The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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To what extent does religion become important in Roy's The God of Small Things?

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Kale Emmerich eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Religion plays an important, if tangential, role in the novel The God of Small Things. There are a great many religious undertones and references, and there are prominent actions that are caused by religious involvement. One of the first events that happens in the novel is when Baby Kochamma falls in love with Father Mulligan, a Catholic Irish priest, and she joins a convent hoping to get closer to him. When this fails, her life is turned upside down. She leaves for America, where she grows into a bitter old woman.

Later in the novel, after Ammu's affair with lower-caste Velutha is discovered,...

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Religion and its cultural implications are central to the novel. In The God of Small Things, religion explains the history of colonization and causes conflict for characters. The Ipe family are Syrian Christians, which are the dominant religious group in Kerala due to British colonization. Other areas of India are Hindu, where the caste system comes from, and yet it is so powerful it is adhered to in Kerala – the characters treat Velutha horribly, along with their other low-caste workers at the pickle plant, for example.

Moreover, much of the shame directed at Ammu for being a divorcee is due to Syrian Christian attitudes against divorced women. Her first husband was a Christian, British man. Baby Kochamma's religious beliefs are influenced by the Irish Catholic priest she fell in love with, which presents a conflict when she wishes to convert. The family desperately tries to impress Chacko's ex-wife Margaret by appearing and acting as British as possible. We don't really see religion practiced in a literal sense in the novel, but the character's interactions with Christianity and the Hindu caste system show the intersection of religion and culture, especially the influence of the former British Empire.