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Last Reviewed on June 12, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 420

The railway workers have gone on strike to protest against the appalling pay and conditions imposed upon them by their French colonial masters. Going on strike, of course, means no money, which leads to even greater hardship. However, there is something even worse:

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Real misfortune is not just a matter of being hungry and thirsty; it is a matter of knowing that there are people who want you to be hungry and thirsty.

In the midst of all this suffering, exploitation, and hardship, it is essential for the striking workers to dig deep and find the inner strength to go on. Religious faith can be a huge help in such circumstances:

It is not our part in life to resist the will of heaven. I know that life is often hard, but that should not cause us to turn our backs on God. He has assigned a rank, a place, and a certain role to every man, and it is blasphemous to think of changing His design.

As women begin to take on an increasingly important role in the strike, they find their voice and challenge the prevailing preconceptions about what a woman can and cannot do. The traditional realm of the woman is the home, a private space. As the strike progresses, women begin to take ownership of the public space outside the home, a space previously occupied only by men:

Some of the women . . . formed into little groups and began patrolling the streets of the neighborhood, armed with bottles filled with sand . . . they accosted every man who appeared in their path.

Women now have a voice, and they are not afraid to use it. They now speak out in public in a way hitherto unimaginable:

It was the first time she had ever spoken at a meeting of the men, and she was filled with pride. . . . The idea of a woman addressing a meeting as important as this was still unfamiliar and disturbing.

With the strike won, the ladies return home. However, things are different now. Not only have they helped to take on and defeat their colonial oppressors, they have also demonstrated conclusively that they are truly equal and have a vital role to play in the new society:

Since their triumphal return from Dakar, the women had organized their lives in a manner which made them almost a separate community. Distances no longer inspired any fear in them, and each morning they left the city very early and walked the few miles out to the lake.

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 439

The railroad workers who decide to strike go into it knowing that they might not all survive the experience. However, the railroad company has a long history of treating people without fairness or gratitude. They've seized lands, created famines, and lowered the wages for black people below those of white people. Mamadou Keita addresses the crowd that is considering striking, saying,

It is true that we have our trade, but it does not bring us what it should. We are being robbed. Our wages are so low that there is no longer any difference between ourselves and animals. Years ago the men of Thies went out on strike, and that was only settled by deaths, by deaths on our side. And now it begins again. At...

(The entire section contains 859 words.)

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