The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The Hungry Tide: Part 1: Moyna Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kanai goes back to Nilima after noon, at which point she looks alert and happier. She tells Kanai that Moyna is going to show him around the hospital. It took Nilima years to realize that Moyna was the wife of Fokir, Kusum's son. Nilima was thrilled to learn that Fokir survived the massacre. She explains that Moyna is ambitious and very interested in education. She married because her parents insisted, and though Fokir is fine, he's also illiterate and nothing more than a crab fisherman. Nilima has heard that she and Fokir are having problems and that Fokir isn't happy in Lusibari, which may be why he disappears.
Notice the way that Nilima talks about Fokir: she clearly doesn't value what he does and instead, believes that education and ambition are far better than making a living as a fisherman. This shows that tone is just as important as what's actually said, as Nilima doesn't outright say that Fokir is an awful partner or a bad person.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Moyna knocks on the door and enters. Kanai can tell she's been crying, and Nilima tells him in English to be careful. Kanai is shocked when Nilima says "righty-o" as she sends them off. He thinks that while her Bengali has adapted to the tide country dialect, her English—which she never uses—is English that hasn’t been spoken in India since before partition.
Kanai's observation about Nilima's English shows that language can convey a point in time as well as the ideas the words themselves describe. This offers one more facet to how language works, showing again that it's far more complex than Kanai initially thought.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
As Kanai and Moyna walk, Kanai mentions that he knew Kusum. When Kanai mentions Fokir, Moyna's face falls. Kanai admires the scale of the hospital and thinks that Nilima did an amazing thing building it. Moyna is clearly proud as she shows Kanai through the wards and explains that people who could more easily reach Canning or Kolkata come to Lusibari instead. She points out the cyclone shelter, Nirmal's one contribution to the hospital.
The fact that Nirmal contributed something to the hospital suggests that he wasn't totally ineffective throughout his life, though it's likely that Nilima facilitated the building of the shelter and it was just Nirmal's idea. This introduces the possibility that Nirmal could've been effective had he been willing to work with Nilima or the government.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
Kanai asks if Moyna has ever brought Fokir to the hospital, and she explains he doesn't like it here. She says that on Lusibari, Tutul goes to school instead of spending his days fishing with Fokir. She doesn't want him to grow up to be a fisherman, as the fish and crabs will supposedly be gone in fifteen years with the introduction of nylon nets to catch tiger prawns. Nilima tried to get the nets banned, but the traders paid off the politicians. Moyna insists that she's tried to tell Fokir that Tutul needs an education, but he's illiterate and doesn't understand.
Moyna very clearly doesn't see the natural world as something that can help a person survive or provide someone's livelihood; for her, the natural world is something that needs to be set aside in favor of more human-centric pursuits like medicine or education. Her mention of the prawn nets and the politics surrounding that suggests again that the people of the tide country aren't at all represented in government.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Kanai thinks that Moyna has a nuanced grasp of how the world works and thinks it's unfortunate that she's married to someone who can't keep up. He listens to her talk about wanting to work in the operating room and sees his own passion for language in her desire to be a nurse. Kanai assures her she'll make it, using a familiar pronoun instead of a formal one. It feels too intimate, but he chooses to say nothing.
Notice how Kanai starts to think of Moyna; this kind of admiration will show up again between Nirmal and Kusum. This begins to suggest that women can, for the men in their lives, come to stand in for symbols of those men's ideals—in Nirmal's case Kusum represented revolution, while Moyna represents ambition for Kanai.
Themes
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon