1) Throughout the first part of the novel, mangroves are characterized as a “universe unto itself, utterly unlike other woodlands or jungles. There are no towering, vine-looped trees, no ferns, no wildflowers, no chattering monkeys or cockatoos. Mangrove leaves are tough and leathery, the branches gnarled and the foliage often impassably dense. Visibility is short and the air still and fetid. At no moment can human beings have any doubt of the terrains’s hostility to their presence, of its cunning and resourcefulness, of its determination to destroy or expel them,” (Page 7). However, the mangroves in the Sundarban are also characterized and known as the “beautiful forest” (Page 7). Why do you think the author describes the Sundarban in such way? Is Ghosh making a commentary about man vs. nature? If you believe so, explain why.
2)On page 43, it explains how the Bay of Bengal and the Sundarban is the doormat of India and that “everyone who has ever taken the eastern route to the Gangetic heartland has had to pass through it.” It also says that “the speciality of the mangroves is that they do not merely recolonize land; they erase time. Every generation creates its own population of ghosts,” (Page 43). On page 65, it also explains how “the tide country, where life was lived on the margins of greater events, it was useful also to be reminded that no place was so remote as to escape the flood of history.” How do both these quotes characterize history? What does it mean that every generation creates it own population of ghosts? What is the point that the author is trying to drive home to the readers, and why?
3)Foreignness and social hierarchy. We read on page 5, how an older man had moved from his seat on the train after seeing Kanai’s social status from his exterior appearance. In a different way, due to Piya’s foreignness, she is robbed of the protection and respect. The sheer fact of her being foreign raised means she is treated differently. What do you make of this correlation between foreignness and social hierarchy? How do both these instances make you feel and why? Why is it that her job and her Americanness do not protect her in Canning compared to Mekong and Mahakem? What does it mean to be of the same ethnicity but are singled out?