Animal’s People covers immensely dark and tragic subjects, such as the crippling of Animal’s back, the brain damage Ma Franci appears to be suffering from, the existence and plight of the Khã-in-the-Jar, and the overall poor condition of the people and buildings in Khaufpur due to the poison gas incident, yet somehow the novel does not wallow in the despair these subjects would normally elicit.
I think the novel stays away from this pitfall of darkness and depression through humor, specifically humor surrounding Animal’s candid view of these subjects as well as his frequent use of “bad” language.
The particularly disturbing scene when Animal meets the Khãl-in-the-Jar is balanced with Animal’s sense of humor:
An ugly little monster, his hands are stretched out, he has a wicked look on his face, as if he’s just picked your pocket and is planning to piss on your shoe. Such an expression, I forget my own troubles and start laughing. (Sinha 57)
In this passage Animal gives the fetus almost cartoonish characteristics by describing it as this grotesque, evil thing, but then follows it up with this completely harmless act of peeing on a shoe. This unexpected turn results in a humorous view of the fetus, which is then validated by Animal laughing at this image himself. By discussing such a tragic thing, a horribly malformed human fetus, in a humorous light, the emotional tension in the scene is dispelled. The scene does not become any less moving, the humor just allows the reader to focus on Animal’s message and the true relationship between the Kampani, the poison gas, and the people of Khaufpur rather than a reader’s own personal feelings of guilt or pity.