The novel has a full complement of richly developed characters, from the overbearing Seth to the conniving and later self-pitying Mrs. Tulsi and the pompous W. C. Tuttle, and a host of minor ones, each deftly presented and revealed by the habitual gesture or facial expression, the characteristic pattern of thought and speech. On the whole, it is not a flattering portrait of Indian life in Trinidad. The Tulsi family and others reveal more than their fair share of vanity, snobbishness, bullying, callousness, resignation, pettiness, and knavery.
The central character, Mr. Biswas, emerges as a sympathetic figure in spite of his faults. This is partly because of the adverse circumstances of his life, which he does not accept and continually makes efforts to overcome. Mr. Biswas is always the “little man”; physically weak and small, he is dependent on others economically and socially; he is humiliated by them and cannot win any respect even in the family into which he marries. As a result, he hits back by making them the butt of his scathing humor, which lowers his stock even more. Ironically, the most respect Mr. Biswas receives is from the destitutes and villagers with whom he comes into contact as a result of his work as a journalist. He realizes, though, that there is a huge discrepancy between the way they regard him and what he feels to be the depressing truth of his own precarious existence, and this self-awareness produces some of the most hilarious...
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