Summary and analysis of The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh?
The Shadow Lines is a novel about a boy and his family. The boy and his family live in India during tumultuous times. There are riots throughout India due to how British partitioned the country.
Yet India is not the only thing that is partitioned or broken up. In the early 1900s, the father of the narrator’s grandma, Tha’mma, started fighting with his brother. They divided the huge communal house with a wall. The two sides were not on speaking terms. The narrator grandma’s called the uncle’s side “the upside-down house.”
Tha’mma wanted to join the terrorist groups that were battling England for India’s independence. Alas, her husband died, so she had to bring up the narrator’s dad by herself.
The narrator’s dad gets married and Tha’mma lets the narrator’s mom run the household.
As for the narrator, he develops a big crush on his worldly cousin Ila. Ila has a crush on a boy named Nick Price. She met Nick in London. Ila implies that Nick saved her from xenophobic children.
Meanwhile, Tridib, the narrator’s older, loquacious uncle, has a crush on Nick’s older sister May. The two communicate through letters, some of which are quite sexual.
Unfortunately, Tridib, as well as Tha’mma’s uncle and his caretaker, are killed by rioters.
Later on, the narrator heads to London for school. By recalling Tridib’s vivid stories, the narrator navigates London quite impressively.
The narrator develops his own relationship with May. He has nonconsensual sex with her. Although, she appears to forgive him. Later, they have consensual sex.
As for the narrator’s first significant crush Ila—she marries Nick Price. Nick maintains many side girlfriends. Ila is aware of them. She won’t divorce him. However, she will demean him in public.
To analyze the story, you could highlight the importance of borders and boundaries. You could talk about how the borders and boundaries of India create violence and conflict. You can also talk about how the borders and boundaries of the narrator’s family create conflict.
You could also analyze the centrality of stories. Think about Tidib’s many stories, as well as the story Ila tells the narrator about being saved by Nick. You could analyze how stories help the characters revise history in order to make it more tolerable.
Lastly, you could analyze the role of gender in the novel. You could analyze how Amitav Ghosh both undercuts and reinforces gender norms. Tha’mma’s wish to be a part of the war against colonial England could be interrupted as a break from gender norms. Yet her obligation to raise her son could be seen as an adherence to gender norms.
Additionally, the worldly natures of May and Ila could be seen as a deviation from gender norms. Yet what the narrator does to May perpetuates terrible gender norms. More so, Ila’s tolerance of Nick’s affairs preserves harmful gender norms.