The Hungry Tide

The Hungry Tide

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The Hungry Tide: Part 2: Transformation Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kanai resumes his reading. In mid-January, Horen invites Nirmal to accompany himself and Kusum to Garjontola, where there's a shrine to Bon Bibi. Nirmal had been careful throughout his life to not associate with religion at all as to not compromise his professional reputation, but feels as though he can experiment now that he's retired. Nirmal and Horen leave at dawn for Morichjhãpi and Nirmal is surprised to discover that the island is gripped by fear and doubt. Kusum explains that the government has been threatening the settlers, and everyone is nervous.
It's possible that Nirmal's unwillingness throughout his life to associate or learn about local religion has a lot to do with his own sense of superiority over other Sundarbans residents, as not engaging in that part of local culture keeps him from truly understanding the lives of the people he lives alongside of.
Themes
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Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
Idealism and Theory vs. Practicality and Action Theme Icon
Everyone piles into Horen's boat with clay figurines of Bon Bibi and Shah Jongoli. As they cross a mohona, Horen and Kusum act as though they're entering a temple. Kusum explains that they crossed over the dividing line between Bon Bibi's realm and Dokkhin Rai's realm. Nirmal is shocked to discover that to Kusum and Horen, the line is very real.
Nirmal's shock shows that he has a long way to go to truly be able to humanize people like Horen and Kusum, given that he clearly doesn't understand how much of an influence religion plays in their day-to-day lives and actions.
Themes
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Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Nirmal begins to think that landscapes are like books in that people derive different things from books and the land depending on their training or interests. Nirmal notes that he, as a townsman, sees the jungle as timeless and static when in fact, the exact opposite is true—time goes faster in the Sundarbans thanks to the tide. He thinks of all the shipwrecks at the bottom of other oceans and remembers that in the Sundarbans, ships are gone within a few years. He breaks from his story to write that the attack on Morichjhãpi will start tomorrow.
With this revelation, Nirmal recognizes that Sundarbans locals see the land differently than he does—and further, their way of seeing things is a better way. This shows that he's beginning to see Kusum and Horen as humans that are just as real as he is. When Nirmal mentions the tide destroying shipwrecks, it again illustrates how much power the landscape has to control human life.
Themes
Man vs. Nature Theme Icon
The Human Cost of Environmental Conservation Theme Icon