Why, why, why!

“‘Why was all this?’ he asked himself in the soundless speech of cells receiving and transmitting emotions, ethic was his usual way of communicating with himself. ‘Why was all this fuss? Why was I so humble? I could have struck him! And to think that I was so eager to come to town this morning. Why didn’t I shout to warn the people of my approach?

Untouchable, Raj Anand, p. 41

Here we see Bakha in conflict with how he sees himself and how he is actually perceived by the higher class people. What made this stand out was his anger towards the unnecessary aggression he faced due to prejudice, but then he immediately questions himself as to why he didn’t call out who he was. Here he still cannot seem to accept that the higher class people can ever be truly wrong.

Social Commentary Through Narration

“And he had soon become possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life. He had been told they were sahibs, superior people. He had felt that to put on their clothes made one a sahib too. So he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarity Indian circumstances” (Anand 10).

The narration aims to make the reader aware of the whitewashing nature of colonization.  A mention of sahibs as “superior” makes it known of a disparity between Indians and the British in the novel .”Possessed” insinuates that Bakha is being overtaken by an overpowering force (whiteness) to try to emulate British culture. The text’s reference to being Indian being a “peculiarity” appears to be a reflection of Bakha’s thoughts emulated through the narrator.

Work Overload

“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” (Anand 13).

I feel like the narrator wants us to feel sympathy toward Bakha here because of the emphasis on his mental state. The external narrator tells us what he feels while he works and how beaten down he feels. This on top of the abuse he already faces from his father shows us that the narrator wants us to see the entire picture so we can understand why Bakha acts the way he does.

pride in beauty

She had a sylph-like form, not thin but full-bodied within the
limits of her graceful frame, well rounded on the hips, with an
arched narrow waist from which descended the folds of her
trousers and above which were her full, round, globular breasts,
jerking slightly, for lack of a bodice, under her transparent
muslin shirt. Bakha observed her as she walked along swaying.
She was beautiful. He was proud of her with a pride not
altogether that of a brother for a sister. (15)


What is Bakha’s pride for his sister if it is not altogether brotherly?

Cultural Shifts

“But Bakha was a child of modern India. The clear cut styles of European dress had impressed his naive mind.” (Anand, 2)

I found this passage interesting because it highlights how the British colonization of India effected the young generation’s style and culture. In the text, the British blanket and clothes Bakha uses prove to be faulty against the cold. However he continues to use them for the sake of style.

Dialogue and Thought

“Sohini now realized that the woman was angry. ‘But I haven’t done anything to annoy her,’ she reflected. ‘She herself began it all and is abusing me right and left. I didn’t pick the quarrel. I have more cause to be angry than she has!’

‘Bitch, why don’t you speak! Prostitute, why don’t you answer me?’ Gulabo insisted.

(Anand p. 18).

In this section, single quotation marks are used to denote both Sohini’s internal thoughts and Gulabo’s external speech. Sohini’s discourse is reported in the same way as Gulabo’s and Sohini’s is not initially clearly laid out as being internal and quiet. However, based on Gulabo’s reaction, it is notably clear that Sohini did not actually speak. This convention may be used to imply a lack of meaningful difference between external and internal dialogue for Sohini, since she is described as ‘innocent and honest’. This could also be an implication for all of the characters, since many of them seem to very easily ‘betray’ and reveal their hidden feelings.


As they sat or stood in the Sun

“As they sat or stood in the sun, showing their dark hands and feet, they had a curiously lackadaisical, lazy, lousy look about them. It seemed their insides were concentrated in the act of immergence, of a new birth, as it were, from the raw, bleak wintry feelings of their souls to the world of warmth. The taint of the dark, narrow, dingy little prison cells of their one roomed homes lurked in them, however, even in the outdoor air.” (Untouchable, Anand, p. 27)
Not even the sun could entirely warm the Untouchables after being forced to live in an isolated, parallel world to the higher castes. Bakha’s friends and neighbors are cold physically and mentally from this abuse. Anand gives voice to the group’s consciousness in this example of indirect discourse.

The Narrator’s Pity

“The clear-cut styles of European dress had impressed his naive mind” (Anand 4).
“And he had soon become possessed with an overwhelming desire to live their life. He had been told that they were Sahib’s superior people. He had felt that to put on their clothes, made one a Sahib too, so he tried to copy them in everything, to copy them as well as he could in the exigencies of his peculiarly Indian circumstances” (Anand 5).

Through the narrator’s choice of words like “naive” and “tried”, it seems that the narrator pities Bakha for his way of coping with being an untouchable. The narrator uses words like this to point to Bakha’s lack of realism to his situation. The narrator makes it clear that Bakha fantasizes false hope about being an English man because it is outside of his oppressing social hierarchy.

The Narration of Bakha

“But Bakha was a child of modern India. The clearcut styles of European dress had impressed his naive mind. This stark simplicity had furrowed his old Indian consciousness and cut deep new lines where all the considerations which made India evolve a skirt costume as best fitted for the human body, lay dormant.”

Anand, Untouchable, Pg. 4.

