Untouchable Novel Summary

Read this article to know about the summary of the novel Untouchable written by Mulk Raj Anand.

Summary of Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand  

What comes to your mind when you read or hear the word ‘Untouchable’? It is not only the word but a complete sentence. The novel depicts a day in the life of Bakha, a young woman who cleans latrines, set in the fictional town of Bulandshahr. 

Bakha is a member of the lowest caste. Lowest caste people are confined to a life of dirty, labors of those higher castes people who don’t like to even touch them. Bakha awakes to his father yelling at him asking him to get out the bed and start cleaning the latrines of high castes people of the town.

First, he cleans the latrine of a high caste athlete Charat Singh, who tells him to get a hockey stick as a reward. The novel introduces Sohini, as Bakha’s sister, who goes to draw water for her thirsty and tired brother from the well.

Sadly, she has to wait for a long until a local temple priest assists and asks her to clean the temple, then only she can draw water from the well and she has to agree. Bakha again goes out to clean the streets and accidentally touches the high-caste man, who is furious that he has been touched by lower caste human.

The man starts hitting Bakha until a Muslim vendor who breaks it up. Bakha walks to the temple, where he finds that priest scolding Sohini of “polluting” him. Later, Sohini tells Bakha the priest sexually assaulted her. Bakha started wandering around town, begging for food and performing household works in return.

He comes back home telling his father about his day, about that high-caste man who hit him but his father makes him remind about that high-caste doctor once saved Bakha’s life. Bakha goes in the wedding of his friend’s sister and tells him about that high-caste man who hit him, and they ask Bakha if he wants to take revenge. But he refused as he knows it would be fruitless. 

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Suddenly, Bakha remembers his hockey stick and goes at Charat Singh’s home to get it. Singh invites Bakha inside happily and allowed him to touch his possessions. After getting the hockey stick, he joins the game of street hockey that quickly devolves into a brawl.

Bakha’s father is furious because he has been gone all afternoon without informing so he throws him out of the house. Bakha started roaming away from home, taking shelter under a tree. The head of the local Salvation Army, a white man, Colonel Hutchinson approaches him and invites Bakha to church.

He agrees but Colonel’s wife sees him and pitches a fit about her husband bringing another “Blackie” to their church. Bakha leaves and wanders some more, ending up at the train station, where the crowd has gathered. Mahatma Gandhi is in Bulashah and takes the stage.

His speech condemns the caste system and discrimination against lower caste untouchables. Afterward, Bakha hears two high-caste educated friends discussing the speech. One, a lawyer, finds the speech impractical, other, a poet, strongly disagrees.

Bakha also hears that lawyer mention that flushes toilets will soon be brought to India and hence, will no longer need the Untouchables to clean it. Bakha quickly rushes home to tell his family what he has heard.

At the time of this novel’s publication, the caste system dominated India. The author imploring the high caste readers through his description of Bakha and his family are suffering, to consider the plight of their low-caste countrymen.