The Lowland

The Lowland

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Lowland: Part 4, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is now 1976, seven years since Subhash first arrived in America. He has not returned to Calcutta in five years, and though Bijoli and his father write to him and beg him to come visit with Bela, he tells them she is too young for such a journey. Deep down, though, Subhash does not want to bring her to Calcutta because he is afraid that his own parents will regard him only as Bela’s uncle, and never acknowledge the sacrifices he has made in being her father.
Subhash’s desire to return home but his fear of being exposed as Bela’s uncle reveals the depths of how his life has become calibrated by the terrible conspiracy he and Gauri have entered into. Subhash’s true desire is to return home, but he now feels duty not to his family but to the secret he has been charged with keeping.
Themes
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Bela is growing up right before Subhash’s eyes. The two have a close relationship, and it is Subhash who puts Bela to bed each night and stays with her until she falls asleep. Some nights, Subhash falls asleep briefly beside his daughter—he has experienced this kind of closeness with only one other person: Udayan. Every night, when he leaves Bela’s room, he wonders what will happen when she learns the truth.
Even the best thing in Subhash’s life—his pure, loving relationship with Bela—is tainted daily by Subhash’s constant fear that the secret he is keeping from his daughter will one day ruin both their lives.
Themes
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Related Quotes
On Saturdays, Subhash and Bela go to the supermarket. One weekend, while crossing the parking lot after they finish shopping, Subhash spots Holly. For many years, he has consciously tried to avoid running into her or thinking about her—but now, as he sees her with the man he recognizes as Joshua’s father, he reflects on their relationship, unable to stop staring at her. Holly catches his eye, and she and her husband approach him. The two briefly catch up—Holly seems genuinely happy to see Subhash and to meet Bela. As Subhash watches Holly and her husband walk away, he can see from the way they look at each another that they are truly in love.
Subhash’s unexpected encounter with Holly in the grocery store parking lot allows him to see—for the first time, really—what a truly loving and supportive partnership looks like. He knows that what he has with Gauri is merely functional, and thus insufficient—the truth he knows deep down eats at him as he witnesses this display of love. His relationship with Gauri is one of duty, not desire.
Themes
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Subhash reflects on his own marriage—though he and Gauri share a bed and though Gauri does not complain aloud, he knows that she is unhappy; that the smiling, carefree girl he saw in the first picture Udayan sent, all those years ago, is gone forever.
Subhash is reckoning with the toll that the secret he and Gauri have now built their lives around protecting has taken on both of them.
Themes
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
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Subhash takes Bela to the beach, and as he watches other families play together on the shore, he realizes he, Gauri, and Bela have never been on a vacation. He thinks about all the other things normal families do that they do not. He remembers something Bijoli said when he first told her of his plans to marry Gauri: “She’s Udayan’s wife, she’ll never love you.” At the time, Subhash had argued with his mother, convinced her words were not true. Now he knows that perhaps she was right. In spite of this realization, Subhash cannot imagine a world in which he had not married Gauri—he is a father now and cannot conceive of his life unfolding any differently.
Regardless of the insecurities and unhappiness that have colored Subhash’s life recently, he cannot imagine having taken any other path. His love for Bela mends all other wounds, and his identity as a father is now one in which he feels more secure.
Themes
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon