The God of Small Things

by joeyjddavis

by Joey Davis


If you are looking for a suspenseful story that will keep you guessing about what happens next, The God of Small Things is not for you, because Arundhati Roy chooses instead to let her mastery of language and description turn this novel into the marvel it really is.  While the first chapter essentially tells us the plot of the novel, it is Roy’s incredible ability to zero in on character and atmosphere that keeps us reading.

The God of Small Things tells the story of twin brother and sister, Estha and Rahel whose lives are impacted dramatically at the age of seven.  Growing up in a small village in India, they discover the meaning of love and the tragedy of death, the capacity of their own actions and the values of their culture in a tumultuous time.  Differences in caste and opinions formed in a post-colonial society present a strong theme of cultural values that shows its face throughout the novel, and is echoed in the question of who can be loved, and how, and how much. The twins’ mother, Ammu, has a love affair with a man named Velutha, who is an extremely skilled carpenter and has worked for Ammu’s family for a long time, but because of their caste differences, their affair has far greater consequences than imagined and ends in tragedy.

However, amidst all the tragedy in this novel, Roy is able to inspire a sense of hope in the reader.  In addition to her unique style of telling a story – with the plot first and the details later – Roy treats this novel almost as if a form of pure expression.  She is playful with her language, using arbitrary capitalization or rhyme to create a certain effect, and her focus on small details is impeccable.  It is greatly because of this detail that we are able to look beyond the tragedy that takes place throughout the novel and the grim effect it has on the twins, and leave this novel without a complete sense of sadness, but instead, a feeling of aspiration.

Where other novels focus on the story and the events taking place, Roy takes great effort to ensure that The God of Small Things does just the opposite.  Through her incredible skill with small details, and her ability to weave tragedy, love, sadness, and hope together into a story, we learn more from the descriptions than we could from just the plot. This story makes it obvious that it is the Small Things that complete the big picture.


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