The God of Small Things

By Roy Arundhati

Introduction

Welcome to the vibrant and emotionally rich world of “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy 📚. This debut novel, which won the Booker Prize in 1997, catapulted its author into the limelight and has since been regarded as a contemporary classic in English literature. Arundhati Roy, an Indian author, activist, and a voice of dissent in the global narrative, uses her narrative prowess to weave a story that’s both deeply personal and profoundly political.

Set in Kerala, India, during the late 1960s, the novel explores the tragic and tumultuous events that befall the Kochamma family, focusing particularly on the fraternal twins Rahel and Estha. It’s a story that delves into the complexities of the human condition, touching upon themes of caste, colonialism, gender politics, and forbidden love, all while encapsulated within the beauty and brutality of small things in life.

“The God of Small Things” straddles multiple genres, effortlessly blending elements of a family saga, political commentary, and a doomed love story. Roy’s lyrical prose and non-linear storytelling draw the reader into a world where every detail is significant, every emotion is magnified, and every small thing has the power to influence the course of life. Let’s dive deep into the heart of Ayemenem and uncover the layers that make this novel a masterpiece of modern literature. 🌿🌸

Plot Summary

“The God of Small Things” is a complex narrative that weaves through time, focusing on the lives of the Kochamma family, particularly the twins Rahel and Estha. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the main events:

Exposition — The novel opens with Rahel returning to her childhood home in Ayemenem, Kerala, in 1993. The story then unfolds through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards, painting a picture of a family marred by tragedy, societal norms, and personal failings.

Rising Action — The core of the story is set in 1969, when Rahel and Estha are seven years old. Their English cousin, Sophie Mol, arrives, setting off a chain of events. The family’s dark secrets and the twins’ innocent misunderstandings begin to intertwine, leading to disaster.

Climax — The climax occurs with the accidental death of Sophie Mol, which is the result of the children’s attempt to run away to avoid the consequences of crossing societal boundaries. This tragedy leads to the unraveling of the family and the revelation of hidden relationships and societal hypocrisies.

Falling Action — In the aftermath of Sophie Mol’s death, the family undergoes dramatic changes. Estha is sent away to live with his father, Rahel becomes estranged from her family, and their mother, Ammu, faces societal ostracism and personal despair. The family’s deep-seated issues and the societal pressures of caste and class exacerbate their downfall.

Resolution — The novel comes full circle with Rahel’s return to Ayemenem and her reunion with Estha. In their adult reunion, they confront their shared past and the profound bond they have, which transcends the societal norms that once tore their family apart. The ending suggests a moment of solace and understanding, albeit in a world that remains unforgiving and unchanged.

Through its intricate plot and deeply emotional narrative, “The God of Small Things” explores how the smallest events and decisions can have monumental impacts on the course of our lives.

Character Analysis

In “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy, each character is richly developed, contributing to the depth and emotional resonance of the story. Here’s a thorough analysis of the main characters:

Rahel — Rahel is one of the fraternal twins around whom the story revolves. She is rebellious, imaginative, and deeply affected by the events of her childhood. As an adult, she returns to Ayemenem, where she grapples with her past and the loss of her family. Rahel’s character represents the lasting impact of childhood experiences and the struggle to find identity in a fragmented world.

Estha — Estha, Rahel’s twin brother, is introspective and sensitive. The trauma of the events surrounding Sophie Mol’s death and the burden of secrets lead him to become withdrawn and silent as an adult. Estha embodies the scars of past trauma and the ways in which it shapes our interactions with the world.

Ammu — Ammu is the twins’ mother, a woman who seeks love and fulfillment outside the restrictive norms of her society. Her affair with Velutha is a radical act of defiance against caste boundaries and societal expectations. Ammu’s character is a poignant exploration of the consequences of pursuing personal happiness in a rigid society.

Velutha — A Dalit (untouchable) who works for the family, Velutha is skilled and kind, but his low social status dictates his life’s possibilities. His secret relationship with Ammu highlights the harsh realities of caste discrimination. Velutha’s tragic fate underscores the violence and injustice inherent in societal prejudices.

