GoST: A Search for a Protagonist and a Connection to an Author

by melaniewyn

Melanie

We have talked a lot in class about the point-of-view expressed in this novel. For example, many people were saying that the playful language came from the children and we talked about this as a device Roy uses. Another interesting aspect of the book is the protagonist. Is there a protagonist? Who is the protagonist? Here is Roy’s view:

Interviewer: When I started to read “The God of Small Things,” it took me some time to figure out who the protagonist was — and then I started to feel it was the place: India, Kerala.
Roy: That quest is interesting — that quest for one main character. There is no reason for there to be one. In fact, I think the center is everyone, Ammu, Baby Kochamma, Velutha, Estha, Rahel … they all are the core.

Who/what do you feel is the protagonist in the book? Do you believe that all of these characters present a core as Roy says? Are these the only core characters? How does the missing obvious, single protagonist affect a reader’s (or your) connection to the book or its characters?

Continuing along with the discussion of characters, Roy talks about her character motivation and connections to other authors. Before you read the next passage, think about these questions: How are Roy’s characters’ thoughts and feelings driven? Do they seem natural and realistic, or somewhat unnatural? Did you find yourself confused with actions that characters took? Or did you find that their actions always made sense for their character?:
Roy: I don’t understand when readers assume that Indian writers are “magical realists” and suddenly I’m a “magical realist,” just because Salman Rushdie or other Indian writers are “magical realists.” Sometimes people can misread because of such pegging. For example, when Baby Kochamma is fantasizing or Rahel is observing something as a child or Ammu is dreaming in my book, it is not me, the writer, creating the “magical realism.” No, what I am writing is what the characters are experiencing. What the reader is reading is the character’s own perceptions. Those images are driven by the characters. It is never me invoking magic! This is realism, actually, that I am writing.
Actually, it’s not just Rushdie I’m compared to….some other writers from the American South — Mark Twain, Harper S. Lee — and I think that perhaps there’s an infusion or intrusion of landscape in their literature that might be similar to mine…. because it’s natural that writers from outside urban areas share an environment that is not man-made and is changed by winds and rivers and rain. I think that human relationships and the divisions between human beings are more brutal and straightforward than those in cities, where everything is hidden behind walls and a veneer of urban sophistication.

In this part of the interview, Roy also suggests that in non-urban areas “human relationships and the divisions between human beings are more brutal and straightforward than those in cities…” How did this quote make you feel? Do you agree with her? Did you find the relationships in her novel, which was set in a non-urban area, to be more brutal and straightforward than in your life in a city? Do you think this was due to the rural location? Do you feel that her novel was more connected to the earth and nature than novels set in the city? Would you compare her as a writer to Mark Twain and Harper S. Lee?

Interview found at: http://www.salon.com/sept97/00roy.html

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One Comment to “GoST: A Search for a Protagonist and a Connection to an Author”

  1. Roy is right. We are so used to reading books and automatically forcing ourselves to identify with, and acknowledge a sole character as the centre/ protagonist of the story. As a reader I found myself habitually trying to do this with GoST as well. It wasn’t until I was well into the novel that I realized that all the characters (as Roy states) interconnect to form a core. When you examine the characters carefully, it is clear that not many of them play secondary roles in this story. Even less likable characters such as Baby Kochamma, Commrade Pillai or Vellya Paapen have at least some significant role in deciding “the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.” To overlook any of these individuals and focus solely on Rahel and/or Estha as protagonists would be to overlook a large aspect of who is responsible for how fate is played out in this novel. I found that as a reader I identified with each character on a certain level. In this way, all the different personalities in the story contributed certain qualities and aspects of themselves (some more, some much less) that made up a sort of collective protagonist that I could identify with. For example, even though I found Baby Kochamma’s actions unacceptable, there was still a part of me that sympathized with her in some sort of way. This connects to your next question on the feelings, actions and thoughts of the characters. To me, it seemed as if each of the character’s personalities reflected one aspect of an actual individual. Baby Kochamma represented bitterness and desperation to cling on to what is perceived as sacred and important, Rahel represented hope and childish innocence and the confusion and disarray of being torn between places/ ideas, and so on. It’s like the hundreds of little aspects and sides that every individual possesses were divided up and allocated, one per character. Thus the actions of some characters seemed almost exaggerated and unnatural at times.

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