The Shadow Lines

by

Amitav Ghosh

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May Price Character Analysis

May is Mrs. Price's daughter. She's an infant when Tridib and his family are in London in 1939, and she's at least ten years older than her younger brother, Nick. May is an oboist and plays in an orchestra professionally throughout her adult life, though later in life, she also works for "worthy causes" that provide housing and disaster relief in third-world countries. When she's 19, she and Tridib begin a correspondence that lasts for four years and culminates in a visit to India. At this point, May isn't sure if she loves Tridib or not, and she remains unsure even throughout the visit. While she's in India, she and Tridib see the tourist sights and spend time together, often accompanied by the narrator, who is eleven at the time. Near the end of her visit, she accompanies Tridib and Tha'mma to Dhaka and visits Tha'mma's ancestral home. When a riot breaks out May gets out of the car, believing that as an Englishwoman, the mob won't hurt her. Though she's correct, Tridib dies when he gets out of the car to protect her and his great-uncle Jethamoshai. May lives the rest of her life wondering if she killed Tridib, though she eventually comes to belief that Tridib sacrificed himself for her. Presumably because of what she saw in India and because of her guilt, she sleeps on the floor and fasts one day per week. When she reconnects with the narrator in the 1980s, she shares with him her youthful uncertainties about whether or not she loved Tridib and her fears that she killed him. Though he assaults her, she later invites him to have sex after sharing her version of what happened during the riot.

May Price Quotes in The Shadow Lines

The The Shadow Lines quotes below are all either spoken by May Price or refer to May Price. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin edition of The Shadow Lines published in 2007.
2. Coming Home Quotes

But he did know that was how he wanted to meet her, May—as a stranger, in a ruin. He wanted them to meet as the completest of strangers—strangers-across-the-seas—all the more strangers because they knew each other already. He wanted them to meet far from their friends and relatives—in a place without a past, without history, free, really free, two people coming together with the utter freedom of strangers.

Related Characters: Tridib (speaker), The Narrator, May Price
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
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May Price Character Timeline in The Shadow Lines

