The Lowland

The Lowland


Jhumpa Lahiri

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Themes and Colors
Political and Personal Violence Theme Icon
Duty and Desire Theme Icon
Heritage and Homeland Theme Icon
Secrets and Conspiracies Theme Icon
Presence in Absence Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Lowland, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Political and Personal Violence

Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland is, at its heart, an exploration of violence. The 1960s India of the novel’s opening pages is not even two decades removed from the violence of Partition, the 1947 division of British India into India and Pakistan, and it is against this backdrop that brothers Subhash and Udayan Mitra grow up. Though nearly inseparable early in life, Subhash feels a rift deepening between himself and his brother as Udayan’s politics…

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Duty and Desire

The Lowland follows the Mitra family through four decades and as many generations, with the fraught relationship between brothers Subhash and Udayan forming the novel’s core. Subhash and Udayan repeatedly question what they owe one another, and, in turn, what they are owed. As they, along with Gauri and Bela, wrestle with their duties to one another, Lahiri explores the tension between competing notions of responsibility and desire, as well as the often selfish…

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Heritage and Homeland

When Subhash, wary of becoming involved in the political unrest in Calcutta, comes to the United States to study on the remote Rhode Island coast, he finds that he has left one miserable situation for another. Through Subhash’s struggle to adjust to life in the States—and, later on, through Gauri’s—Lahiri explores the anxieties of adapting to a new homeland while remaining conscious of and loyal to one’s heritage. As Subhash and Gauri both…

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Secrets and Conspiracies

The Lowland is concerned with the secrets people keep and the deception they engage in as they pursue ideological and personal goals; as they navigate not only politics, revolution, and terrorism, but also marriage, parenthood, and self-delusion. Udayan’s role in a political conspiracy is thrown up against Subhash and Gauri’s plot in the wake of Udayan’s death: when Subhash brings Gauri back to America and promises to raise her and Udayan’s unborn child…

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Presence in Absence

Subhash learns that Udayan has been killed a quarter of the way into The Lowland. The novel, up to that point, has largely been about Subhash navigating his brother’s emotional absence; once Udayan is killed, however, the book becomes about Udayan’s physical absence not just from Subhash’s life, but also from his wife Gauri’s. Udayan becomes, in death, in many ways more present in the lives of those around him. Gauri, in turn…

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