How does the title Coolie reinforce the theme of exploitation in Mulk Raj Anand's novel?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The mere title brings to light how the relationship between the British and the Indians is one of exploitation and domination.  An ardent patriot to the core and a passionate enthusiast of independence and Gandhi's teachings, Anand understood that the use of the term as the title of his work would effectively convey the lack of dignity that Indians suffered at the hands of the British.  In Anand's eyes, the British control of India rendered all Indians, to a certain extent, as akin to Munno, the protagonist of the work.  Exploitation was the reality that faces both the protagonist and the vast majority of Indians under British rule.  In the work,  Munno leaves his village with hopes of finding financial and emotional success.  Yet, such hopes are immediately dashed when he has to work in labor intensive as well as physically demanding jobs that leave him without any dignity and dying of tuberculosis.  For Anand, the predicament of the "Coolie" is one where Indians work for the benefit of those in the position of power and have little to show for such toil and struggle.  In making the main character of his work such a sympathetic figure who cannot find any hope of redemption because of his exploitation, Anand might be suggesting that Indians will always be seen as Munno in the eyes of the British, always to be a "Coolie" unless there is a call to change what is into what should be.  The "Coolie" or Indian worker who toils and struggles and often dies unrecognized was elevated to a state in Anand's work where individuals had to recognize their efforts and demands a fundamental shift in the relationship between the British and the Indians.