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: The Letter Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kanai goes up to the guesthouse, noticing that Moyna still left him dinner despite her worries. He goes onto the roof to watch the sunset before entering Nirmal's office. A strangely wrapped package sits on the desk. Kanai has to use a razor blade to cut through layers of plastic and glue and discovers a school notebook inside. It's filled with cramped Bengali writing in Nirmal's hand. The first page begins with the date—May 15, 1979—and seems to be a letter written to Kanai. Nirmal writes that he's filling this notebook on an island called Morichjhãpi.
By addressing the notebook towards Kanai only, Nirmal implies that there's no one else he'd trust with the information in the notebook—not even his own wife. The wrapping around the notebook suggests that someone took great care to preserve it, which adds to the importance of what's inside. Remember that the Morichjhãpi conflict is where Kusum died; this suggests that the notebook will unravel the mystery of her death.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Nirmal writes that time is passing slowly as he waits, in fear, for some unknown to come. He has only the notebook, some writing utensils, and his copies of Rilke's Duino Elegies. He's in a small hut that Kusum owns. Nirmal wonders if the beauty of this place makes up for the horrors Kusum and her son, Fokir, have already lived through. Nirmal quotes a Duino Elegies passage about beauty being only deadly terror, and he wonders what he's afraid of. Nirmal says he knows that what will happen next will surely be forgotten; the only thing he can do is write everything down so that it might not be.
When Nirmal says that what happened on Morichjhãpi will be forgotten, it shows that he recognizes that the conflict privileges those in power (who then have the power to tell the story they want to tell) over the poor refugees who lived on Morichjhãpi. This shows that Nirmal recognizes the ways that privilege and power influence how language is used to communicate, or even which language is used.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
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