The timeline below shows where the character May Price appears in The Shadow Lines. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Going Away
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Thirteen years before the narrator's birth, in 1939, Mayadebi, the Shaheb, and eight-year-old Tridib move to England. The narrator, who is now eight years... (full context)
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...He says he stayed with a woman named Mrs. Price, who has a daughter named May. When asked, Tridib explains that May isn't sexy in the conventional way but is warm... (full context)
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The narrator tells the reader that he met May Price for the first time two years later, and then for the second time seventeen... (full context)
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After the concert, the narrator catches May's attention, and they meet in the foyer. The two are embarrassed, and May explains she... (full context)
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At her apartment, the narrator looks over May's bookshelf while May cooks. He comes across a photo of her that he says looks... (full context)
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...outfits, each one appropriate for a different locale where he works as a diplomat. When Mayadebi gets out of the car, the narrator notes that she and Tha'mma look like the... (full context)
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...this isn't incorrect and meant that Robi was Tha'mma's favorite. Once, when Robi was twelve, Mayadebi sent Tha'mma an anxious letter implying that Robi got in trouble at school. Tha'mma summoned... (full context)
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...preparing to assassinate an English magistrate and was sent to prison. Afterwards, whenever Tha'mma and Mayadebi passed the place where the boy had lived, Tha'mma told Mayadebi the boy's story, which... (full context)
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...Ila wasn't coming but winked at the narrator's father. The narrator believed it, and when Mayadebi noticed how sad he looked, she explained to him that Ila, Queen Victoria, Tridib, and... (full context)
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...huger than anything the narrator had ever seen emerged. Three years later, when he took May to see it, he learned that it didn't just seem huge because he'd been so... (full context)
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May wondered what it cost to ship it and anxiously said that one could've put roofs... (full context)
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When the narrator took May to see the table and asked her about Nick, she said his hair wasn't truly... (full context)
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...to come for tea. The narrator remembers how, when Tridib had shown the photographs to May, she'd remarked that the camera looked at people differently back then. (full context)
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...stands between Dan and Alan, dressed in black and looking unbelievably elegant. Mrs. Price and Mayadebi stand on the edge. Mrs. Price never liked Francesca, and struggled to figure out which... (full context)
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...Dan, and Mike sit in an armchair, laughing. Alan stands behind the chair in between Mayadebi and Mrs. Price, who's holding the infant May. Alan looks down with a smile at... (full context)
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Three years later, after the narrator told May the story, she gently explained that Nick hadn't helped Ila at all, and in fact,... (full context)
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...and Mike joined the navy and died in 1943. Tridib went with Mrs. Price and Mayadebi to collect Alan's things a few days after he died, and he found a photo... (full context)
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...weeks. Mrs. Price invites both Ila and the narrator for Christmas Eve dinner with her, May, and Nick. Ila is late, and when she arrives, she asks the narrator why he... (full context)
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May lightly suggests that Lionel Tresawsen would've made more of Kuwait. When Nick insists that Kuwait... (full context)
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Mrs. Price heads for bed as May and Nick settle Ila and the narrator on camp beds in the cellar. The narrator's... (full context)
2. Coming Home
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...distracted. She explains that the house is very different from the house that she and Mayadebi grew up in. Over the next few months, Tha'mma tells the narrator about her childhood... (full context)
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...feud, Tha'mma's mother and aunt supported each other in silent ways. Her aunt helped arrange Mayadebi's marriage to the Shaheb, though the women never spoke of it. (full context)
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Tha'mma married four years before Mayadebi, and spent her early-married years traveling through railway colonies for her husband's work. She had... (full context)
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...about Dhaka: she never got to see the upside-down house. She explains that she told Mayadebi that on Jethamoshai's side of the house, everything was upside down and backwards. She remarks... (full context)
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The narrator tells the reader that at about this time, May must've received her fourth letter from Tridib. This letter was different: it was thicker than... (full context)
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May splashed water on her face. Tridib had written that he didn't know whether the memory... (full context)
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...but the narrator explains that Tha'mma really just thought the Shaheb was weak and that Mayadebi did most of the hard work for him. The narrator's father, annoyed, finally offers the... (full context)
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A week later, a letter arrives for Tha'mma from Mayadebi. The narrator carries it to Tha'mma's room, and she shoos him away before she reads... (full context)
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After three months, Mayadebi calls. The narrator and his parents anxiously hover, and at the end of the call,... (full context)
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In November, Mayadebi writes to say that May is going to visit Delhi, Agra, and Calcutta before traveling... (full context)
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May and the narrator discuss her visit to Calcutta for the first time the day after... (full context)
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...the way. Ila is amused to receive it but turns to her other guests quickly. May gives the narrator a glass of wine and leads him to the drawing room. Hours... (full context)
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May calls a cab, and the narrator sticks his head out the window. He feels as... (full context)
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In her flat, May points to her bed and tells the narrator firmly to go to sleep. The narrator,... (full context)
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May again tells the narrator to go to bed. He becomes angry that May is laughing... (full context)
