The Hungry Tide

by Amitav Ghosh

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Student Question

What are two important symbols in The Hungry Tide?

Quick answer:

Two important symbols from The Hungry Tide are the notebook that Kanai bequeathed to Nirmal and the GPS monitor that Piya uses.

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In The Hungry Tide, one of the important symbols that the author uses is a notebook, which was contained in a mysterious packet that Nirmal had left to his nephew, Kanai. Another is the GPS (Geographic Positioning System) monitor, a technological device that Piya uses to determine exact locations when she and Fokir are in the boat.

The notebook contains personal impressions that Nirmal had recorded several decades earlier. It symbolizes the history of India and Bangladesh overall, as well as the specific historical and political significance of the Sundaran islands. Because it was the work of Nirmal, who was once a well-known literary figure, it also symbolizes Indian literary tradition. The notebook is furthermore a symbol of the secrets and deception that affect the residents’ lives, as by reading it and speaking with his aunt, Kanai learns important hidden truths.

The GPS monitor represents both the advances and the limitations of science. Piya relies on it to know where she and Fokir are as they track the dolphins through the labyrinthine swamps. However, the kind of information it provides is limited because it requires human interpretation, which Fokir is instrumental in providing. Despite her use of modern technology, in another sense, Piya does not know where she is until the novel’s end, when she decides she belongs in the islands.

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