The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The Hungry Tide: Part 2: Habits Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kanai reads in Nirmal's journal that Nilima was very upset by Kusum's visit. She insists there's nothing they can do—the settlers are squatters on government property. Nirmal argues that Sir Daniel Hamilton did exactly the same thing on Gosaba and asks if these settlers' dreams are less valuable than Sir Daniel's. Nilima says that if people are allowed to take land like that, the forest will disappear. Regardless, she says, she can't take the chance of getting on the wrong side of the government; there's too much at stake. When Nirmal takes offense, Nilima insists that he lives in his head and doesn't understand that actually building something requires compromise.
While Nirmal certainly has a point in bringing up Sir Daniel's settlement, he also ignores the fact that Sir Daniel did buy his land and was on the English colonial government's good side, two things that the settlers absolutely do not have going for them. Nilima's insistence that the forest will disappear suggests she aligns herself with viewpoints similar to Piya's, in that it's worth conserving the land even if it does mean that people suffer for it.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
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Nilima reminds Nirmal that she came to Lusibari for him and has managed to make the best of it. She asks him to stay away from Morichjhãpi, if only to not jeopardize her life's work with the Trust. Nirmal feels deflated and knows that Nilima is right. He tries to forget about Morichjhãpi as the new year arrives. Nilima goes away to New Delhi, leaving Nirmal home alone for days. He toys with the idea of writing a book about the tide country but spends days staring at the mohona. He notices that there's not nearly as much wildlife as there used to be, and recognizes that this is a sign of death. He thinks it won't take much to submerge the tide country for good.
When Nilima refers to the Trust as her life's work, it likely drives home for Nirmal that he doesn't have a "life's work" of his own, given that he's loathe to actually value his teaching career. When Nirmal notices that the wildlife is declining, it suggests that he'd be sympathetic to conservation efforts—though his previous comments suggest that he'd promote a middle ground, where both wildlife and humans benefit from efforts.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
Nirmal wonders if it might not be a bad thing for the tide country to disappear, but then thinks of Morichjhãpi and Kusum's tale. He wonders what he could write that might do justice to the settlers’ hopes and dreams. Nirmal gazes at the water, feeling torn between Nilima and Kusum, whom he speaks of as a muse he never had. He feels unqualified to even think he could do the settlers’ stories justice.
Nirmal's insistence that he's unqualified to even think he could properly tell the story of Morichjhãpi is further evidence that his one fault is getting too bogged down in theory. He could probably be a major asset if he could be driven to action, but here, his paralysis keeps him from doing anything useful.
Themes
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
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