The God of Small Things

by chantalstrand

Can Anyone be prepared if Anything can happen?

The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

The Small Things seem so much Larger when you look at the world through the eyes of a child. Arundhati Roy delves deep into this perspective through her semi-autobiographical novel The God of Small Things, in which young twins Rahel and Estha share their view of a post-Colonial India. Within this context, Roy examines issues of abuse, assimilation, love, death, and family ties to name a few, emphasizing these themes through repetition and stylized punctuation.

Rahel, as Roy’s primary narrator, expresses a unique view of life’s triumphs and tragedies through a personal, playful language, which she extends to her entire family, giving the reader a limited omniscient perspective. Her childlike words paint horrific events with a color of innocence, pieces of the events surrounding her cousin Sophie Mol’s death surfacing as the novel progresses. Rahel shares her family’s reaction to what is later revealed to be a drowning, Sophie Mol a “spongy mermaid who had forgotten how to swim”. Such a sweet, blissfully naive voice makes the reality of these horrors deafeningly disturbing. Senses are emphasized, highlighting the acute awareness of childhood; smell is used repeatedly when “sourmetal” memories are revisited, Roy giving the reader a multi-faceted account.

Each family member is discussed though Rahel’s youthful eyes and their own perspectives are emphasized though repeated capitalization. Rahel’s Baby Aunt a “Man-less woman”, her Uncle Chacko “Die-vorced”, and her mother Ammu? “Let Her Be”. Roy uses these short titles to reveal character as the story unfolds- Estha Alone with his Puff of hair becoming Estha Unknown, Rahel with her fountain in a Love-in Tokyo hair becoming Empty from her “battle against Real Life”. This focus on Little things subtly reveals strained family relationships, as “The Big Things lurk unsaid inside”. Pappachi’s Moth, his almost claim to fame remains fluttering over the entire family. This cold, missing dream comes to symbolize loss, weighing heavily on Rahel especially, making things “angry colored”.

Another Loss centers around an Untouchable named Velutha, who possesses many admirable qualities despite his caste status. He falls in love with Rahel’s broken mother, defying their culture’s “Love Laws”. The Sound of Music is just one of the English customs to have “seeped into Kerala like tea from a teabag”, the love affair between the two characters illustrating the changes that have occurred within India as a result of Colonialism. This secret taboo is made public at the same time Sophie Mol’s death is realized, and Velutha, whom the children refer to as “The God of Small Things”, becomes “The God of Loss”. He is wrongfully accused of assaulting Ammu, and the twins watch in horror as he is brutally beaten to death.

Tomorrow is uncertain, as “Things can change in a day”. Small, minute details may seem irrelevant at the time, but in the Big picture, they add up. A series of Small tragedies become too Big to comprehend. Roy clearly uses her architectural background, as well as her childhood memories; to design a gripping story infused with an original Real Life language.

By Chantal Strand


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