What is Human?

by deniseahking

By Denise Ahking

If you want to know what “The God of Small Things” says, you just have to read the first chapter. However, if you want to know what it means, you’ll have to read the book in its entirety, and then some. It is the story of the events shaping the lives of fraternal twins, Estha and Rahel, in Ayemenem, India. It is semi-autobiographical, as Roy herself is from India, brought up by an educated mother and a labourer father. It is worthy to note that Roy’s political ambitions also extend past the main themes of this book; she is a strong advocate for anti-globalization and critic of neo-imperialism. Roy dives into the issues of the Caste system and position of women, but the major theme of the book is not “what is Indian?” rather, “what does it mean to be human?”

The story does not follow the traditional structure. It is sort of a kaleidoscope of storytelling: from the same story, different views. Seen through the eyes of the many characters and their many different natures; the non-linear plot of present day and their brief, yet fateful, childhood, “things can change in a day”; and the twins, different aspects of the same person. Roy challenges society’s practices and norms and zeroes in on the small things, “where do old birds go to die?” and “what does it mean to be human?” The story is nothing new to us; fateful yes, but she doesn’t invent any new circumstances or ideas, she tells it as it is. Roy investigates what is all too familiar of love and loss in the mundane life. It is these loves and losses that define what it means to be human.

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