Wednesday, November 13, 2019

To put on their clothes made one a sahib too: Mimicry and the Carnivale

To put on their clothes made one a sahib too: Mimicry and the Carnivalesque in Mulk Raj Anand’s Untouchable The character of Bakha, in Anand’s Untouchable, is drawn from the lowest caste in Indian society, that of sweeper, or cleaner of human ordure. Despite his unpromising station in life, the central figure in the novel operates at a variety of levels in order to critique the status quo of caste in India. Well aware of his position at the nadir of Indian society, Bakha is able-via his untouchability-to interrogate issues well above his station in life, such as caste and its inequities, economics and the role of the colonizer. Due to the very characteristics of the character's position, Anand is able to examine issues such as society’s revulsion at untouchablility; some local, innate societal sympathy for Bakha's plight, and the fact that in the 1930s Gandhi used his Harijans-untouchables-as a symbol for change in Indian society. This essay examines the modes by which Anand deploys mimicry and the carnivalesque to critique Indian society in the 1930s. The author has constructed a mimic-man, fundamentally carnivalesque in the Bakhtinian sense, who is simultaneously parodic and subversive. Indeed, the linguistic similarity Bakha/Bakhtin is in itself superficial yet tempting. For Bakhtin, "Carnivalesque literature uses elements of parody, mimicry, bodily humour and grotesque display to achieve the ends of carnival, that is, to jostle ‘from below’ the univocal, elevated language of high art and decorous society". During the course of his day, Bakha causes widespread unease, not merely at his physical presence. Although he is aware of the "six thousand years of racial and class superiority"(16) that bears down on him, as he... ...remarkable breadth of issues, and it is only to be hoped that one day this text will be regarded as a useful tool in a past campaign, rather than as part of a continuing and unfinished project. Useful links: Dalit Liberation Education Trust: The Imperial Archive. India Survey, Biography: Literature in English of the Indian Subcontinent in the Postcolonial Web: Bibliography Anand, Mulk Raj Untouchable London: Penguin Books, 1940 Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth, and Tiffin, Helen. Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies. London: Routledge, 1998. Ashcroft, Bill, Griffiths, Gareth, and Tiffin, Helen. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. London: Routledge, 1995.

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