What more could you ask for?

by jentooley

Jen Tooley

Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things could be compared to an airport, with the constant a flow of arrivals and departures of people, themes and ideas. There are clocks alluding to different times in different places. This novel is wound around these concepts; the story is not told chronologically but instead finds flow and unity in its encompassing language, repetition and thematic elements which are both carried throughout the story and carry the story itself.

A set of twins are born during the Pakistan- Indian war in 1962, this birth into the heat of social conflict taking a violently physical role is a recurring theme within the story. This places them into a specific context, we are not born into a vacuum but instead into specific areas all with their own culture, ideology, history and rules. Told in a third person narrative largely from the point of view of Rahel who tells the story of the struggles, conflicts and relationships within her family; specifically her twin brother Estha, mother Ammu, Uncle Chacko, grandmother Mammachi, newly met cousin Sophie, and aunt Kochamma. Important to mention here is the lack of recognition of a father, and an increased emphasis on the dynamic character of Velutha. He is an untouchable in the caste system and the beloved father figure for the young twins who are also treated, although much less severely, with the stigma of being uncouth or going against the higher moral norm. The pivotal points in the story including deaths are revealed in the beginning and reader is simply expected to keep up as the story unfolds. The death of Sophie and the affair between Ammu and Velutha which led to his brutal beating and death are the result of events happening to all the characters throughout the story.

Themes of the clashing ideals of East and West are addressed as well as their affect on the other, there are references to western culture in the changed India among the near memory of British rule. The overlapping of the political and personal is evident for we see how the civil and social angst reaps strife upon the individual family- this concept of the large affecting the small and the relationship between the two is essential to the novel. Individuality and conformity to the norm is another clash which we can see within the plot and the characters, which is illuminated in the imagery of Ammu as a suicide bomber bringing havoc to all and destruction to herself. This overlaps with the role of love, and the development of some of the relationships which is dominated by the love laws. These themes, often conflicting in nature are complimented by the ideas of badness, change, the caste system, twin duality and punishment; for example who can punish whom, to what extent and why.

The content of the novel is given further dimension and relates directly to the writing style; repetition, arbitrary punctuation and capitalization, and the tool of using a child narrator are all included. The implications of the title is alluded to in the themes earlier mentioned and manifests character, plot, setting and tone of the novel through its themes and language style. The big and small power dynamics, economic, social and intrapersonal relationships can all be used when analyzing the purpose and meaning of the title. Whether the concluding result is hopeful or not we cannot deny that the state of the characters and context of history in which we started is a compromise, is compromising and is compromised all at once. The identity of the story and the way in which the reader identifies with the story becomes apparent when the conflict, angst and sense of rebellious longing remains with us long after reading.


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