The Metaphors of Untouchable and Coolie in Mulk Raj Anand’s Novels <i>Untouchable</i> and <i>Coolie</i> and His Sense of Social Justice


  • K.D. Verma, University of Pittsburgh, USA


I have argued elsewhere that Mulk Raj Anand in his first novel Untouchable (1935) has shown that none of the western theoretical models of attaining social justice, including the Rousseauistic, the Hegelian and the Marxist models, is appropriate to theorising the tragedy of Bakha’s deterministic existence and the stubborn order that is responsible for the creation of the Bakhas of society. Ironically, the “lowest dregs†of mankind in western literatures can at least rebel, but Bakha as an untouchable cannot do so. Munno, the “hero-anti-hero†of Coolie (1936), being a Kshatriya by caste, can at least rebel. While Bakha’s complicated existence as an untouchable is situated in the varnashram structure of Hinduism, Munoo’s fate as a rickshaw-puller is tied to his dehumanising work as a coolie. The fact remains that both Bakha and Munoo are helpless labourers whose work has been permanently devalued and misappropriated. However, Anand stretches the metaphors of untouchable and coolie to suggest that we all are untouchables and coolies. I argue that the two metaphors of untouchable and coolie are universal metaphors of the sociology, history and metaphysics of human suffering and of man’s inhumanity to fellow man. Can art fully address the moral problem of human slavery, indignity and suffering? I further argue that Anand elevates the level of discourse to a moral essay on humanism where art is concerned with the truth of the human condition.


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Author Biography

K.D. Verma, University of Pittsburgh, USA

K.D. Verma is Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, USA. His publications include The Vision of “Love’s Rare Universeâ€: A Study of Shelley’s Epipsychidion, The Indian Imagination: Critical Essays on Indian Writing in English, and essays on Blake, Hesse, Anand, Joshi, Desai and Naipaul. Currently, he is the editor of the South Asian Review, the refereed journal of the South Asian Literary Association.




How to Cite

Verma, University of Pittsburgh, USA, K. (2008). The Metaphors of Untouchable and Coolie in Mulk Raj Anand’s Novels &lt;i&gt;Untouchable&lt;/i&gt; and &lt;i&gt;Coolie&lt;/i&gt; and His Sense of Social Justice. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 2(1), 32–46. Retrieved from