Baby Kochamma — The twins’ grandaunt, Baby Kochamma is a character driven by unfulfilled love and jealousy. Her manipulations and lies significantly contribute to the family’s tragedy. She represents the destructive power of bitterness and the lengths to which people will go to protect their social standing.

Sophie Mol — The twins’ half-English cousin, whose death is central to the novel’s plot. Sophie Mol is seen as the epitome of the valued “western” connection in the family, and her death triggers the unraveling of the family’s dark secrets. She symbolizes the innocence lost and the catastrophic impact of cultural and social divides.

Character Analysis Summary:

CharacterPersonalityMotivationsDevelopment
RahelRebellious, imaginativeSeek identity, understand pastGains insight into her past and self
EsthaIntrospective, silentCope with traumaStruggles with silence and reunites with Rahel
AmmuDetermined, lovingPursue happiness, defy normsFaces societal backlash, tragic end
VeluthaKind, skilledSeek dignity, loveVictim of societal cruelty, dies tragically
Baby KochammaBitter, manipulativeProtect social standing, driven by jealousyRemains bitter, lives with consequences
Sophie MolInnocent, cherishedHer death catalyzes the tragedy

Each character in “The God of Small Things” is intricately drawn, with their motivations, personalities, and developments contributing to the novel’s exploration of love, loss, and the complexities of human nature.

Themes and Symbols

“The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy is rich with themes and symbols that intertwine to offer a profound commentary on human nature and societal norms. Here’s an exploration of the major themes and symbols:

Themes:

Love Across Boundaries — The novel explores various forms of love, especially those that cross societal and cultural boundaries. The forbidden love between Ammu and Velutha challenges the rigid caste system and societal norms, serving as a central axis around which many of the novel’s events revolve.

The Impact of Colonialism — Through the setting and characters’ interactions, Roy critiques the lingering effects of British colonialism in India, including the valuation of English over local languages and cultures, and the internalization of colonial attitudes by Indian characters.

Loss and Trauma — Central to the novel is the theme of loss—of love, innocence, and family. The characters are deeply affected by their individual and collective traumas, which shape their lives in profound ways.

Social Injustice and Discrimination — The story addresses the injustices of the caste system, gender discrimination, and the abuse of power, highlighting the social and personal consequences of these entrenched systems.

Symbols:

The River — The Meenachal River is a recurring symbol, representing both life and death. It’s a source of beauty and sustenance, but also a site of tragedy, reflecting the dual nature of existence.

The History House — An abandoned estate, it symbolizes the lingering effects of colonialism and the hidden histories of violence and injustice in India. It’s also where the climax of the novel unfolds, making it a pivotal symbol of change and revelation.

Pappachi’s Moth — This symbolizes unacknowledged achievements and the resentment they breed. Pappachi’s discovery of a new type of moth, which is later recognized without attributing it to him, parallels the novel’s theme of unrecognized or suppressed truths.

The Kathakali Dance — Represents the storytelling tradition and the complexity of human emotions. Kathakali is used as a metaphor for how stories are told and interpreted, and how they can express the inexpressible aspects of human experience.

Through these themes and symbols, “The God of Small Things” offers a rich tapestry that delves into the complexities of love, loss, and the lingering shadows of history and societal norms.

Style and Tone

Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” is celebrated for its distinctive writing style and tone, which play pivotal roles in unfolding the narrative and enhancing the reader’s experience. Here’s a detailed look at the elements that define the book’s stylistic and tonal essence:

Writing Style:

  • Lyrical Prose: Roy employs a lyrical and poetic prose that richly describes the settings, characters, and emotions. This style creates a vivid and immersive world that captures the beauty and tragedy of the story’s events.
  • Non-linear Narrative: The story is told in a non-linear fashion, with frequent flashbacks and flash-forwards. This structure mirrors the complexity of human memory and emotion, compelling the reader to piece together the narrative puzzle.
  • Detailed Imagery: The novel is filled with detailed and evocative imagery, often drawn from nature, which enhances the thematic depth and emotional resonance of the story. This imagery serves to juxtapose the small, everyday details of life against the backdrop of larger social and political forces.
  • Multiplicity of Voices: The narrative weaves together multiple perspectives, allowing for a richer understanding of characters and events. This diversity of voices reflects the multifaceted nature of truth and memory.

Tone:

  • Melancholic and Reflective: The tone of the novel is often melancholic and reflective, dwelling on themes of loss, longing, and the irreversible nature of certain actions. This tone complements the story’s exploration of personal and societal tragedies.
  • Irony and Satire: Roy frequently employs irony and satire to critique social norms, the caste system, and the lingering effects of colonialism. This critical tone underscores the absurdity and cruelty of societal divisions and prejudices.
  • Hope and Resilience: Despite the overall melancholic tone, there are moments of hope, love, and resilience that shine through. These moments offer a counterbalance to the tragedy, suggesting the possibility of personal redemption and societal change.

Bullet Points Summary:

  • Utilizes lyrical prose that adds depth and vividness to the narrative.
  • Employs a non-linear narrative to reflect the complexity of memory and emotion.
  • Incorporates detailed imagery, often from nature, to enhance thematic and emotional depth.
  • Weaves together multiple perspectives to create a richer narrative tapestry.
  • Maintains a melancholic and reflective tone, emphasizing themes of loss and longing.
  • Uses irony and satire to critique societal norms and the effects of colonialism.
  • Infuses the narrative with moments of hope and resilience, suggesting the possibility of change.

Roy’s unique combination of writing style and tone in “The God of Small Things” not only defines the novel’s aesthetic but also deepens its exploration of complex themes and emotions, making it a compelling and immersive reading experience.

Literary Devices used in The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” is renowned for its intricate use of literary devices that enrich the narrative and imbue it with depth and texture. Here’s an analysis of the top 10 literary devices used in the novel:

1. Metaphor

Roy frequently uses metaphors to draw connections between disparate ideas and emotions, making abstract concepts tangible. For example, the river that flows through Ayemenem is a potent metaphor for life’s ephemerality and the constant presence of change.

2. Simile

Similes are used to create vivid imagery and make descriptions more expressive. A notable instance is when Roy compares the twins’ laughter to “a photograph in a family album,” suggesting moments of joy frozen in time amidst the surrounding tumult.

3. Foreshadowing

Roy adeptly employs foreshadowing to hint at future events, creating a sense of anticipation and foreboding. The recurring mentions of “the Terror” that would come—referring to the tragic events surrounding Sophie Mol’s death—are a prime example.

4. Flashback and Flash-Forward

The non-linear narrative structure, shifting between past and present, serves as a narrative device that reveals the characters’ histories and the consequences of their actions over time.

5. Symbolism

Symbols abound in the novel, enriching its thematic complexity. From the river and the History House to Pappachi’s moth, these symbols weave a tapestry of meanings related to life, death, and societal constraints.

6. Alliteration

Roy’s use of alliteration adds a rhythmic quality to her prose, enhancing its lyrical feel. Phrases like “sickly sweet” and “dark, deep” pull readers deeper into the sensory world of the novel.

7. Personification

Personification brings the setting and nature to life, reflecting the characters’ inner worlds. The house and the river, for example, are imbued with emotions and intentions, linking the environment closely with the narrative.

8. Irony

The novel is rife with irony, especially situational and dramatic irony, where characters’ actions have unintended consequences, or the reader is aware of truths that characters are not, highlighting the tragic disconnect between intentions and outcomes.

9. Repetition

Roy uses repetition to emphasize key themes and motifs, such as the phrase “Anything can happen to anyone” and “It’s because of Love.” This repetition drills into the inevitability and unpredictability of life’s events.

10. Imagery

Rich and detailed imagery is a hallmark of Roy’s writing, painting vivid pictures that engage the reader’s senses and emotions. The detailed descriptions of the Kerala landscape, the weather, and the characters’ physical appearances create an immersive world.

These literary devices collectively enhance the narrative’s emotional depth, thematic resonance, and the overall reading experience, showcasing Roy’s mastery over her craft.

