Early in the novel, Piya's appearance is described in great detail as Kanai watches her from a distance. Unlike the women around her, Piya has short hair and wears Western, almost masculine, clothing. By describing Piya's appearance, the narrator illuminates aspects of Piya's personality and her background—after all, Kanai instantly knows she's a foreigner—and implicitly describes the women around her, whose appearance is different from what a Western reader may be accustomed to.
The landscape of the Sundarbans
Throughout the novel, the natural world of the Sundarbans is described in great detail. Many of the descriptions of the appearance of the region underscore the ways in which humans have tried to adapt to their natural surroundings. For example, when Kanai first arrives in Lusibari, the narrator notes that "life in Lusibari was lived at the sufferance of a single feature of its topography," describing the embankment that holds back the high tide.
For Piya, the water of the Sundarbans is the most significant aspect of the region—it's the reason why she's there in the first place. As a result, the sections of the novel focused on Piya often describe the water in detail, using a combination of scientific terms and literary description. For example, when Piya observes the dolphins' odd migration habits, she notes that "the waters of river and sea did not intermingle evenly in this part of the delta; rather, they interpenetrated each other, creating hundreds of different ecological niches, with streams of fresh water running along the floors of some channels, creating variations of salinity and turbidity."
Just as Kanai focuses on Piya's appearance to learn about her, Piya learns about Fokir through her interpretations of his appearance, though some of her assumptions are wrong. For example, though Piya initially expects Fokir to be an old man when she sees him from a distance, he is actually only in his twenties. The clothing that Fokir wears also marks him as someone clearly from a different culture and background than Piya or even his countryman Kanai.
The Hungry Tide Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Hungry Tide is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.