Its the Small Things that make a Big Difference

by martazem

The God of Small Things

Marta Z.


            Within the borders of the first chapter of her first novel, Arundhati Roy weaves an intricate outline of events which simultaneously affect an individual, a family, and an entire nation. But make sure to turn the page, as the remaining twenty chapters will not disappoint.

            Roy exudes complete control over her narrative, both artistically and structurally. She wastes no time in flaunting her ability to sculpt language, by promptly introducing Rahel, a young Indian woman of a “viable die-able age,” returning to Ayemenem (her childhood home) for the first time since “those early amorphous years when memory had only just begun,” and before “Brinks and Limits” appeared “like a team of trolls on their separate horizons.” Subsequently, it is also established that “they” was previously a common term for Rahel and her twin brother Estha. Once considering themselves “a rare breed of Siamese twins, physically separate, but with joint identities,” the grown up siblings find themselves navigating through a severed relationship from the ground up.

            Roy makes no apologies for moving between past and present with the same “infinite tenderness of motherhood and reckless rage of a suicide bomber,” with which she describes the twins’ mother, Ammu. The “ex-nun and incumbent baby grandaunt” Baby Kochamma, guided by her fallacious faith, manipulates Rahel and Estha by “nourishing her crops with other people’s passions.” Meanwhile, their uncle’s decision to invite his English ex-wife and child to Ayemenem for the holidays, results in the eventually death of his “Loved” daughter. The memory of Sophie Mol’s death “lives on for so much longer than the memory of the life that it purloined” and becomes the central catalyst responsible for the unravelling of various relationships already plagued by political, social and religious obstacles.

            The novel’s ability to draw readers in and allow them to experience its events can only be attributed to the hypnotizing descriptions that result from Roy’s mastery of language. The author’s refusal to conform to conventional third-person narration combined with the lack of traditional grammar, spelling, and “Prer NUN sea ayshun” leads to the creation of a contagious new vernacular. This language in turn manages not only to string together the scattered events of many shattered lives into a coherent whole, but also convinces readers to sympathize with the characters on a very basic, human level. Roy’s manipulation of points of view and sequences of events leaves no topic untouched and no taboo hidden. Despite being revealed within the first few pages, the plot seduces readers in deeper and deeper. This is because much like the kathakali performers she describes, Roy is aware that “…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets… can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills or trick endings…They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin.”


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