This is the main course site for Early Twentieth-Century Fiction, Spring 2021, taught by Prof. Andrew Goldstone. It holds the most up-to-date syllabus and the course commonplace book (described on the Commonplacing page). Group A students have last names beginning A–Ma; group B students have last names beginning Mc–Z.


“A bit superior to his job,’ they always said, ‘not the kind of man who ought to be doing this.”

The quote is referring to Bakha, who is taking up a position as a sweeper. People wonder why he’d take a job that’s below him, given how he functions in society. The job of a sweeper is perceived to be for low-life members of society, the job seems frowned upon. Given that his father is a jamadar of all sweepers, a position of power, people of society view it as strange and baffling that the son would be a sweeper and not in a position of power.


“It was a pleasant sensation in spite f the disconcerting suddenness with which it had engulfed him. He felt suspended, as it were, in a region of buoyant tenseness. As he emerged from the world of that rare, translucent lustre into which he had been lifted, he stumbled over a stone and muttered a curse”(Anand 26).

Anand, M. R., Guha, R., & Forster, E. M. (2014). Untouchable. London: Penguin Books.


This book has a unique narrative style that offers both personal details that behave as indirect discourse, change the readers relationship to the past and present, and offers insight into the motives and feelings of each character.




Anand, “Untouchable”: Proletariat

“He liked babu’s sons, respected them, not only because they were high-caste Hindus whom he, as a sweeper’s son, had to respect, but also because their father held a position of extraordinary importance in the regiment, almost second to the Colonel Sahib himself.” (Anand, 91)

Mulk Raj Anand. Untouchable . London: Wishart, 1935.

The imagery in this novel is amazing. However, this simple description shows, not only the virtue and gratitude of Bakha but also the odd social structure in India.

The proletarian subject matter

Also, the old man suggested the removal of my deliberate attempts at melodramatic contrasts of the comic and tragic motifs through which the spontaneous feelings, moods and lurking chaos in the soul of Bakba had been somewhat blurred. Furthermore, the Mahatma asked for the deletion of those clever tricks which had made the experience of the concrete into a deliberate effort at style.

I find it interesting that in this passage the old man notices that the writer is attempting to attach his own characteristics to the main character in his novel. From my understanding there is something about the writer that is bleeding into his work (which the old man deems unfit for the novel about his kind of love). I believe it is the writer’s reliance on eloquent literary tools and storytelling devices that is creating the dissonance between who the main character is and what the writer wants him to be.


Anand, “Untouchable”: The Proletariat

“But he worked unconsciously. This forgetfulness or emptiness persisted in him over long periods. It was a sort of insensitivity created in him by the kind of work he had to do, a tough skin which must be a shield against all the most awful sensations” (18).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1940.

Bhaka dissociates his mind from his body through his work. Perhaps this is a sort of defense mechanism  (“a shield”) against reality .

Anand, “Untouchable.” Topic: The Proletariat

“He could not overstep the barriers which the conventions of his superiors had built up to protect their weakness against him. He could not invade the magic circle which protects a priest from attack by anybody, especially by a low-caste man. So in the highest moment of his strength, the slave in him asserted itself, and he lapsed back, wild with torture, biting his lips, ruminating his grievances” (Anand 54).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London: Penguin, 1940.

even though the priest sexually assaulted his sister, hierarchy keeps him from retaliating, keeps Sohini from recieving justice, “magic circle”

Anand, “Untouchable”, Proletariat Divides

“But then his father had told him that schools were meant for the babus, not for the lowly sweepers. Later at the British barracks he realized why his father had not sent him to school. He was a sweeper’s son and could never be a babu. Later still he realized that there was no school that would admit him because the parents of the other children would not allow their sons to be contaminated by the touch of the low-caste man’s sons” (Anand 33).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Books, 1940.

The caste system rigidly enforces a lower class proletariat through the control of what people can go to school and get an education. Those who from birth were marked as low-caste are locked into life within the proletariat with no hope of moving up the social ladder.