Throughout the novel, submersion in water represents freedom from the constraints of society, family, and the self. As a child restricted and unappreciated by her family and society, Uma feels drawn to the water's edge where she sees Mira-masi bathing in the "sacred" river that runs through the village. Uma has no fear of drowning, and against the warnings of her parents, she dips her feet in. Years later, when Aruna and her in-laws come to make a pilgrimage to the river with her family, Uma impulsively jumps off the boat and into the river, allowing herself to sink to the bottom. At a time in her life when there are no more prospects of education or marriage, nor any other feasible escape from Mama and Papa, Uma feels both neglected and trapped. She is drawn to the river, to the feeling of sinking, as if drawn to death as her only escape. Whether or not she is suicidal is unclear. Later, when her cousin Anamika dies a tragic death at the hands of her abusive in-laws, Uma's parents and relatives go to the sacred river to sprinkle Anamika's ashes. Uma, cold and empty, watches with longing as Anamika's ashes float out, freeing Anamika from the pain of an entrapped life. In America in the second half of the novel, Melanie is also entrapped—by her emotional turmoil, her eating disorder, and her inattentive parents. She spends long nights in the bathtub to escape. Arun finds himself trapped even in America by the memories of his family and the self-restraint he has developed throughout his life as a survival mechanism. The only instance in which Arun feels peace is toward the end of the novel, when he swims for the first time in his life in a pond outside the Patton's house. There, he feels calm, as if freed from reality.