The Shadow Lines

by

Amitav Ghosh

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Tridib Character Analysis

Tridib is the narrator's uncle. He's about twenty years older and is a very skilled storyteller. He often tells the narrator stories about the year he lived in London with the Prices. Tridib's sense of place in his stories is so exact, the narrator can find his way around London as an adult years later going off of what Tridib told him. Tridib has an atlas that he uses to show the narrator where in the world the places he talks about in his stories are. As an adult, Tridib is the only one in his family to not take after his wealthy father and get a high-powered, international job. Instead, he remains in his grandmother's home in Calcutta and pursues a PhD in archaeology. When Tridib is 27, he begins a correspondence with May, Mrs. Price's daughter. She was an infant when he lived in London. They write for several years and at one point, Tridib writes a long, detailed letter about a time he witnessed strangers having sex and invites May to come to India. When May accepts and arrives in Calcutta, she's relieved to discover that Tridib isn't scary—he's shy and young-looking, and though he very clearly loves May, he's unsure of what to say or how to show it. Tridib accompanies May and Tha'mma to Dhaka and to Tha'mma's ancestral home, where he dies in a riot. He is brutally murdered attempting to save May, Jethamoshai, and Khalil from an angry mob. His death haunts May, the narrator, Tha'mma, and Robi for decades.

Tridib Quotes in The Shadow Lines

The The Shadow Lines quotes below are all either spoken by Tridib or refer to Tridib. 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 tried to tell her, but neither then nor later, though we talked about it often, did I ever succeed in explaining to her that I could not forget because Tridib had given me worlds to travel in and he had given me eyes to see them with; she, who had been travelling around the world since she was a child, could never understand what those hours in Tridib's room had meant to me […]

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tridib, Ila
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

I would have been frightened, she said. But I would have prayed for strength, and God willing, yes, I would have killed him. It was for our freedom: I would have done anything to be free.

Related Characters: Tha'mma (speaker), The Narrator, Tridib
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

I said: I'm not meeting you for the first time; I've grown up with you.

He was taken aback.

That must have taken some doing, he said drily, since I grew up right here, in boring suburban old West Hampstead.

I've known the streets around here for a long time too, I said.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Nick Price (speaker), Tridib, Ila, Robi
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
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:

They were all around me, we were together at last, not ghosts at all: the ghostliness was merely the absence of time and distance—for that is all that a ghost is, a presence displaced in time.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tridib, Ila, Snipe
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

I was a child, and like all the children around me, I grew up believing in the truth of the precepts that were available to me: I believed in the reality of space; I believed that distance separates, that there is a corporeal substance; I believed in the reality of nations and borders; I believed that across the border there existed another reality.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tridib
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:

His atlas showed me, for example, that […] Chiang Mai in Thailand was much nearer Calcutta than Delhi is […] Yet I had never heard of those places until I drew my circle, and I cannot remember a time when I was so young that I had not heard of Delhi or Srinagar.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tridib
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

They had drawn their borders, believing in that pattern, in the enchantment of lines, hoping perhaps that once they had etched their borders upon the map, the two bits of land would sail away from each other like the shifting tectonic plates of the prehistoric Gondwanaland.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Tridib, Tha'mma
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:
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Tridib Character Timeline in The Shadow Lines

