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The coolies' cheap labor is exploited in many regions of India and in countries all over the world Asian coolies, mainly from India and China, contribute to the development of national economies without enjoying citizenship rights. Coolies are therefore dehumanised, they are often considered as useful tools, but rarely as human beings. In contrast with this general lack of consideration for the coolies' feelings, Anand's novel devotes significant passages to capture the psychological development of Munoo from childhood into adolescence, an interior journey mirrored in the geographical journey that he is forced to do across India.
Munoo is given feelings and is shown as an able critic of social evils. For example, he quickly realizes that
all servants look alike. There must be only two kinds of people in the world: the rich and the poor.
The novel humanises the figure of the coolie giving him hopes and fears. So, when Munoo has to leave his uncle and aunt's house, he realizes that his condition may not improve:
And, in his heart, there was a lonely song, a melancholy wail, asking, not pointedly, but in a vague, uncertain rhythm, what life in this woman's house would prove.
As he escapes to Daulatpur, he feels
the fear of the unknown in his bowels and the stirring of hope for a better life in the new world he was entering.
Thus, although Munoo has been charged with the passivity typical of characters in naturalist novels, prey to circumstances and determinism, he is also shown in his capacity to react against and analyse the social contexts he has to travel through.
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