The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The Hungry Tide: Part 1: Morichjhãpi Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Kanai wakes in the morning, he goes downstairs and finds Nilima looking very unwell. She insists it's just a cold and is excited to hear about Nirmal's packet, though she's disappointed to hear that the packet contains only a notebook. She's surprised that it was written in 1979, the year of Nirmal's death, as he became erratic, unstable, and did no writing during that time. When Kanai explains that the notebook was written over the course of a few days in May 1979 on Morichjhãpi, Nilima breathes in sharply.
Nilima's clear surprise at the contents of the packet suggests that there was a lot about Nirmal that she didn't know at the end of his life. It begins to situate Nirmal in a position much like the one that nature holds, while Nilima aligns herself with humans. In this setup, Nirmal is unpredictable and untamable, while Nilima is steady and can only hope to survive Nirmal's actions.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
Nilima explains that Morichjhãpi was an island set aside for tiger conservation, but refugees began to settle there in 1978. They came from a resettlement camp in central India that was supposedly more of a prison. The refugees thought the new Left Front government in West Bengal wouldn't object to them, but they were wrong: authorities confronted the refugees several times, and the final clash happened in May of 1979. Nilima doesn't know if Nirmal was on Morichjhãpi during that final clash, as he hid things from her during that time. Close to tears, Nilima explains that Nirmal was obsessed with the island because he was in love with the idea of revolution. The settlers' willingness to stand up to the government was intoxicating for Nirmal.
For Nirmal, Morichjhãpi represented his deeply held communist beliefs come alive. Nilima's interpretation that he was especially taken by the settlers' willingness to stand up to the government shows again just how much Nirmal clung to his theory and his belief that working with the government, as Nilima does, is bad. Notice too that the island was meant for conservation efforts; this again suggests that, for the government, protecting the people there wasn’t as high of a priority as protecting the natural world.
Themes
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
Nilima explains that Nirmal accused her of "joining the rulers" when she tried to talk him out of it. In a pained voice, Nilima wonders why Nirmal left the notebook to Kanai instead of her. Kanai thinks that it's possible Nirmal wanted to hurt Nilima, and realizes their marriage certainly wasn't perfect. He guiltily suggests he'll just leave the notebook with Nilima, but she insists that they have to honor Nirmal's last wishes.
Nilima's insistence on honoring Nirmal's last wishes shows that she places a great deal of importance on honoring one’s word; for her, part of effectively honoring her husband is making sure that his words are heard, years after his death.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
Kanai asks if Kusum had anything to do with Nirmal's obsession with Morichjhãpi, noticing that Nilima flinches. Nilima isn't sure how Kusum ended up on the island but once, in 1978, Kusum came to Nilima in her office. She introduced her son, five-year-old Fokir, and asked Nilima for medical help on Morichjhãpi. Nilima insisted she couldn't help. It was the last time she saw Kusum; she later died in the massacre at Morichjhãpi.
When Nilima flinches, it suggests that there may have been some sort of a relationship between Nirmal and Kusum. This suggests that there may have been more than just Nirmal's love of Marxist theory fueling his interest in the island, further complicating Nirmal's character.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
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