The timeline below shows where the character Tridib 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, tries to imagine... (full context)
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
Tha'mma doesn't like Tridib; she insists that a person must use their time wisely, and that Tridib doesn't do... (full context)
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Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Tha'mma knows that Tridib visits primarily to "nurse his stomach." He comes when he finds himself needing a restroom... (full context)
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Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
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The narrator runs into Tridib in the street fairly regularly when he's a child. Tridib is the only one in... (full context)
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
The narrator knows that Tridib only goes to the park rarely, and he hears about Tridib from his best friend... (full context)
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Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
If he hears Tridib is nearby, the narrator skips his evening cricket game and finds him. He never questions... (full context)
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Tridib is so self-mocking, nobody on the street quite knows what to believe about him. Nobody... (full context)
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When the narrator is nine, Tridib disappears for weeks. When the narrator stops at Tridib's house one day, Tridib tells him... (full context)
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The narrator bursts forward and yells at Tridib that he got it wrong, since he just saw him a few weeks ago in... (full context)
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...says that it was taken several years before, and explains that she sent it to Tridib. She tells the narrator that she and Tridib began writing to each other in 1959,... (full context)
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The narrator insists that Tha'mma was wrong about Tridib: he is openly dismissive of the gossips, and the narrator recognizes that he's happiest surrounded... (full context)
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...if she remembers how, as children, Ila, the narrator, and Robi used to go find Tridib and listen to him talk about all sorts of things. Ila insists she remembers and... (full context)
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...remembers. The narrator tells the reader this isn't even a question—Ila will never understand what Tridib's stories meant to the narrator. Since Ila traveled so much as a child, she was... (full context)
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...invented in a person's imagination; they don't just exist. When the narrator was a boy, Tridib told him that Ila had never truly traveled, since her imagination and her inventions of... (full context)
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Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...stories taught the narrator that the places in the atlas were real, not "fairylands" like Tridib told him about. The narrator says this assertion was misguided; Tridib, as an archaeologist, instructed... (full context)
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Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
...narrator recalls a time when he was ten and Ila; her mother, Queen Victoria; and Tridib came to visit. In the flashback, Queen Victoria tells the narrator about their house in... (full context)
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...telling her story, she waits for the narrator's response. The narrator doesn't want to disappoint Tridib, so he asks what species the snake was. Tridib looks disappointed. Later, as the narrator... (full context)
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Despite understanding Tridib's meaning, the narrator also understands that Tridib's imagination is far more detailed and precise than... (full context)
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...but she doesn't know. Back outside, Ila is indignant, but the narrator tells her that Tridib used to tell them about how Alan Tresawsen, Mrs. Price's brother, worked there before the... (full context)
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In the pub, the narrator tries to explain to Ila and Robi the "archaeological" Tridib, but Ila is contemptuous. The narrator insists that if they don't use their own imaginations,... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
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...sent Tha'mma an anxious letter implying that Robi got in trouble at school. Tha'mma summoned Tridib to explain the incident fully, and he said that Robi had beaten up a notorious... (full context)
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Tha'mma told Tridib and the narrator about a quiet boy she'd gone to college with in the 1920s.... (full context)
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Tridib asked what happened to the boy, and Tha'mma said she learned later that the boy... (full context)
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...when Mayadebi noticed how sad he looked, she explained to him that Ila, Queen Victoria, Tridib, and Lizzie are in another car. Finally, the other car pulls up. The narrator hides... (full context)
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...small; even May was in awe of its size. The narrator had told May that Tridib's grandfather bought it in London in the 1890s and shipped it to Calcutta in pieces,... (full context)
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Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
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...the table. The narrator hadn't known what to say to that, and May wondered why Tridib's grandfather brought back a "worthless bit of England." The narrator had found it impossible to... (full context)
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...when he grew up. Nick said he wanted to be like his grandfather, Lionel Tresawsen. Tridib later told the narrator about Lionel Tresawsen: Tridib said that he'd been a jack of... (full context)
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Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...develop bombs powerful enough to destroy entire streets until after 1940. The narrator insists that Tridib told him that the street was destroyed. They argue for a moment, and then they... (full context)
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
...offers the narrator a drink, but he's too engrossed in looking around the room that Tridib had once shown him pictures of. The pictures were taken mostly by the Shaheb in... (full context)
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
...a bomb shelter. Dan stands to the right—he'd been a fascinating figure for the young Tridib. He worked at a leftist newspaper, and Tridib's questions about the paper were embarrassing and,... (full context)
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Tridib carried one more image with him that wasn't captured in a photograph: he watched the... (full context)
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...she said something about her being a "warmongering fascist," and the narrator repeated something that Tridib had said: Tha'mma just wanted a middle-class life that allowed her to believe in the... (full context)
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...camp on the Isle of Wight, 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... (full context)
2. Coming Home
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Tridib looked around and noticed he was next to a large building. He noticed a hole... (full context)
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Tridib watched a woman walk by outside and stop. Her dog defecated on the sidewalk, and... (full context)
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As the man lowered the woman to the floor, the dog began barking. Tridib was afraid the lovers would be discovered, but the woman slapped the dog and it... (full context)
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Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
...can stay with the narrator's family while she's in Calcutta. The narrator's father agrees instantly. Tridib visits a week later and announces that he'll be going to Dhaka as well. He... (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... (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... (full context)
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Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
...herself in her hotel room in Delhi and felt helpless and afraid. She wondered if Tridib would look as intense and somewhat frightening as he did in the photo he'd sent... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
...days of May's visit, she often invited the narrator along when she went out with Tridib. One morning, they went to see the Victoria Memorial. The narrator chatted about ice cream... (full context)
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Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Tridib gave the narrator money to buy whatever treat he wanted and sent him away. The... (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... (full context)
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Finally, Tridib agreed to help. He snuck up behind the dog and held its head. May sawed... (full context)
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Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
...after she purchases it, she returns to the narrator and her story. Back in Calcutta, Tridib dropped the narrator off at his house and took May to his. It was the... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
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...objects in the room seem to float away and be replaced by ghosts of nine-year-old Tridib, Snipe, and eight-year-old Ila. When Ila buries her face in the narrator's shoulder and begins... (full context)
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
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...flashes back to the day that young Ila cried after telling her story about Madga. Tridib appeared, and the narrator invited him into their imaginary house in London. He showed Tridib... (full context)
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Tridib slipped out of the house and went down to look at some of the bomb... (full context)
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When the alert sounded, everyone went down to the shelter. Finally, Tridib asked Snipe to tell the story. The narrator says that he could see the story... (full context)
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...1964, it's nothing more than a suburb. When Tha'mma insists that she's not in Dhaka, Tridib points out that she's a foreigner now. (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... (full context)
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...The driver whispers something in Mayadebi's ear, and she relays his message to Tha'mma and Tridib: they must come back quickly in case of trouble. (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 they... (full context)
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...him when he used to not allow Muslims to get within ten feet of him. Tridib asks how Khalil came to live in the house, and Saifuddin explains that after Partition,... (full context)
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Jethamoshai asks Tha'mma to describe her case, and Tridib loudly explains that they're relatives. Jethamoshai's face lights up maliciously at the mention of relatives.... (full context)
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...he's going to court. Khalil manages to convince Jethamoshai to get out of bed, and Tridib helps lift the old man into the rickshaw. Outside, Mayadebi and Tha'mma take one last... (full context)
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...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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...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, when the... (full context)
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Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
Several months after he makes these discoveries, the narrator drags out Tridib's old atlas and a compass. He discovers that Srinagar and Khulna are 1200 miles apart,... (full context)
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...and Dhaka became so important and connected to each other. This irony, he believes, killed Tridib. (full context)
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...carefully that Tha'mma is very interested in the war with Pakistan, especially after "they killed" Tridib over there. The narrator reminds his mother that Tridib died in an accident, but he... (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... (full context)
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Robi talks about Tridib's death for the first time in London, the day that Ila takes him and the... (full context)
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...approaches the rickshaw. She yells that everyone in the car are cowards. Robi knows that Tridib gets out of the car, but no matter how hard he reaches for him, he... (full context)
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...anything as you can't divide collective memory. He says that if freedom were truly possible, Tridib's death would've freed him, but the dream continues to haunt him. At this, Ila hugs... (full context)
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...up what the narrator had been unable to ask: why he never asked her how Tridib died. The narrator admits he never had the courage or the words. He can tell... (full context)
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...she was the only one who didn't know how it was going to play out. Tridib ran after her and pushed her down and then continued to the rickshaw. He tried... (full context)
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...be alone. When she calms, she asks the narrator if he thinks that she killed Tridib. The narrator doesn't answer. May continues: she says she used to think she did, but... (full context)