Balance between East and West
Anil tries to balance both her life in Sri Lanka and her life in America and Europe. Her return to her homeland for the first time since she was eighteen is a major event. Anil struggles to come to terms with her reputation as a swimmer from her youth that continues to be the principal way in which she is viewed by Sri Lankans. After living in America and Europe she is westernized and knows little of her native language. However in Sri Lanka, the people do not view her as a young professional, rather the professional swimmer she was before she left Sri Lanka. She is especially annoyed to be remembered this way because the picture in the paper of her winning a swimming race showed off her attractive physical traits while she would rather be known for her professional abilities.
War and its effects
The novel places a major focus on war and its effects on individuals, families, and entire societies. Families have been torn apart because of the kidnappings or simply because of the stress of war that is too much of a burden. Some cannot handle the atrocities and instead opt for an easier alternative, suicide. Others, like Palipana, live secluded lives altogether alienating themselves from society. Entire societies choose to remain blind and deaf to war, merely hoping for peace.
Understanding of Nature and Balance
The nature of understanding is also explored through comparison of the Western liberating qualities of truth embodied by Anil's investigation, and the Eastern dangers of truth, "The truth was like a flame against a sleeping lake of petrol". The physical dangers presented to those seeking the truth and the inneffectiveness of organisations such as the United Nations in Sri Lanka continues this idea. Gamini rejects the truth in warfare and politics, seeing only the human cost and finding solace in the maternal bond that "brings a timelessness to brief lives". Sarath gives his life to give hope to the cause, "Would give his life for the truth, if it were of any use".