For Kanai, language is an all-important tool to not only communicate with others, but navigate the world as a whole. But Piya, on the other hand, comes to rely on non-verbal communication when she is with Fokir, with whom she doesn't share a common language. Ultimately, does the novel suggest that language is an effective means of communication, or is it insufficient in some way?
Though human language has its advantages, The Hungry Tide focuses on the ways in which verbal communication can be lacking and nonverbal communication can be more powerful. Even Kanai often relies on nonverbal communication—when he first meets Piya, he is able to learn a great deal about her from her appearance and demeanor without even speaking to her. When he sees a tiger, language fails him, and he can only babble, showing that some experiences cannot be represented by language. Furthermore, the strength of Piya and Fokir's relationship and the extremely effective ways in which they communicate shows how important nonverbal communication is as well.
Is Kanai's confidence, or perhaps arrogance, more of an advantage or disadvantage in the novel? Why?
Kanai's confidence is ultimately more of a disadvantage for him, though he overcomes it to some extent. Because of his confidence, Kanai spends much of the novel viewing Piya as a prize to be won. He doesn't get to know her at first, and though his feelings towards her grow stronger as he learns more about her life, it's too late for him to capture her affection. Additionally, Kanai risks overestimating his knowledge of the Sundarbans because he's been there before, despite the unpredictability of the region. For example, his unfamiliarity with nature leads him to make risky decisions and ignore dangers.
What role does religion play in the novel?
Though none of the most prominent characters—Kanai, Piya, Nirmal, and Nilima—express religious beliefs in The Hungry Tide, religion is an important way for many people in the Sundarbans to control their relationship with nature, which often threatens to annihilate them. By believing in the protection of the goddess Bon Bibi, people are able to gain a sense of security and hope. Religion is also a way for other characters to relate to people native to the Sundarbans. Though Kanai and Nirmal are both initially dismissive of religion, it ultimately allows them to get closer to others. For example, Nirmal comes to appreciate the experience of traveling to the shrine to Bon Bibi with Horen and Kusum, while Piya is moved by Fokir's expression of his beliefs.
Do you think Nirmal's life ended up having no meaning, as he feared? Why or why not?
While Nirmal didn't achieve as much as he could have had he been more practical or more willing to compromise, his life did make a difference. His notebook could draw new attention to the issues faced by the refugees in their struggle against the government, whose voices have been silenced. Furthermore, the cyclone shelter he built was vital to the survival of Lusibari's people when a cyclone hit. Though Nirmal's regrets are understandable, his life did have meaning and a significant impact.
How is gender explored through Kanai's character arc in the novel?
At the beginning of the novel, Kanai primarily sees women as objects of romantic interests, even as prizes. Yet by the end of the narrative, he has formed a mutually respectful friendship with Piya. Furthermore, he comes to recognize the importance of Nilima's work. Though she dismisses him as a predator at one point, he ultimately decides to include her side of the story with his rewriting of Nirmal's journal, giving her her due.