The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

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In The God of Small Things, I feel like there is too much focus on Velutha and his family when it comes to caste. But I believe that caste can be applied to Mammachi, Rahel, and Ammu as well. I need more examples that show that these three characters are victims of patriarchy that is regulated by caste.

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In Arundhati Roy's novel The God of Small Things, Mammachi, Ammu, and Rahel are all victims of a patriarchal caste system, represented by the tyrannical figure of Pappachi, who is embittered by disappointment in his career and vents his anger in violence on his wife and daughter. His misogyny is accompanied by a rigid class-consciousness, which Mammachi echoes and approves:

Pappachi would not allow Paravans into the house. Nobody would. They were not allowed to touch anything that Touchables touched. Caste Hindus and Caste Christians. Mammachi told Estha and Rahel that she could remember a time, in her girlhood, when Paravans were expected to crawl backwards with a broom, sweeping away their footprints so that Brahmins or Syrian Christians would not defile themselves by accidentally stepping into a Paravan’s footprint.

Mammachi accepts a system in which she is so vastly superior to the Paravans but fails to appreciate that this is the same system which allows her husband to beat her and Ammu. Ammu herself grows up to be more suspicious of the caste system and inclined to revolt against it, a rebellion that culminates in her marriage to Velutha. The scandal this creates takes its toll on both her and Rahel, deracinating them from a society in which caste still plays such a central role.

One might argue that even Pappachi, whose career disappointment blights his life, is a victim of this patriarchal system, meaning that it benefits no one. Mammachi and Pappachi demonstrate the suffering involved in accepting the caste system; Ammu and Rahel show the dangers of challenging it.

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