The Shadow Lines

by

Amitav Ghosh

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The Shaheb Character Analysis

The Shaheb is Mayadebi's wealthy husband. He's elegant, dignified, and the most important relative in the narrator's family, which earns him the admiration of everyone in the family but Tha'mma. Tha'mma resents him because she believes he's an alcoholic (though it's never made entirely clear if the Shaheb ever actually stinks of alcohol) and weak—she instinctively knows that Mayadebi does most of the heavy lifting. Tha'mma also takes offense to his extensive and varied wardrobe: as a diplomat, the Shaheb needs different styles of dress for different locales. He's a kind man who makes a point to engage women in conversation about things that matter to them, something that endears him especially to the narrator's mother. He moves his family to London in 1939 so that he can have an operation in England.

The Shaheb Quotes in The Shadow Lines

The The Shadow Lines quotes below are all either spoken by The Shaheb or refer to The Shaheb. 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.
2. Coming Home Quotes

Everyone lives in a story, he says, my grandmother, my father, his father, Lenin, Einstein, and lots of other names I hadn't heard of; they all lived in stories, because stories are all there are to live in, it was just a question of which one you choose […]

Related Characters: The Shaheb (speaker), Ila, Tha'mma
Page Number: 179
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Shaheb Character Timeline in The Shadow Lines

The timeline below shows where the character The Shaheb 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
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
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 old himself,... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...see Ila, jumps and points when he sees their Studebaker. Tha'mma drily notes that the Shaheb, her "Europeanised" brother-in-law, is sitting in the backseat smoking. She wonders what uniform he's wearing,... (full context)
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...Robi, who was a few years older, sized each other up as Tha'mma greeted the Shaheb by sniffing his face. Later, the narrator's father scolded Tha'mma for this, but she insisted... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
After the narrator's mother and the Shaheb finished talking, the narrator was worried because Ila hadn't yet arrived. He ran to Jatin,... (full context)
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
...that Tridib had once shown him pictures of. The pictures were taken mostly by the Shaheb in 1939, and they were taken on an evening that Mrs. Price invited her brother... (full context)
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
..."difficult." Mike lies stretched out in front of Snipe and Dan. He hadn't liked the Shaheb. Alan Tresawsen had rescued the Shaheb from an uncomfortably racist encounter with Mike, and he... (full context)
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...who's holding the infant May. Alan looks down with a smile at Mayadebi. As the Shaheb took the photo, the two had been talking about how surprisingly friendly England was becoming... (full context)
2. Coming Home
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...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)
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...give people good news. In March of 1963, he tells Tha'mma at dinner that the Shaheb just got a promotion. Tha'mma scoffs that he's a drunk and doesn't deserve it, but... (full context)
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
...Tha'mma continues to insist that she's not in Dhaka. To be fair, Mayadebi and the Shaheb live in Dhanmundi, which later becomes a major political center when Bangladesh becomes independent in... (full context)
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...At dinner that first night, Tha'mma and Mayadebi discuss when to go fetch Jethamoshai. The Shaheb insists they need to wait a few days, as he's heard that there's trouble brewing... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...and he doesn't much care if they stay home or go out to watch. The Shaheb agrees to let them go to the old house if they take a security guard.... (full context)