The Lowland

The Lowland

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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The Lowland: Part 8, Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Subhash and Elise visit the western coast of Ireland for a week on their honeymoon, having rented a house in a small, quiet town there. Their wedding took place just a few days ago, back on Rhode Island, in a small red-and-white church Subhash had been admiring for many years. Subhash and Elise’s marriage is “a shared conclusion to lives separately built,” and each of them take solace in and draw joy from this fact.
Subhash and Elise are happy and in love. In contrast to Subhash’s relationship with Gauri, which was based on the undesirable but undeniable interconnectedness of their lives, Subhash and Elise have done the opposite: they have taken two very different lives and melded them out of love and desire rather than obligation.
Themes
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Subhash and Elise take many walks to the shore and through the cold hills of the coast, and one day come upon a circle of large, ancient upright stones. Elise explains that the stones date to the Bronze Age, and perhaps served a funerary or commemorative purpose in their time. As Subhash explores the stones, he finds things people have left behind: hair bands, lockets, twigs, bits of thread. These tokens and offerings cause him to think of “another stone in a distant country”—the tablet at the edge of the lowland which bears Udayan’s name.
The circle of stones in Ireland, though very far from Calcutta, nonetheless reminds Subhash of the lowland. It is flooded, just like the lowland was, and scattered with people’s memories—just as the lowland bore Udayan’s grave marker and the flowers and tokens associated with it.
Themes
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
Subhash feels Udayan beside him and remembers walking together across the lowland toward the Tolly Club, golf balls in their hands. The ground here too, Subhash notices, is “drenched [and] uneven.” Knowing he will never visit this place again, he takes the stones in one final time, walking from column to column. At one point he stumbles and steadies himself by reaching out for a stone. It is a marker, he thinks, “of what is given, what is taken away.”
Even at the novel’s end, Udayan is present in his absence. Loss—especially sudden, violent loss—has been shown to have unpredictable but enduring reverberations throughout the lives of those adjacent to it. Subhash has moved on from the duty to Udayan he shouldered and finally taken steps in his life that are just for himself—not either for his brother or for the memory of him—and yet reminders of “what [was] taken away” linger still.
Themes
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon