The Outsider in Ghosh's The Hungry Tide

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Kelly Gutierrez
The Outsider in Ghosh's The Hungry Tide

In reflecting on Amitav Ghosh's The Hungry Tide  the idea of the outsider is examined and emphasized. More specifically, Ghosh opens his novel with Kanai spotting a woman and by merely observing her, he is convinced that she is a foreigner.  This idea of "other," is fascinating because it reflects both individuals. In other words, by defining the woman as other, Kanai has to have some understanding of who he is in relation to her. In a way, she helps him understand himself better. Kanai is greatly attentive to her mannerisms: "He was intrigued by the way she held herself, by the accustomed delineation of her stance. She was a foreigner; it was stamped in her posture, in the way she stood, balancing her heels like a flyweight boxer, with her feet planted apart" (3). The use of diction, such as "foreigner," and  "stamped," reinforces the idea that an individuals physical appearance greatly influences people's perceptions and expectations.  It is almost as if we can define people and categorize them simply based on their appearance, which is something that  takes away their whole worth and true beauty and power. The way in which she dissapears creates a greater sense of fascination about her: "she was swept inside and he lost sight of her" (5). It is almost as if she is known and not known simultaneously. 

 

How do we understand ourselves better by observing the people around us?  Is is neccessary to always define an individual as "other," in order to form one's own identity?