The Shadow Lines Questions and Answers
by Amitav Ghosh

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Comment on the role of women characters in Shadow Lines.

The main women characters in Shadow Lines are from India, Pakistan, and England. They show women’s changing roles in the mid–late 20th century, including female contributions to ending British colonial rule in the subcontinent. Tha’mma, the narrator’s grandmother, was an educator in India who supported the independence movement. Ila, the narrator’s cousin, is a free-spirited woman who moves to London. May, who becomes her sister-in-law, is a white Englishwoman whose naïveté has fatal consequences.

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Amitav Ghosh, through his women characters, perfectly portrays all the psychological and sociological trauma that the common citizen of war-torn and riot-ravaged post-Partition India suffered through. The central male characters—Tridib, Rabi, the narrator, and Nick Price—are passive in importance, whereas women characters like Tha’mma, Ila, and May Price are more active. Through their trials and tribulations, they bring to the forefront key issues like the complexities of belonging and alienation, identity crisis in postcolonial society, and the role violence plays in constructing national identity.

Tha’mma is a victim of Partition and has to carve out a space for herself in an alien land, which gives her a no-nonsense attitude to life. She struggles through life and, through hard work, finally finds a respectable niche for herself as a teacher in middle-class Bengali society. She is a woman hardened by circumstance, and her former struggles cast a shadow on her attitude toward...

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