The Shadow Lines

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The narrator's mother is a skilled and competent housewife who is exceptionally proud of her competence. She's briefly shaken when her mother-in-law, Tha'mma, retires and is in the house full-time, but Mother soon regains her hold over the household. Despite this, she and Tha'mma are often at odds: Tha'mma gave Mother most of her jewelry when her husband died, and it irks Tha'mma to no end that Mother's no-nonsense sensibilities don't leave much room for frivolity like jewelry. She regularly refuses to deal with Tha'mma when Tha'mma is in one of her moods, sending her son instead.

Mother Quotes in The Shadow Lines

The The Shadow Lines quotes below are all either spoken by Mother or refer to Mother. 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:
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Houghton Mifflin edition of The Shadow Lines published in 2007.
1. Going Away Quotes

I could guess at a little of what it had cost her then to refuse her rich sister's help and of the wealth of pride it had earned her, and I knew intuitively that all that had kept her from agreeing at once was her fear of accepting anything from anyone that she could not return in exact measure.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tha'mma, Mayadebi, Mother
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

She had given me away, she had made public, then and for ever, the inequality of our needs; she had given Ila the knowledge of her power and she had left me defenceless, naked in the face of that unthinkable, adult truth: that need is not transitive, that one may need without oneself being needed.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Ila, Mother
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
2. Coming Home Quotes

But if there aren't any trenches or anything, how are people to know? I mean, where's the difference then? And if there's no difference, both sides will be the same […] What was it all for then—Partition and all the killing and everything—if there isn't something in between?

Related Characters: Tha'mma (speaker), The Narrator, Mother, Father
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:
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Mother Character Timeline in The Shadow Lines

The timeline below shows where the character Mother appears in The Shadow Lines. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Going Away
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...with Mrs. Price when they visit Calcutta for a holiday. Queen Victoria invites the narrator's mother to bring her family to visit the old family house in Raibajar. The narrator's mother... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
Two days later, the narrator, his mother and father, and Tha'mma wait at Gole Park to meet Ila's family. The narrator, overcome... (full context)
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...Tha'mma for this, but she insisted he stank of alcohol at 9 A.M. The narrator's mother hadn't smelled anything, but the Shaheb had also won her heart that day: he kindly... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...narrator remembers the dress in vivid detail, down to the smell of the starch. His mother had loudly complained that the narrator had been asking about Ila for days and now... (full context)
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...when both the narrator and Robi had been home. Upon the narrator's return home, his mother fed him lunch and Tha'mma drily told her to not worry about dinner—the narrator, she... (full context)
2. Coming Home
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
...Tha'mma is happy in retirement. However, after only a few days, the narrator overhears his mother complaining that Tha'mma is nagging about her housekeeping, which is something she'd never done before.... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
...the house, she spends most of her time alone in her big room. The narrator's mother becomes the true leader of the household. (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
One evening, the narrator's father comes home extremely tired. His mother insists upon complete silence in the household, makes a cup of tea, and sits with... (full context)
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
The narrator's mother is flabbergasted: though she places a great deal of importance on maintaining family connections, Tha'mma... (full context)
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
As the narrator's family leaves, the relative stops the narrator's mother. When she catches up with the rest of the family, she explains that the woman... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...Tridib, and May are in Dhaka, the narrator discovers that there's trouble in Calcutta. His mother doesn't listen to the radio that morning before she sends him to wait for the... (full context)
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...husband died and stopped wearing jewelry publicly, and gave most of it to the narrator's mother after she joined the family. There was one piece—a gold chain with a ruby pendant—that... (full context)
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
One afternoon in 1965, the narrator comes home to find his mother lying down. She explains that Tha'mma went out in the morning, came home, and is... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...and doesn't stop until the doctor arrives to give him a sedative. He asks his mother what's wrong with Tha'mma. She explains carefully that Tha'mma is very interested in the war... (full context)