The Lowland

The Lowland

by

Jhumpa Lahiri

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Udayan’s Hand Symbol Analysis

Udayan’s Hand Symbol Icon

Through Gauri’s flashbacks to the weeks leading up to Udayan’s death, Subhash learns that Udayan had been plotting large-scale explosions. When setting off a bomb, Udayan’s hyperthyroidism-related tremors caused him to mishandle the device and blow off the fingers of his right—and dominant—hand. Udayan’s mangled hand, then, becomes a symbol of the Naxalite movement’s ultimate failure. The CPI(ML)’s involvement in the Naxalite movement, and the violent acts of terrorism they carried out on its behalf, ultimately made them an easily-spotted target, and their mission of bringing Maoist values and politics to West Bengal ultimately imploded. Udayan reflects on his own political futility shortly before his death, thinking in his final moments that his dedication to the revolution has helped no one and instead sown only discord. Udayan having blown off his own hand in pursuit of getting his party’s message out is symbolic of the party itself becoming so myopic, violent, and narrow-minded that it caused its own downfall. Later in the novel, Gauri injures her own right wrist at a crucial moment, when distracted by unpleasant memories of her involvement with the Naxalites after a visit from a former student, researching the movement, stirs them up. Gauri’s injury, which echoes Udayan’s, comes up again to remind her of Udayan’s futile involvement with the Naxalites—and her own futile attempt to forget the days of the rebellion.

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Udayan’s Hand Symbol Timeline in The Lowland

The timeline below shows where the symbol Udayan’s Hand appears in The Lowland. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 3, Chapter 2
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...later, Gauri can hear something emerging from the flooded lowland—it is Udayan. He lifts his hands above his head, following the officers’ orders, and is marched over to his family. The... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...Udayan did not come home one night. When he returned the next morning, his right hand was bandaged—he and his group had been assembling a pipe bomb, and Udayan, due to... (full context)
Part 7, Chapter 1
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
...a staircase outside a building on campus, a distracted Gauri falls—she catches herself with her hands, and hurts her wrist. She is taken to the hospital for X-rays, and then has... (full context)
Part 8, Chapter 2
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...deep breath and goes under, pinching his nostrils closed with the fingers of his good hand. He feels pressure mounting in his lungs—he knows that the sensation he is feeling is... (full context)
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
...watched as the policeman bled out and died after his comrade’s attack. Udayan dipped his hand in the policeman’s blood and wrote the party’s initials on the alley wall once the... (full context)