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4/23: What I Might Have Said

Kelsey's picture

Since I wasn't able to be in class yesterday because I was sick, here are some of my thoughts about The Hungry Tide in response to Anne's class notes.

Reading Anne's notes, I was struck by her phrase "repeated failure of empathy" to describe characters' interactions throughout the novel.  Of course, in the sense that a failure of empathy means "the inability of characters to understand one another", this description seems quite correct.  On p. 132, Piya says of the "immeasurable distance that separated her from Fokir", "that was how it was with human beings, who came equipped, as a species, with the means of shutting each other out... speech was only a bag of tricks that fooled you into believing that you could see through the eyes of another being."  Characters throughout The Hungry Tide continually fail to understand each other- Piya and Fokir's language barrier, Nilima's attempts to stay close to Nirmal as he grows away from her, Moyna's assertion to Kanai that he wouldn't understand why she married Fokir.  But, even though I can clearly see the failures of empathy throughout the novel, cannot argue with Anne's description, on my first reading I found myself resisting it.  I had to think a while about why and, while thinking, I kept coming back to the scene where Fokir rescues Piya from the water and agrees to take her to Lusibari.  I can't call this scene empathy, because I don't see them reaching any deep understanding of each other (although their ability to communicate is notable), but I can call it caring.  Kindness.  Even if empathy fails throughout The Hungry Tide, caring often does not, and in a way that feels more important to me.  We may not be able to understand each other, but if we can love each other- even if we're only loving the people that we think others are, even if we're only loving people because they are people and even strangers are worthy of care- that seems to make a significant enough impact that perhaps we don't need complete understanding to connect with each other in meaningful ways.