The Hungry Tide, Piya, An Indian American Marine Biologist And Kanai

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In The Hungry Tide, Piya, an Indian-American marine biologist and Kanai, a translator from New Delhi, meet on a train and again in Lusibari, India. Their lives become intertwined with Fokir, an Indian fisherman of the lower-class. The novel provides insight into the classes of Indian social status, which have been influenced by the centuries-old caste system. Within the caste system, society was divided into four main groups with the agriculturists and merchants, rulers and warriors, and priests and thinkers above laborers and unskilled workers (Nehru, 75). More recently, a less rigid class system has emerged, “defined not just in terms of income, but also as values, cultural affinities, lifestyles, educational attainments and service sector employment” (Debroy). In the caste system, everyone played an important role. In contrast, the majority of India’s middle-class are pretentious, seeing themselves as superior and distancing themselves from the lower-class, who, as a result, are reduced to living in abject poverty. In The Hungry Tide, Moyna and Kanai justify their lack of respect and their oppression of Fokir, a member of India’s lower-class, on the cultural values of middle-class life which they uphold.

Education is crucial to the middle-class definition of success and Moyna, desiring to elevate her family to middle-class status, sees Fokir’s lack of formal education as a fault. Fokir’s illiteracy is brought up several times in the novel. Kanai cannot get past…

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