Literary Devices Examples

Let’s dive into examples and explanations for each of the top 10 literary devices used in “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy, showcasing how each device enhances the narrative.

Metaphor

1. The river as a metaphor for life’s ephemerality.

  • Example: “The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees.”
  • Explanation: This metaphor highlights the transient nature of life and the inevitability of change, anchoring the story’s themes of loss and transformation.

2. History House as a symbol of India’s colonial past.

  • Example: “The History House, locked and grand, filled with the whisper of old secrets.”
  • Explanation: Represents the lingering impact of colonialism on India, suggesting how history’s shadows continue to affect the present.

Simile

1. Laughter compared to a photograph.

  • Example: “Their laughter was like a photograph in a family album.”
  • Explanation: Suggests the way memories are frozen in time, capturing fleeting moments of joy amidst the novel’s darker themes.

Foreshadowing

1. Hints at future tragedies.

  • Example: “Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Suddenly, they become the bleached bones of a story.”
  • Explanation: Foretells the devastating impact of seemingly minor incidents, building suspense and a sense of impending doom.

Flashback and Flash-Forward

1. The narrative’s non-linear progression.

  • Example: The story frequently shifts from the 1960s to the 1990s, revealing the cause and effect of the characters’ actions over time.
  • Explanation: This device helps to gradually unveil the complexity of the characters’ lives and the consequences of their choices.

Symbolism

1. Pappachi’s moth as unacknowledged achievements.

  • Example: “Pappachi’s greatest disappointment in life was not having been given the credit for discovering the moth he had discovered.”
  • Explanation: Symbolizes the personal and societal consequences of unrecognized efforts and ambitions.

Alliteration

1. Use of repetitive consonant sounds.

  • Example: “Blue bottles buzzed.”
  • Explanation: Adds a lyrical quality to the prose, enhancing the sensory experience of the reader.

Personification

1. Nature reflecting characters’ emotions.

  • Example: “The sky was orange, and the coconut trees were sea green.”
  • Explanation: Nature mirrors the characters’ turmoil and beauty, connecting their inner worlds with the external environment.

Irony

1. The tragic irony of Ammu and Velutha’s love.

  • Example: Their love, meant to transcend societal boundaries, ultimately leads to their downfall due to the very barriers they sought to overcome.
  • Explanation: Highlights the cruel ironies of life where noble intentions are thwarted by harsh societal norms.

Repetition

1. Emphasizing key themes.

  • Example: “Anything can happen to anyone. It’s best to be prepared.”
  • Explanation: Reinforces the unpredictability of life and the constant presence of fate and chance in the characters’ lives.

Imagery

1. Vivid descriptions of Kerala.

  • Example: “The monsoon rain leaped down from the sky like long silver rods.”
  • Explanation: Creates a vivid, immersive setting that grounds the story in a specific time and place, evoking the reader’s senses and emotions.

These examples illustrate the depth and complexity that literary devices add to “The God of Small Things,” enriching the narrative and enhancing the thematic resonance of the story.

The God of Small Things – FAQs

Q: What is the primary setting of “The God of Small Things”?
A: The primary setting is Ayemenem, a small town in Kerala, India, during two significant periods: 1969 and 1993. These time frames capture the pivotal events in the lives of the Kochamma family and the socio-political changes in India.

Q: Who are the main characters in the novel?
A: The main characters are Rahel and Estha, fraternal twins; their mother, Ammu; their uncle, Chacko; their grandmother, Mammachi; their great-aunt, Baby Kochamma; and Velutha, a Dalit who works for the family and becomes intimately involved in their lives.

Q: What are the major themes explored in the novel?
A: Major themes include love across social boundaries, the impact of historical and social injustices, family dynamics, and the loss of innocence. The novel also explores the consequences of breaking societal norms and the destructive nature of caste discrimination.

Q: How does Arundhati Roy use non-linear storytelling?
A: Roy employs a non-linear narrative structure, moving back and forth in time to reveal the story from different perspectives and at various points in the characters’ lives. This technique builds suspense, enriches character development, and enhances thematic depth by showing the cause and effect of events across different times.

