The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Hungry Tide can help.

The Hungry Tide: Part 1: Crabs Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The dolphins begin to disperse around midday. Piya takes up her place in the front of the boat to watch the water while Fokir and Tutul sit in the back and tend fishing lines. The lines initially worried Piya until she realized how flimsy they were. She wonders when Fokir will decide to leave, thinking she desperately wants to stay here to see if the dolphins will come back. She offers Tutul a nutrition bar to hopefully make it more worthwhile to stay, though he and his father make no moves to leave.
Piya's concern about the fishing lines demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding of Fokir and his way of life—he's a fisherman, and his fishing lines are how he makes a living. Her initial desire to stop him from using them shows that she cares much more for the welfare of the dolphins than the very people helping her study them.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Piya decides to map the riverbed in the hopes of discovering an underwater pool where the Orcaella gather. Doing so requires taking depth soundings along a grid, and she wonders how to explain this to Fokir. She wakes him from his nap and is able to communicate her desires by drawing a simple picture. Surprisingly, Fokir seems thrilled about rowing the boat in straight lines, and Piya realizes he wants to fish. She thinks the fishing line, which has weights and cartilage tied to it at intervals, cannot possibly attract fish, but doesn't object since it seems unlikely to harm a dolphin.
Drawing the picture is an extremely effective mode of nonverbal communication, once again showing how Piya and Fokir don’t have to share a common language to communicate. Again, Piya's concern about the welfare of dolphins around Fokir's fishing line shows that she's willing to help the dolphins at the expense of Fokir's livelihood. It's worth considering that Fokir would probably be far less inclined to help her were she to make a fuss about it.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
As the boat makes its first run across the river, Tutul spools out the line in a straight line. They retrace their course, pulling the line back in, and Piya realizes the line is meant to catch crabs. As they continue, Piya discovers she was right to suspect an underwater pool, and Fokir's catch grows. Their respective lines of work seem strangely compatible, which Piya finds satisfying. As Piya dumps a pot of crabs into the hold, she wishes she knew more about them. There's one species that cleans the mud, and Piya thinks that they may be far more important than she's ever given them credit for.
It's notable that Piya becomes far more interested in things that Fokir is interested in as she realizes how compatible her work is with his. This shows that in this situation, Fokir has a great deal of power to shape how Piya interacts with the natural world. It's also worth noting that Piya doesn't seem at all concerned about the crabs' welfare or overfishing; her attention is limited to the dolphins and doesn't extend to the rest of the ecosystem.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon