Recovering May Price: A Longitudinal Reading of Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines


  • Pooja Sancheti IISER Pune


Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines, May Price, postcolonial literature, sexual violation


Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Shadow Lines (1988) continues to be a prominent example of South Asian postcolonial writing in English and also regularly features in postcolonial curricula. In this paper, I undertake a close reading and feminist analysis of one character, May Price, as she is constituted in the space of the narrative itself and in critical analyses of the novel. I argue that there is discernible lacuna in criticism about her role(s) and characterization. More pertinently, in these analyses, her identity as a foreign woman sexually violated by the Indian protagonists (Tridib/the narrator) has mostly gone unnoticed or, when touched upon, is problematically couched in the vocabulary of romantic love and consent. The narrative space of the text itself, constituted through its patriarchal narrator-character’s focalization and through authorial choices, allows the character no agency to protest these violations, and offers no space for redressal or any sustained reactive expression of opposition. Rather, through hasty resolutions, absolute forgiveness, and belated consent as presented through May Price’s words and actions, these violations are seemingly turned into seductions, exonerating the assaulters entirely. I aim to highlight that narratives such as The Shadow Lines and attendant critical reflections often choose to examine questions of nation, identity, and memory, which are undoubtedly significant, at the expense of the representation and agency of women. In order to address this gap, gendered power dynamics need to be made central and not peripheral to postcolonial scholarship and discussion.

Author Biography

Pooja Sancheti, IISER Pune

Pooja Sancheti is an Assistant Professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune, India. She was awarded the PhD degree for her thesis titled “Magical Postmodernist Imagination: Contexts and Texts” in 2014 from The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India. Her current academic interests are South Asian Anglophone fiction, transnational literature, women’s writing, magical realism, and postcolonial theory. She is also an amateur Hindi-English translator. She also dabbles in the interdisciplinary domain of language and science and teaches EAP, a parallel research interest. She has published in reputed academic journals and presented her research at several national and international conferences.