Structure of Plot in The Novel Untouchable

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Untouchable: A Magnum Opus

      The plot of the Untouchable is well planned and compact. It has a cogent beginning, well knit work of art, characterised by precision of words, a well sustained middle and successful end but the conclusion is not without drawbacks. It is conspicuous for three classical unities of time, place and action. It is a day’s journey in Bakha’s life, with every down to earth circumstance. Anand’s chief objective to write the novel was to render mental anguish and agony of the untouchables, as a result of thousand years of servility exploitation and injustice. All happen in Bulashah, a cantonment town. All incidents and episodes are coherent and forceful which is to attract reader’s attention to the miserable plight of the outcastes who are condemned to live in a totally polluted surroundings. The novel is a consummate harmony of form and content. E.M. Forster says, “The book is simply planned but it has form. The action occupies one day and takes place in the small area. The great catastrophe of the ‘touching’ occurs in the morning and poisons all that happens subsequently even such pleasant episodes as the hockey match and country walk. After a jagged course of ups and down, we come to the solution, or rather to the three solutions, with which the book closes.”

Three Unities

      The classical unities of time, place and action have been honoured. The entire action takes place in the pre-independence cantonments town of Bulashah and span between the Goal Maidan and the railway station. It begins with a morning in Bakha’s life and ends with the fall of darkness. It is marked with tremendous focus on spiritual anguish and agony of Bakha. Anand has overcome the incoherence of psychological by the use of ‘stream of consciousness’ technique and the timely accounts of the social milieu and the environment adds to the elegance of the novel. Thus Anand maintains a perfect equilibrium between internal and the external, form and content.

      The poet’s harangue apart, M.K. Naik says, “the narrative itself is a thing of perfect unity and chiselled finish. The whole action, which takes place during twelve hours from dawn to dusk shows three clear stages of development. In the first stage, at the end of which suddenly comes the traumatic experience of pollution in the market place, Bakha had a comparatively easy time. In spite of the abuses of his father and the rigours of his morning task, he is eagerly looking forward to getting the gift of a hockey-stick from Charat Singh in the afternoon, and the prospect of having a look at the sights and sounds in the bazar is an additional attraction. The climax of his felicity is reached when, with a packet of jalebis in his hand and the “taste of the warm and sweet syrup” in his mouth, he is; moving through the market place. And then dramatically descends the blow when, after the collision with the caste Hindu, his jalebis and his felicity both taste the dust.

      The first stage occupies a little more than the first one third of the book. The second stage covers slightly less than half of the book and shows graph of Bakha’s spirit going through rapid fluctuations, the indignity of crying “posh, posh, sweeper coming” and the shock of Sohini’s molestation at the hands of the priest being offered by the joy of getting the hockey stick and scoring a goal and the sympathy of friends, and these in turn are cancelled out by the fiasco in which the hockey match ends. A second encounter with his father plunges Bakha into the depths of despair and then equally dramatically as earlier, the third phase is ushered in with the coming of Colonel Hutchinson.

      This third and last phase balances the first and like it almost fills about one-third of the novel. During this stage, three possible solutions to his problems are suggested to Bakha. Each stage ends on a dramatic note. Bakha’s course on this momentous day goes continuously through ups and downs, together ensuring that suspense is maintained throughout.

Blend of Eastern and Western Techniques

      The formal structure of the novel blends the moral fable form and interplay of situation and character that Anand deemed as the outstanding feature of the western short story. Bakha’s character is remarkable for its pathetic inappropriateness of natural vitality undermined by conditioned docility. In the epiphanous and moving scene we observe the intercourse of character and incident yielding the germ of a new consciousness in Bakha, on the oneset of the realisation of his social identity. Gandhi’s approach marks the genesis of Bakha’s consciousness. Gandhi encourages the self-esteem of Bakha and the entire community of the outcastes and urges them to discourage self-abnegation. Bakha develops social awareness. He becomes aware of the social evils of untouchability poverty and pollution. It fulfills the requirement of the moral fable. The hypocrisy of the so-called custodians of Hindu tradition and culture has been exposed. The novel concludes with a desired image implying the eradication of all social evils. (H.C. Harrex)


      The concluding part of Untouchable is conceived as ‘pragnosis’ or ‘prophecy’ or ‘prediction’ suggesting a choice of possibilities among Christ, Gandhi, Marx and machine. According to E.M. Forster, “Some readers may find this comparison with the clear observation which has preceded it, but it is an integral of the author’s scheme. It is the necessary climax and it has mounted up with trippie effect. Bakha returns to his father and his wretched bed, thinking now of the Mahatma, now of the machine. His Indian day is over and the next day will be like it, but on the surface of earth if not in the depths of the sky a change is at hand.”

University Questions

Write a note on Dr. Anand’s art of plot construction in Untouchable.
Justify the “organic wholeness” of the novel Untouchable.
The plot of the Untouchable is well planned and compact. Explain.
Evaluate the observance of the three unities in Untouchable.

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