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The narrator wakes up to the sound of May in the kitchen. He remembers suddenly how May looked afraid the night before, and he... (full context)
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When it becomes apparent the May isn't going to eat, the narrator presses her for the reason. She finally admits that... (full context)
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May shows him how to hang signs and hands him a box for passersby to put... (full context)
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The narrator, his father, and Tridib met May at the station. The narrator was worried that Tridib wouldn't recognize May. He believed that... (full context)
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On the way home, Tridib told a story about seeing the infant May in a gas mask, a sight that had terrified him. May doesn't remember this story... (full context)
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May explains that she hadn't even heard him tell the story, but she laughed with relief.... (full context)
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The narrator's family put May in their guest room, and the narrator spent a lot of time just watching her.... (full context)
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One evening, the narrator took May out for a walk. While they were out, May caught sight of the "cotton man,"... (full context)
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During the first few days of May's visit, she often invited the narrator along when she went out with Tridib. One morning,... (full context)
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...and sent him away. The narrator realized then that he was jealous, as Tridib and May had a relationship he'd never understand. He knew that the memorial had a meaning he... (full context)
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When the narrator's father suggested that Tridib take May to a harbor, the narrator insisted on going, too. About an hour outside of Calcutta,... (full context)
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Finally, Tridib agreed to help. He snuck up behind the dog and held its head. May sawed at the dog's neck until she punctured its jugular, then dropped the knife and... (full context)
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May decides she needs a coffee too, and after she purchases it, she returns to the... (full context)
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Awkwardly, May collects her things and insists she needs to leave. The narrator walks with her to... (full context)
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...was owed one, given that it had been a bad day: for no apparent reason, Mayadebi wouldn't let him outside. (full context)
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...house and went down to look at some of the bomb holes in the park. Mayadebi found him and angrily led him home. Back at the house, Mrs. Price kindly explained... (full context)
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...telling it to Tridib, Tridib relaying it to the narrator and Ila, the narrator telling May, May introducing him to Nick. Later that day, Tridib had asked the narrator what he... (full context)
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...hug him, as he sees that Nick will always be dependent on Ila. He remembers May telling him that Nick is different from them. (full context)
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Two days before Tha'mma leaves for Dhaka, she receives a letter from Mayadebi. It explains that she hasn't been to the house yet, but she met a man... (full context)
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Years later, Robi tells the narrator that the first thing Tha'mma said to Mayadebi was, "where's Dhaka?" Her Dhaka, the narrator says, disappeared long ago, and all she had... (full context)
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...tall walls, and a beautiful garden in front. At dinner that first night, Tha'mma and Mayadebi discuss when to go fetch Jethamoshai. The Shaheb insists they need to wait a few... (full context)
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One morning while Tha'mma, Tridib, and May are in Dhaka, the narrator discovers that there's trouble in Calcutta. His mother doesn't listen... (full context)
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...streets look unfamiliar: they're empty except for policemen. The narrator is glad that Tha'mma and May aren't in Calcutta. The students see a rickshaw blocking a street and think it looks... (full context)
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...up posts at the front and back of the car. The driver whispers something in Mayadebi's ear, and she relays his message to Tha'mma and Tridib: they must come back quickly... (full context)
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Tha'mma, Mayadebi, Tridib, May, and Robi approach the house. Children take May's hands as they walk. When... (full context)
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Khalil arrives. He greets Saifuddin with deference and smiles widely at Jethamoshai's relatives, and May recognizes that Khalil isn't simple at all. He insists that Jethamoshai won't leave, but agrees... (full context)
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...that these are relatives, but Jethamoshai doesn't acknowledge that Khalil said anything. Jethamoshai looks at May and says that he recognizes her: she's Mary Pickford. He begins to sing an English... (full context)
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...get out of bed, and Tridib helps lift the old man into the rickshaw. Outside, Mayadebi and Tha'mma take one last look at the house and then walk towards the car.... (full context)
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...(a small town in Pakistan), however, experienced violent riots. The narrator realizes suddenly that Tha'mma, May, and Tridib left for Dhaka the day before these riots broke out. (full context)
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...to the library for days. He lies in bed, wondering why his father allowed Tha'mma, May, and Tridib to even go to Dhaka—it seems his father sent them on purpose. However,... (full context)
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Things happened quickly after Tridib's death: May left, Tridib was cremated, and the narrator spent time with an uncle. His parents took... (full context)
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The car won't start, and as Robi looks back, May has gotten out and approaches the rickshaw. She yells that everyone in the car are... (full context)
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On the narrator's last day in London, he's supposed to have dinner with May. He spends his day running back and forth across town for various reasons, and phones... (full context)
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...shove a small vase into his suitcase, he remembers that it's actually a gift for May. He realizes he's late for dinner and phones to let her know he's on his... (full context)
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Tha'mma had yelled at the driver to drive away, but May screamed at her and got out. She says she believed she was a heroine, though... (full context)
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May and the narrator clear away plates, and the narrator insists he needs to go home.... (full context)