Tag Archives: colonialism

The Hyperawareness of Caste

“Bakha picked up the packet and moved away. Then he opened it and took out a cigarette. He recalled that he had forgotten to buy a box of matches. He was too modest to go back, as though some deep instinct told him that as a sweeper-lad, he should show himself in people’s presences as little as possible. For a sweeper, a menial to be seen smoking constituted an offense before the Lord” (42).

Anand, Mulk Raj. Untouchable. London, England: Penguin Books, 1940. Print.

This moment, among many others, features Anand’s use of excessive clarifications of caste distinctions, representing Bakha’s hyperawareness of his own class and his subordinate relation to other characters in the novel, something he perceives through aesthetics and standards created by his society and forces him to understand himself solely in terms of his relationship to others.

A real man knows his place!

“It was unearthly, and the men were-No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it-the suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity-like yours-the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you-you so remote from the night of first ages-could comprehend. And why not?”

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. “Heart of Darkness”, 139. Oxford: Oxford NY, 2002.

I absolutely love this passage! It’s interesting to get such a clear glimpse of this  “better than thou” colonial attitude. What I find even more telling of the times, is how, even in his attempt at semi-identification with the African people, he still leans heavily on the condescension. If you were a real man, you might slightly identify that you have some connection with these lowly people.