This passage made me question who is narrating Bakha’s story. It seems to be an external narrator. I was caught off guard by the narrator calling Bakha “naive” because seems like the narrator is interjecting with their own opinions on Bakha’s behavior. By pointing out his desire to be like the British as “naive” creates a feeling of understanding for the father’s position and move farther away from justifying Bakha’s actions.

English Mind

“He felt amused as an Englishman might be amused, to see a Hindu loosen his dhoti to pour some water first over his navel and then down his back in a flurry of ecstatic hymn-singing. And he watched with contemptuous displeasure the indecent behaviour of a Muhammadan walking with his hands buried deep in his trousers, purifying himself in the ritual manner, preparatory to his visit to the mosque.” (12, Anand)

Because of Bakha’s desire to live like an Englishman, he has grown a distaste for Indian culture and the behaviours he sees around him. Inwardly, his psyche begins to change as he feels “amused as an Englishman might be amused.” Despite the fact that he is of the lowest caste system, he thinks himself superior to those around him, and the description of the behaviour of those around Bakha is negative.

Notes on the Tagore readings

Rabindranath Tagore wrote primarily in Bengali. He became very well-known internationally thanks to his collection of translations of some of his own poems into English, Gitanjali (1912; available on HathiTrust). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. The two stories we are focusing on were originally written in Bengali. Tagore did not translate them himself, but their English translations date from the period we are studying; Tagore’s fiction thus became part of English-language fiction in the early twentieth century. I have given you the translations from two volumes of short stories put out by the important London publishing house Macmillan, Hungry Stones and Other Stories (1916) and Mashi and Other Stories (1918). If you would like a sample of Tagore’s own style in English fiction, read his own translation of his short story “The Victory,” in Hungry Stones.

Here is a little bit of context on the two stories. Think about why it is that there are so many more terms to annotate in “The Hungry Stones.”

The Postmaster

Published in Bengali in 1891. First published in English in a version by Devendranath Mitter in the Calcutta magazine The Modern Review (January 1910); scan available on HathiTrust. The translator of the version in Mashi is, I believe, unknown.

cicalas (160)
faquirs of the Baul sect (160)
“Fakir” is a a more common spelling for this term for a religious mendicant, typically used for Sufi Muslims. The Bāuls (“the mad ones”) are a group of wandering religious singers from Bengal. Tagore was very influenced by their songs, which, like other popular religious traditions in North India, combine Muslim and Hindu elements—and more.
the alphabet (163)
That is, the Bengali alphabet. The “double consonants” (164) are the conjunct consonants. In Bengali, as in other Indic scripts, there are special ways of writing two consonants together without a vowel; this is the trickiest part of the alphabet to learn.
showers of the season (163)
Śrābaṇ, the second month of the monsoon season (mid-July to mid-August).

The Hungry Stones

Published in Bengali in 1895. It first appeared in the Calcutta Modern Review in February 1910, in a translation by Panna Lal Basu; a scan is available on HathiTrust. This same translation, apparently slightly edited, is the one we have in Hungry Stones. The wonderful contemporary English-language writer Amitav Ghosh has translated this story as “Hungry Stone” in The Essential Tagore, ed. Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarty (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2011).

Puja trip (3)
pūjā is a general term for Hindu worship. The two men are probably taking a holiday trip during Durga Puja, an important festival in Bengal.
up-country Mahomedan (3)
That is, a Muslim from North India. “Mahomedan” was a common term for Muslims in English but is now obsolete.
“There happen more things…” (3)
I award you 25 English major points if you recognize this as a riff on a line from Hamlet.
Vedas (4)
Ancient sacred texts of India, first composed in Sanskrit in the 2nd millennium BCE, and part of Hindu scripture. They are always recited in Sanskrit (a classical language), so the man’s knowledge of the Vedas shows his erudition. The same goes for his knowledge of Persian, which is not spoken natively in North India but was a language of high culture from the time of the Mughal emperors (16th to 18th centuries) onwards.
theosophist (4)
Theosophy was an occult movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, founded in New York in 1875 but subsequently headquartered in Bombay, influenced by various religious traditions and mystical philosophies—hence the narrator’s kinsman’s belief in “occult power” from an “astral body.”
my post at Junagarh…Nizam of Hyderabad (5)
Junagarh or Junagadh was a princely state in Gujarat (in the west of India). Though India was under British rule, parts of India were governed by proxy rather than directly. The man has worked for two such rulers. The hereditary ruler of the state of Hyderabad (south-central India) was called the Nizam.
Susta (5)
or Shusta, a river. The translator has cut a pretentious aside in which the man gives the Sanskrit etymology of the river name (cf. the Ghosh version).
Mahmud Shah II (5)
I am unsure how to gloss this. Does it refer to the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah (r. 1719–1748)? A Persian Shah? It also seems possible to me that this is deliberately unreal.
ghazal (5)
an intricate poetic form, important in the Persian and Urdu traditions.
ghi (9)
now usually spelled ghee: clarified butter.
sola hat like the sahebs (9–10)
that is, the sola topee, the signature hat of the British (the sahebs) in India.
attar (10)
rose essence.
guitar (11)
the translator’s rendition of sitār, an instrument now better-known beyond the subcontinent.
nahabat (11)
a type of instrumental band. Other translations render this passage differently. Somewhere far off, music is starting.
bulbuls (11)
the bulbul is a songbird and, like the nightingale, a poetic trope.
Rs. (11)
rupees, the currency.
Avalli hills (12)
the Aravalli mountain range, which runs from Delhi to Gujarat.
narghileh (16)
a hookah. All the details here evoke the Mughal court or indeed the Baghdad of the Arabian Nights.
Badshah (19)
the Mughal emperor.
Abyssinian (20)
that is, Ethiopian; but perhaps the same as the earlier “negro eunuch.”
chamar (20)
the footnote only helps if you know the Anglo-Indian word “chowrie” or chowry, the yak-tail fly whisk and yet another sign of royalty.
chaprasi (20)
an office messenger.
Nizamat (21)
that is, all that pertains to the Nizam of Hyderabad, who was a byword for wealth.


