The Lowland

The Lowland

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Lowland: Part 7, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gauri remembers the early days of 1970—the time of her marriage to Udayan, or, rather, of their elopement. They were married in the countryside, in the presence of “a few other comrades.” Gauri did not care what her family would think of her—she longed to put them behind her and devote her life to Udayan.
Gauri’s story returns to the past, where she reveals that her obsession with Udayan mirrored his obsession with the Communist party—it obscured everything else in her life.
Themes
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Gauri and Udayan return to the home of Udayan’s parents, where Gauri paints the part of her hair with vermillion powder and dons an iron bangle—markers of a married woman. Gauri’s new in-laws welcome her warmly, telling her that what is theirs is now hers.
Despite their elopement, Gauri’s new in-laws welcome her and Udayan into their home to live with them in a joint-family configuration—it is their duty to their son.
Themes
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
At first, Gauri and Udayan share a normal life, going on evening walks together and settling into his parents’ house. Soon, though, Udayan asks Gauri to start doing things for him. He draws maps and tells her to walk to a certain place while running an errand, and to let him know whether a scooter or bicycle is parked outside. He gives her notes to deliver both to letterboxes and in person. Gauri willingly completes these small missions—she knows she has been “linked into a chain she [cannot] see.” She asks Udayan how her tasks are connected to his work, but he will not tell her.
When Udayan first asks Gauri to do slightly shady or suspect things on his behalf—really, on behalf of the Naxalites—Gauri is not particularly reluctant. She does want to know how she fits into the party’s larger vision, but Udayan is reluctant himself to share this information with her, perhaps because he believes she is naïve and her awareness could compromise these missions.
Themes
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Shortly after their first wedding anniversary, Udayan arranges a tutoring job for Gauri. She is to help a brother and sister in a nearby town pass their Sanskrit exams. Udayan instructs Gauri to use a fake name, and to do certain things while she is there—to part the living room curtains and say she needs some light, and to watch through the window for a policeman to pass by. Udayan wants Gauri to record the time the policeman passes, and to note whether or not he is in uniform. He tells Gauri that the policeman’s route passes a safe house, and his comrades need to know his schedule—they need him “out of the way.”
Udayan preys upon the things Gauri shared with him early in her courtship—her desire to work, her desire to teach—in order to use her as a pawn in his party’s schemes. Gauri is willing to go along with the subterfuge, and this time Gauri is pleasantly surprised when Udayan actually tells her how her work relates to the party’s missions.
Themes
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
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As Gauri’s students study ancient, sacred Hindu texts, Gauri half-listens, watching for the policeman each afternoon. One day, a Thursday, the policeman is not in uniform and is walking in the opposite direction of his normal path, bringing a small boy—his son—home from school. The following Thursday, Gauri observes the same behavior. After four weeks of seeing the policeman in civilian clothes, bringing his son home from school each Thursday afternoon, Gauri confirms the policeman’s schedule with Udayan, who asks how old the son is, and then turns away from Gauri.
The juxtaposition of Gauri’s halfhearted tutoring of her students in ancient, sacred text and her selfish, spying subterfuge highlights the ways in which her love for Udayan has blinded her to right and wrong. She is ignoring peace, grace, and tradition in order to aid people who seek to violently disrupt those very things.
Themes
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
The week before going to America to live with Subhash, Gauri returns to Jadavpur—the neighborhood where she’d tutored the brother and sister. As she walks down their street, she looks at the letterboxes on the neighboring houses until she finds the name of the dead policeman, Nirmal Dey, affixed to one. The policeman’s son is on the verandah, as is a woman a few years older than Gauri who is clearly his mother. She wears a white sari, like Gauri had worn until just a few weeks ago. Gauri considers her part in turning this woman’s life upside down, and her role in a tragedy that the mother and son will mourn for the remainder of their lives.
As the narrative flashes forward, it follows Gauri as she seeks to know the whole truth of what she has done in support of Udayan’s misguided politics. Realizing that she has forever impacted the lives of Nirmal Dey’s family members, Gauri begins feeling tremendous guilt. She believes she has thrown this family’s life into turmoil and does not yet see the way this event will one day be a part of the resentment, guilt, and pain that throw her own life into turmoil as well.
Themes
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon