing with his British masters. Hence, Bakha is so agreeably surprised to find the Colonel sympathizing with him that ‘he could have cried to receive such gracious treatment from a Sahib.’ And, though the padre himself has, with conscious effort, conquered the whiteman’s superiority complex vis-a-vis the colonial Indian, his wife, who scolds him for going to the blackies again’ provides a copy-book example of it.”

An Adorable but Heart-rending Personality

      In this context Saros Cowasjee writes, “After Bakha has turned out of doors by his father and is utterly despondent and longing for sympathy, he is approached by Colonel Hutchinson of the local Salvation Army. Like Bakha, Hutchinson too in a way is an outcaste; one alienated from the British residents of the city and driven from home by his card playing and hard-drinking wife. He is often seen hiding behind rubbish heaps in wait for some troubled outcaste who would listen in his despair to the gospel of Christ. The Colonel is a lovable but pathetic figure who, in spite of his zeal, has had little success with conversation because of his broken Hindustani, his introspective nature and a total inability to offer in concrete terms the solace of Christianity. The encounter between Bakha and the missionary is amusing; one drowned in his ecstatic hymn-singing, the other quite oblivious to the message but happy to be in conduct with a ‘Sahib’ from whom he might extract a pair of cast-off trousers.”

Colonel Hutchinson’s Character

      “Despite all his missionary zeal and unflinching devotion, Colonel Hutchinson is not cunning enough to lure Bakha with a promise of amelioration, nor is he an adept at putting faith the Christian principles in a clear, touching manner. His inadequate knowledge of the local language is again disastrous to his profession. Clad in a pair of white trousers, a scarlet jacket, a white turban with a red band across it and talking as if a pair of scissors cut “the pattern of Hindustani into Smithereens as a parrot snips his food into bits”, he appears a curious amalgam of the East and the West. His appearance arouses amusement rather than devotion. Anand high-lights the incongruity that marks not only his dress but also his life. His wife, once a barmaid who married him because of his ‘turned-up, bushy black moustache’, is a wrong partner for him. Her love for him wares no sooner than his moustache droops and turns grey. Better sermons are always preached with the example of a good life than with the lips. The domestic disharmony of this ill-assorted pair renders Hutchinson’s eloquent ministry ineffectual. Anand carefully checks authorial intrusion and deftly discloses his disbelief through Bakha’s bewilderment and disinclination to be converted. In presenting a caricature like Colonel Hutchinson, Anand suggests that such unimaginative and ill-equipped individuals are likely to inspire unbelief rather than belief in whatever they preach.” (Premila Paul).

Previous Post Next Post