Design in “The God of Small Things”

by cristinamoody

Cristina Moody

In “The God of Small Things” the imagination of two small twins brings to life the magical world of a family in Ayemenem, India, where one finds “the green river of the quiet deep-swimming fish, and the gossamer wings of the dragonflies… in the sun” (pg 141). Rahel and her twin brother Estha experience “little events, ordinary things” in their daily lives but “suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story” (pg 32). India’s rigid caste system serves as the “bones” to the story and is the source of the family’s conflict. A conflict which fills its members with shame, and is tied in divorce and death. By the end of the story the magical world of the twins shares the fate of the children’s adult lives, the river, once green, now “smelled of shit and pesticides” and “most of the fish had died…the ones that survived suffered from fin-rot” (pg 14). As adults they realize the controlling caste system has torn apart their family and is even strong enough to divide the intense connection that twins share.
Arundhati Roy’s first novel “The God of Small Things” shows her transition from the architectural world of her academic training to her forays in the literary world to be equally as troubled as the twins’ transition from childhood to adulthood. Both attempts seem to be caught in a sort of limbo. The river near the twin’s childhood home, while magical and full of life in their youth is now decaying and poisoned much like their unsuccessful attempts to shift into their adulthood. In their adulthood’s the twins find themselves drawn back to their childhood home unable to leave the destructive events of their youth behind. Roy on the other hand is having a much better time in her professional limbo, having received the booker prize in 1997 for her work. Though her work is a successful and brilliant piece of literature, the dependence on design, Roy’s crutch, is noticeable. The last page of the book, found just after the page of the author’s biography, is dedicated to a description of the type where we learn “the contrast between thick and thin is marked” in the book’s typography. Design gets the last word in this piece of fiction and leaves one to wonder if the typography shares a role, equally important to that of the author.


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