Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 183

Deep River is strongly tied to the trope of the "tour," which is a commonplace, recent, and modern conception of how one should experience culture, framed as a brief immersion into the most prominent sights and sounds of a new place. The novel breaks down this concept when the tour is interrupted by the assassination of the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. When the illusion of the "tour" dissolves, each of the four Japanese tourists come to gain more immediate insight into features of India near the Ganges River and the resonances their own lives share with India.

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As the story progresses, each of the characters reveals an impulse to reclaim some of their lost Eastern heritage. For example, Isobe desires to learn more about reincarnation to help grapple with the recent death of his wife. Kiguchi seeks to gain an understanding of Buddhist ritual as a form of catharsis for his friends in the Japanese army. As they internalize their Japanese and traditional Eastern impulses, the characters end up in neither identity. Rather, they achieve a hybrid one that synthesizes these distinct roots.

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