Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
A middle-class Syrian Christian family lives in Ayemenem in the southern Indian state of Kerala. In the Ayemenem house are Ammu, her twin children (Estha and Rahel), her brother (Chacko), her mother (Mammachi), and her aunt (Baby Kochamma). Also living in the house is the patriarch of the family, Pappachi, who is a disgruntled, retired entomologist.
Chacko, who has returned home from Oxford, where he had been a Rhodes scholar, can no longer tolerate his father’s abusive behavior toward his mother, and one night he intervenes, demanding that he stop beating her. Pappachi stops, but he also stops speaking to Mammachi for the remainder of his life. Pappachi also forces Ammu, his daughter, to discontinue her college education.
Ammu returns home from college and then leaves for Calcutta to visit an aunt. In Calcutta she also meets Baba, a Hindu who works for a tea plantation owned by an Englishman. Ammu marries Baba to avoid having to return to her parents’ home in Ayemenem. The couple have twins, Estha and Rahel. Ammu divorces Baba, who, it turns out, is an alcoholic and a wife beater.
Ammu, Estha, and Rahel return to Ayemenem to live with Mammachi, Baby Kochamma, and Chacko. Pappachi dies and, after his death, Mammachi starts a pickle factory called Paradise Pickles and Preserves.
As a young girl, Baby had been infatuated with an Irish priest. To be close to him, she had become a nun. The priest, however, did not...
(The entire section is 887 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The God of Small Things opens at the chronological end of the story. In the early 1990’s, Rahel visits her family home in Ayemenem, in the Indian state of Kerala. She has come home to see her twin brother, Estha, who had unexpectedly returned. The twins, who were inseparable as children, have not seen each other for twenty-three years, ever since their English cousin, Sophie Mol, drowned in the river after their boat capsized during a Christmas visit. The precocious and indefatigable twins are at the Ayemenem home because their beautiful, sensuous mother, Ammu, married a weak and abusive man whom she later left to return to her family. The twins live in a fantasy world of their own making, trying to hide the more painful events of the novel in denial. For example, Rahel, described as “fiercely vigilant and brittle with exhaustion from her battle against Real Life,” is convinced that Sophie Mol is awake for her own funeral. Although the novel is told by a third-person narrator, the events are seen largely through the eyes of Estha and Rahel.
Ammu is merely tolerated at the Ayemenem house because of her shameful, unwise marriage, but the other residents also have an air of disgrace and eccentricity, as if the house were a retreat for those who could not quite make it in the larger world. Uncle Chacko, Ammu’s brother and Sophie Mol’s father, is an Oxford scholar and Marxist who returned home from his own failed marriage in England. He has...
(The entire section is 862 words.)
The God of Small Things begins with Rahel returning to her childhood home in Ayemenem India to see her twin brother, Estha, who has been sent to Ayemenem by their father. Events flash back to Rahel and Estha’s birth and the period before their mother Ammu divorced their father. Then the narrator describes the funeral of Sophie Mol, Rahel and Estha’s cousin, and the point after the funeral when Ammu went to the police station to say that a terrible mistake had been made. Two weeks after this point, Estha was returned to his father
The narrator briefly describes the twins’ adult lives before they return to Ayemenem. In the present, Baby Kochamma gloats that Estha does not speak to Rahel just as he does not speak to anyone else, and then the narrator gives an overview of Baby Kochamma’s life. Rahel looks out the window at the building that used to contain the family business, Paradise Pickles and Preserves, and flashes back to the circumstances surrounding Sophie Mol’s death.
The second chapter describes the trip in which Rahel, Estha, Ammu, Chacko, and Baby Kochamma travel to the town of Cochin in order to pick up Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol from the airport. They are on the way to see The Sound of Music, but they are delayed at a train crossing by a Marxist demonstration in which Rahel sees her friend Velutha, who is a Paravan,...
(The entire section is 1213 words.)