Q: What significance does the title “The God of Small Things” hold?
A: The title reflects the novel’s focus on the minutiae of everyday life and how small, seemingly insignificant events and decisions can have profound impacts on people’s lives. It suggests a divine presence or fate in these small details, shaping the characters’ destinies.

Q: Can “The God of Small Things” be considered a political novel?
A: Yes, the novel can be considered political due to its critique of the caste system, its exploration of colonialism’s lasting effects, and its commentary on gender and social inequalities. Through its portrayal of individual lives, the novel addresses broader political and societal issues.

Q: What is the significance of the river in the story?
A: The river symbolizes life’s transience and the flow of time. It is a source of both beauty and danger, reflecting the dual nature of the characters’ experiences and the inevitability of change and loss.

Q: How does “The God of Small Things” address the issue of caste?
A: The novel directly confronts the injustices of the caste system, particularly through the character of Velutha, an untouchable who faces severe social and legal repercussions for his relationship with Ammu, a woman from a higher caste. The story critiques the dehumanizing effects of caste discrimination and its impact on individuals’ lives.

Quiz

QuestionABCD
What is the primary setting of “The God of Small Things”?Mumbai, IndiaAyemenem, Kerala, IndiaKolkata, IndiaLondon, England
Who is not a member of the Kochamma family?ChackoVeluthaRahelBaby Kochamma
What major event deeply affects the lives of the main characters?The arrival of Sophie MolA political rallyA natural disasterThe opening of a new school
What theme does the novel not explore?The impact of technology on societyFamily dynamicsLoss of innocenceCaste discrimination
Which literary device is prominently used to tell the story?FlashbackAllegorySonnetEpistolary
What does the river symbolize in the novel?Industrial pollutionThe boundary between nationsLife’s transience and the flow of timeThe main source of livelihood for Ayemenem
Who faces social and legal repercussions for their relationship with Ammu?ChackoVeluthaPappachiBaby Kochamma
What does Pappachi’s moth symbolize?The beauty of natureUnacknowledged achievements and resentmentTechnological progressThe danger of obsession
What is a significant consequence of breaking societal norms in the novel?Financial successSocial and legal repercussionsDiscovery of a new speciesWinning a prestigious award
Which character is deeply affected by the events surrounding Sophie Mol’s death?All of the aboveRahelEsthaAmmu

This quiz is designed to test comprehension and encourage deeper engagement with “The God of Small Things,” focusing on its setting, characters, themes, symbols, and narrative structure.

Exercise

Identify the literary devices used in the following paragraph from “The God of Small Things” and explain their significance. Then, check your answers below.

Paragraph for Analysis:
“In the small, overgrown garden, wildflowers bloomed unchecked, and the scent of jasmine and spice hung heavy in the air. The river, swollen from the monsoon rains, whispered secrets as it passed by. The old house, with its dark, silent rooms, stood as a testament to the stories and tragedies it had witnessed. The twins, separated by life’s cruel circumstances, found themselves together again in this place, their hearts beating as one in the face of the unknown.”


Answers:

  1. Imagery – The detailed description of the garden, the scent of jasmine and spice, and the swollen river creates vivid pictures in the reader’s mind, engaging the senses and setting a rich, atmospheric backdrop for the twins’ reunion.
  2. Personification – The river is described as “whispering secrets,” giving it human-like qualities. This personification adds a mystical element to the setting, suggesting that nature itself is a witness to the characters’ lives and holds deeper truths.
  3. Symbolism – The old house symbolizes the weight of history and the accumulation of stories and tragedies experienced by the family. It stands as a physical embodiment of the past that the twins must confront and reconcile with.
  4. Metaphor – The twins’ hearts “beating as one” serves as a metaphor for their deep, unbreakable connection despite the physical and emotional distance that has separated them. It underscores the theme of family bonds and the indelible impact of shared experiences.

This exercise encourages a closer examination of Roy’s use of literary devices to enrich the narrative, enhance thematic depth, and evoke emotional resonance in “The God of Small Things.”

Index