The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The Hungry Tide: Part 2: Memory Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nirmal writes in the notebook that as Horen approaches the shore, he asks Nirmal if he feels "the fear." Nirmal doesn't, but he does notices that Horen looks afraid. Soon, Nirmal feels the same way. 50 feet from shore, Horen stops and mumbles mantras to "shut the mouths of the big cats." Nirmal says nothing but feels surprisingly comforted. When Horen is done, he tells Nirmal that on shore, he can't leave anything of himself behind—he can't spit, he can't urinate. Nirmal agrees and is shocked to see young Fokir jump out to push the boat to shore. With pride, Kusum says that the river is in Fokir's veins. Nirmal feels uncomfortably like an outsider.
Fokir's behavior here shows that he's grown up feeling extremely connected to nature and learned to navigate the specific environment of the Sundarbans at a young age, which surely helps him survive in it as an adult. When Nirmal feels comforted by Horen's mantras, it shows that he's beginning to place more value in the specifics of local culture and language, which in turn indicates that he's growing more willing to treat such things as real and important.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Nirmal follows Horen, Kusum, and Fokir to the shrine, knowing he'd be the first one dead if a tiger came. They place the figures on the shrine, and Nirmal is surprised to hear Horen's recitation. It's in Bengali that's influenced deeply by Persian and Arabic. The invocations are Arabic, while the rhythm is Hindu, and it tells Dukhey's story of being rescued by Bon Bibi. When they're back in the boat, Horen explains that he's always known the recitation by heart, though there is a book. He offers it to Nirmal.
The many influences in Horen's recitation show that the Sundarbans aren't just a place where humans and the natural world collide; it's also a place heavily influenced by many different people groups. The power that the Bon Bibi legend clearly holds in the Sundarbans suggests that there's great value in this kind of merging of cultures and voices.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The book opens like an Arabic book and was written by a Muslim man. The story is written in a strange combination of verse and prose, and Nirmal reasons that it was probably written in the late nineteenth century, when there was a great deal of Bengali and Arabic influences in the area. Nirmal thinks that the tide country's faith system is like a mohona, as it joins many different people and beliefs. Nirmal gives the book to Fokir and asks him to read it aloud so he can copy passages. He's shocked when, despite Fokir's perfect recitation, Nirmal remembers that the child cannot read—he already has the story memorized. Nirmal steps out of his story and says that Horen wants to leave with Fokir, but Nirmal wants to write more first. Kusum invites Horen down to his boat.
Fokir's recitation drives home the importance of the Bon Bibi legend to people in the Sundarbans—it's so important, even a five-year-old can recite it from memory. It's also important to remember that Bon Bibi's legend is a tool the locals use to feel safer in their dangerous environment, which again provides more evidence for why Fokir in the present is so comfortable out in the jungle. He's clearly taken the legend and its teachings to heart, and that makes him feel more competent taking on nature.
Themes
Language Theme Icon
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon