The Shadow Lines


Amitav Ghosh

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Themes and Colors
Youth vs. Maturity Theme Icon
Memory, Storytelling, and Reality Theme Icon
Freedom and Identity Theme Icon
Social Standing and Pride Theme Icon
Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Shadow Lines, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Youth vs. Maturity

The Shadow Lines follows the unnamed narrator, the youngest member of the Indian Datta-Chaudhuri family, as he pieces together his family history. This history spans several decades and follows many different family members—including his grandmother's youth in Dhaka in the 1910s and 1920s, his uncle Tridib's experiences of World War II in England as a child, the Partition of India in 1947, and finally, the riots in Calcutta and Dhaka in 1964, which…

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Memory, Storytelling, and Reality

The narrator of The Shadow Lines is endlessly fascinated by the relationship between memories as they exist in people's minds and memories that are transformed into stories and passed on through the spoken word. As a child, he lives for the stories his uncle Tridib tells him of living in England, as well as other stories about the Price family, which is the family that Tridib and his parents stayed with. As the narrator grows…

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Freedom and Identity

The Shadow Lines centers on the relationship between freedom and how people try to achieve that freedom. In this way, the novel seeks to parse out the meanings of different kinds of freedom and how one's perception of freedom influences their identity. Further, the novel also suggests that the idea of freedom is enough to drive someone mad, even if freedom is ultimately unreachable.

The novel explores the idea of freedom primarily through the opposing…

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Social Standing and Pride

For all of the characters in The Shadow Lines, social standing is a major motivating factor in their lives. By exploring how people's desire for wealth and social standing gets out of control as a result of excessive pride, the novel suggests that these things should be treated with caution and not be taken too seriously. The narrator notes that though his education and his family's standing have had innumerable positive effects on his…

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Borders, Violence, and Political Unrest

The events of The Shadow Lines center primarily around riots that took place in Calcutta, India, and Dhaka, East Pakistan, in late 1963 and early 1964. Though the narrator doesn't discover the truth until the very end of the novel, it's this riot in Dhaka that kills Tridib, a realization that suddenly forces the narrator to reevaluate his experience of the conflict from his hometown in Calcutta and consider the ways in which the…

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