“Yo’ mama don’t wear no Draws….

To wear dem dirty Draws” (Hurston 157).

Hurston “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” 157.

The last word of the first and last lines of this chant are the same (Draws), which seems to create a cycle. This repetition could mirror the cyclical nature of men entering Janie’s life, yet ultimately failing her. It could also foreshadow Janie’s return to Eatonville at the end of the novel.


“I god, Ah can’t see what uh woman uh yo’ stability would want tuh be treasuring’ all dat gum-grease from folks dat don’t even own de house den sleep in… They’s jus’ some puny humans playin’ round de toes uh Time.'”

Hurston “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” 54.

This quote further exemplifies how Starks views himself as “king” or “god” of the town he is mayor of. His use of the term “puny humans” particularly illuminates his domineering view of the citizens he has authority over.

Commonplacing Hurston 11/26

“Miserable, sullen men, black and white under guard had to keep on searching for bodies and digging graves. A huge ditch was dug across the white cemetery and a big ditch was opened across the black graveyard. Plenty quick-lime on hand to throw over the bodies as soon as they were received. They had already been unburied too long. The men were making every effort to get them covered up as quickly as possible. But the guards stopped them. They had received orders to be carried out.”

– Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God Ch 19

New sparks


He looked like the love thoughts of women. he could be a bee to a blossom- a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps. . . He was a glance from God. (Pg.148).

The glance from God was merely Janie falling in love with someone who she knew would give her freedom, respect, and let her live the life that she wanted. 


“She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage! She had been summoned to behold a revelation. Then Janie felt a pain remorseless sweet that left her limp and languid.”

Hurston employs extremely euphemistic language to demonstrate Jamie’s sexual awakening.


“Show me somethin’ dat caution ever made! Look whut nature took and done. Nature got so high in uh black hen she got tuh lay uh white egg. Now you tell me, how come, whut got intuh man dat he got tuh have hair round his mouth? Nature!”

I found this quote interesting as it alludes to the Nature vs Nature concept, except caution takes place instead of nature and the basis runs that caution, or “nuture”  was created out of nature. And I thought of it in regards to how Janie was raised firstly as she rejects the ideals of Nanny and vice versa as Nanny rejects the ideals of Janie. Both characters strong and stubborn in consideration of the life they yearn for, as Nanny projects her dreams through Janie.

Gender Roles

“‘What she doin’ coming back here in dem overhalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on?…”

“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston (pg.33)

This quote stuck out to me because they  judge her for wearing overalls, and immediately say that she should put on a dress, a traditionally feminine article of clothing. She was just burying the dead, and is immediately judged upon her return from this depressing task.

Tea Cake is Poor

“Dat long-legged Tea Cake ain’t got doodly squat. He ain’t got no business makin’ hissef familiar wid nobody lak you. Ah said Ah wuz goin’ to tell yuh so yuh could know” (Hurston 102-103).

This sticks out to me because this way of thinking hurts both men and women. It hurts poor men because they aren’t seen as capable enough to be loved, while it hurts women because they’re made to believe that only a man with property and money is the only option in terms of love. Having wealth does not mean that a person will treat someone fairly.

Jody aging in the eyes of Janie

“One day she noticed that Joe didn’t sit down. He just stood in front of a chair and fell in it. That made her look at him all over. Joe wasn’t so young as he used to be. There was already something dead about him. He didn’t rear back in his knees any longer. He squatted over his ankles when he walked. His…belly that used to thrust out so pugnaciously and intimidate folks, sagged like a load suspended from his loins. It didn’t seem to be part of him anymore.”

Hurston, Zora. Their Eyes Were Watching God. (120)

This passage describes Jody’s decaying manner as he ages. The text structures Jody’s aging through Janie’s eyes. This is apparent through free indirect discourse, “It didn’t seem to be part of him anymore”. Hurston describes Joe becoming older through him losing his power. This is evident when referencing his belly that was once “pugnacious” which would intimidate folks that have now “sagged”.  While Jody ages he loses a spark, causing him to be described as “dead”. The qualities that have changed are not a part of Joe to Janie, instead, they represent a weaker man who is perceived as dying.