The Lowland

The Lowland

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Lowland: Part 7, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Gauri, having just flown into Boston, is driving to Providence. The roads, which she used to drive twice a week back and forth from graduate school, are familiar to her. Gauri tried writing Subhash but found that written words failed her—despite the fact that their marriage effectively dissolved years ago, Subhash’s request for a divorce has “upended” her, and created in her the need to see Subhash in person. She feels “yoked to him” and “in unspoken collusion with him”—he is her only link to Udayan.
Gauri has been absent from the lives of Subhash and Bela for decades now—but the prospect of being legally erased has shaken her so terribly that she feels the need to meet with Subhash face to face. Their “unspoken collusion”—the conspiracy of secrets and lies they built their marriage and parenthood on—is a force Gauri may not be ready to let go after all.
Themes
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Despite Subhash’s letter implying that he would be open to meeting with Gauri face-to-face, she has not asked or warned him that she was going to come. She checks into a bed-and-breakfast just outside Providence, and after freshening up, goes out to her car, preparing to drive to Subhash’s new address. She cannot seem to make herself, though—she realizes that she has always felt like an imposition in Subhash’s life, and the absurdity of approaching him after all these years hits her hard. She decides to just go by his house this evening and confirm he is there, telling herself that tomorrow she will confront him. 
Once Gauri arrives in Providence proper, she becomes overwhelmed with her fear of being rejected by Subhash. Though it was her choice to leave, and though she did so in a cruel manner that denied her and Subhash’s connection, she does not want to be rendered a completely absent figure in Subhash’s life, scrubbed from both his past and his future.
Themes
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
In the morning, Gauri checks out of the inn and drives back to Subhash’s. Gauri marvels at how a tree in the yard, which was just a “twig” when Subhash planted it decades ago, has grown to three times her own height. Gauri gathers the divorce papers, which she has already signed, and steels herself to approach the house. She recalls looking for Nirmal Dey’s house in Jadavpur many years ago—she is as “terrified” now as she was then. She knows Subhash will never forgive her but wants to thank him for being a father to Bela, and for bringing Gauri herself to America—and then for letting her go. Gauri exits her car, walks up the path, and rings the doorbell, excited deep down to at last see “a version of Udayan as an old man.”
Though Gauri has many reasons for wanting to see Subhash—some of which are selfless—the deciding factor in her making the trek to Providence is her own selfish desire to see how her husband would have appeared as an old man. After all this time, Udayan’s absence is still mitigated by Subhash’s presence, and the thought of losing even that—her last link to Udayan—is painful, even unthinkable, to Gauri.
Themes
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon