Sectarian and Sexual Lines in Indian Writing in English
Chapter 7: Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines: Enchantment, Fear, and Hostility aroused by Border Lines and the World Beyond
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Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines: Enchantment, Fear, and Hostility aroused by Border Lines and the World Beyond
The Enchantment of Border Lines
[I] was struck with wonder that there had really been a time, not so long ago, when people, sensible people, of good intention, had thought that all maps were the same, that there was a special enchantment in lines; I had to remind myself that they were not to be blamed for believing that there was something admirable in moving violence to the borders and dealing with it through science and factories, for that was the pattern of the world. They had drawn their borders, believing in that pattern, in the enchantment of lines, hoping perhaps that once they had etched their borders upon the maps, the two bits of land would sail away from each other like the shifting tectonic plates of the prehistoric Gondwanaland. (Gosh 1988: 228, my emphasis, E. O.)
Crossing prohibited border lines can produce both desire for violation and fear of stepping into the unknown world. Border lines arouse such ambivalent feelings as enchantment, fear, and hostility toward the world beyond them. Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines (1988) represents such ambivalent feelings in many ways, including by means of the metaphor of an old ancestral house divided into two by a wall. The novel is a family saga of middle-class Bengal families, with a first-person narrator whose grandmother was born and...
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