The Shadow Lines Questions and Answers
by Amitav Ghosh

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How is freedom depicted throughout this novel?

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Written by Indian writer Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines is narrated by an unnamed character in the 1980s as they reflect on the lives of their family and friends.

Freedom is a significant theme throughout the novel as it tells the stories of a variety of characters and how they attempt to attain their own version of freedom. For example, the narrator’s grandmother, Tha’mma, was born in 1902 and grew up whilst India was under British occupation. For her, freedom meant freedom from British rule. She even admits that she would have been willing to kill for freedom.

“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.”

Tha’mma’s struggle for freedom, and the search for her identity, continues until her death.

The narrator’s cousin, Ila, comes from a wealthy family and has lived in a number of different international cities whilst growing up. For Ila, freedom means escape from the confines of her upper-class, patriarchal upbringing; “Although she had lived in many places, she had never traveled at all.”

She moves to England, where she plans to wear whatever clothes she chooses and to sleep with whomever she wants. However, Ila marries Nick Price, who she discovers is unfaithful and has several girlfriends. Despite this, Ila loves Nick and will not leave the marriage. By choosing to stay in the marriage, Ila has compromised the freedom and the happiness that she so desired.

The narrator discovers that there are many versions of freedom and that, ultimately, real freedom cannot be achieved.

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