The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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Discuss social realism in The God of Small Things.

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Social realism can be defined as works that present racial and social injustice and economic deprivation through a presentation of characters who are facing such issues. By so doing, social realism protests against such inequalities and injustices. When we consider this in the light of this excellent novel, it is clear that Roy is using social realism to critique a number of different aspects of the contemporary world, including the caste system that is still in operation in India, colonialism and corrupt officials. However, one aspect that I found particularly striking is the reality of immigrants who leave countries such as India and go to "richer" and more developed countries to supposedly enjoy a better quality of life. Consider how this works out for Rahel when she goes to the United States:

After they were divorced, Rahel worked for a few months as a waitress in an Indian restaurant in New York. And then for several years as a night clerk in a bullet-proof cabin at a gas station outside Washington, where drunks occasionally vomited into the money tray, and pimps propositioned her with more lucrative job offers. Twice she saw men being shot through their car windows. And once a man who had been stabbed, ejected from a moving car with a knife in his back.

The "reality" of so many immigrant dreams of attaining wealth and employment is that they end up doing the kind of jobs, like Rahel, that no American wants to do themselves, living lives of relentless hardship and confronting the evils of a society that is supposedly "developed." You might like to think about this as a theme and how social realism operates in presenting such aspects as immigration in the novel.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I think that one element of social realism that is present in Roy's work is how political and authoritarian establishments do not necessarily work for the best ends of the people.  These organizations do not empower individuals from the top down, as much as they seek to control individuals and consolidate political power for personal ends.  Roy depicts a structural vision of power that does not seek to enhance autonomy as much as limit it.  In this light, there is a definite statement being made on the nature of political power in India and how it needs to be changed in its effects on people.  This is not merely governmental, as Roy's social realism is depicted in the stratification of both race and caste terms.  There is a definite socially realist aspect presented in the relationship between Ammu, part of the new generation, and her father, reflective of the old one and its relationship to the British.  At the same time, the demarcation of untouchability was crossed over by Vellya Paapen's son, something that he must restore through murdering his own.  In this light, the social reality is that division and stratification again seek to limit human interaction and autonomy.

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Social Realism developed as a reaction against idealism and the exaggerated ego encouraged by Romanticism. With a new sense of social consciousness, the social realists pledged to “fight the beautiful art”, any style which appealed to the eye or emotions. They focused on the ugly realities of the contemporary life and sympathized with working class people, particularly the poor. They recorded what they saw in a dispassionate manner. It is known as social realism. And if we go through dictionary- Social is a word that means living in company or convivial or pertaining to society. The other meaning may be used as inter-dependent. If we live in society we are called social. Realism means theory in regard to things in their true nature or freedom from prejudice. Social Realism may be defined as reality of the society - its culture, its customs contemporarial values all are included in social realism. The word Social Realism is used by Arundhati Roy in a very profound and vivid manner. In many incidents and situations, we feel as such things are just happening before us.“The God of Small Things has it all : the echoes, calls and the cries of the Earth. But more importantly, an intellectual daring. This... is not just an extraordinary novel, but an uncoiling spring of human foreboding and inevitability. It is quite simply unbeatable.”The God of Small Things is a great work by Arundhati Roy which presents the glimpse of social realism, its true picture through many incidents described in the novel. “In The God of Small Things, Roy creates a microcosm that encompasses wife battleing in fidelity, molestation, emotional insecurity, pride and death within one family in the Southern Indian state of Kerala.”2 Gender discrimination, untouchability (a great evil of society, corrupt police administration, problems & clashes of cultures, all are the best examples of social realism. In these  aspects, we can see the reality of the contemporaries.
The theme of the novel is the confrontation between ‘The Big Man’ and ‘The Small Man’. In the novel two small persons, Ammu and Velutha have to leave the world for the big things. “Even later on the thirteen nights that followed this one instinctively, they stuck to the small things. The Big things ever lurked inside. They knew that there was nowhere for them to go. They had nothing. No future, so they stuck to the small things.”The God of Small Things is a realistic portrayal of the gender discrimination prevalent in Indian society. Ammu is the central character who yearns for pleasure and happiness and for a life far from hurdles and constraints. As a little girl, Ammu had to face a lot of worries and anxieties, fret and fever of life. She had to face the cruelty of her father, Pappachi who used to beat her and her mother, Mammachi with a brass-vase. Ammu was also deprived of the higher education. Pappachi thought that college education is not at all useful for a girl

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