The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The Hungry Tide: Part 1: Words Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After her shower, Piya crawls to the front of the boat and tries to ask Fokir what the checked towel is called. He seems puzzled, while she's perplexed by the fact that Fokir seems uninterested in sharing any Bengali words with her. Finally, he tells her the cloth is called gamchha. Piya thinks that once, Bengali was a violent language for her—her parents fought in Bengali, and she couldn't escape it in their apartment.
Describing Bengali as a violent language makes it clear that language isn't always a positive way to communicate; for Piya, it trapped her and kept her in a horrible situation at home. Here, learning the word "gamchha" connects Piya to her past, reinforcing the gamchha as a symbol of connection.
Themes
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Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Piya's bedroom was the big one with a view of Puget Sound. After five years, Piya's mother decided it was too much to share a room with Piya's father and moved into Piya's bedroom. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer not long after. Piya was the only one allowed in to see her mother in that bedroom. Her mother would tell her about her childhood on the Brahmaputra River. In college, Piya resented being asked whether her interest in river dolphins was rooted in her family history. As far as she was concerned, what her parents told her about India was uninteresting. They never mentioned that the first Orcaella dolphin was discovered in Calcutta.
The fact that Piya's parents gave her what's presumably the master bedroom in their apartment shows that they certainly prioritized their daughter's comfort over their own, while Piya doesn't appear to see things the same way. Her insistence that her parents never told her anything interesting about India suggests that she feels as though her parents never truly cared about her.
Themes
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Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
Fokir begins to prepare a meal from his catch of crabs. Though she knows he'll offer her food, Piya decides she won't eat it—she's had bad experiences in the past eating local cuisine, and prefers the safety of Ovaltine and protein bars. As she watches him cook, she feels as though she's watching her mother cook. Fokir's spices remind her that she loved the smell as a child until she realized her classmates laughed at her because she smelled. She refuses Fokir's offered plate of rice and crab with a charade about having an upset stomach, which makes Fokir laugh.
As a child, Piya felt as though the spices conveyed something she didn't want to convey to her classmates: that she was foreign, and that being foreign was a bad thing. This shows that Piya learned early on that communication doesn't just happen through spoken language.
Themes
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After dinner, Fokir unrolls two sleeping mats in the middle of the boat and motions for Piya to take one. She unrolls her own mat in the very front of the boat, which seems to alarm Fokir. He makes vague gestures to the shore, and Piya realizes he's concerned about tigers. She thinks this is silly and starts to mime claws at him, but he grabs her wrists and shakes his head before she can complete the action. Finally, Piya lies down on her mat to end the discussion. Fokir doesn't argue. He starts to sing, and Piya encourages him. The music doesn't sound like Indian music she's heard before. She begins to wonder if her initial belief that he was somewhat naïve was wrong.
Fokir's fear of the tigers explains why he and the other boats don't spend the night onshore; presumably, being in the water is somewhat safer, though clearly not entirely safe. When Piya begins to question how she initially thought of Fokir, it shows that she's beginning to humanize him and see him truly as a fellow human being, not just as a poor fisherman who knows about dolphins. It's notable that she realizes this when he's singing in Bengali; this shows that Piya can still learn from the language despite not knowing it.
Themes
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Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
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