GoST – Roy…Blueprint for Empathy

by billyev


“What does it mean to be human?” (Arundhati Roy http://www.salon.com)

               “The God of Small Things” is a novel written by Arundhati Roy, set in the state of Kerala, India in the late sixties.  It is the tale of a pair of twins who instead of sharing a common physical appearance seem to share a consciousness, the narrator on page four says “The confusion lay in a deeper, more secret place . . . Esthappen and Rahel thought of themselves together as Me, and separately, individually as We or Us” (Roy 4).  Separated at seven years old they develop as separate halves of the yin and yang of life.  While one twin becomes a functional but troubled adult, the other whether by a means of trauma or choice, ceases to speak completely. The novel ends with their reunification as two halves of a whole, and while they have lost anyone resembling loving family they once again have one another.

               Roy’s ability to relate the human experience goes beyond simple observation; she is actually able to relate the feelings and inner workings of several different types of people.  The omniscient narrator informs us of even the most trivial and petty influences that manipulate human thought to the point where although we dislike a character for his or her actions, we can understand what lead to this behaviour in the first place.  This ability to build a rapport between every character in the novel and the reader is what gives the book so much strength.  Even some disreputable qualities such as Baby Kochamma’s desire to prove to Rahel her brother speaks to no one “She was delighted that Estha has not spoken to Rahel” (Roy 21), displays Roy’s cognizance of particular human attributes which we may not even admit to ourselves we possess. 

               Additionally, Roy`s literary style is an example of beautiful literature. Being an architect, she has a strong appreciation for form and layout and this is a major part of why her novel is so powerful.  Her use of repetition and poetic language as she has said in interviews help “take away the shock of the plot – death, lives destroyed . . .“ (Roy http://www.salon.com). 

Roy’s story is easy to read but a little difficult to follow as it jumps between adulthood and childhood experiences. If you can get past the sometimes puzzling chronology, this novel develops into an incredible account about humans as a species and the tragedy we inflict on ourselves and others.


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