The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The twins at the center of the story, Estha and Rahel, share an intense bond. Throughout the story, words are not necessary for their communication, and they understand each other better than anyone else possibly can. This is juxtaposed with their lack of understanding of the actions of the adults around them, or at least their refusal to be conditioned by the hegemonic forces surrounding them. Their bond is misunderstood and seen as threatening to some, particularly Baby Kochamma, who works to break the ties between them whenever possible. Their ability to overcome separation speaks to the transcendence possible by two close people who are willing to ignore the conventions that bind them. This was not possible for their mother and Velutha, who were unable to transcend the boundaries set forth by their society. Rahel remains independent into adulthood, even after getting married, eventually getting a divorce and returning to the village where she grew up. Likewise, Estha returns (is rereturned) to the village after an absence caused by the death of Sophie Mol. Upon his return to the village, he is not absorbed completely back into the family; instead, he maintains silence and holds himself at a distance from Baby Kochamma and Kochu Maria. Estha's silence stems from his separation from the others, first as a result of the secret created by the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man's molestation of him, and later by his physical separation after the accident when he was "returned" to his father. When the twins are reunited at the chronological end of the story, their closeness is still present, but takes on a more physical turn, as they deal, as adults, with the events of their childhood.

On the other hand, Baby Kochamma is ugly in every respect, physically, mentally and emotionally. She did not succeed in the original plan for her life, and instead developed a new plan of over-piety and zealous interference in the lives of others. The closeness that she strives for with Father Murphy is rejected and so all she has left is her avid adherence to the codes that dictate proper behavior. Thus she holds on to these codes and works to maintain them at all costs. As a result, she strongly reacts against those who would work against those codes, either consciously in order to create a new order, such as the communists, or unconsciously in the very way that they approach the world, such as Estha and Rahel. She seems to represent the part of society that resists change, especially that which challenges her perceived notion of her own being and place within society. Because she is unable to get what she wants, she works to keep others from accomplishing their dreams. She is a member of a higher caste who refuses to see the value—or even more forbidden in her mind, the similarities—with members of the lower castes. She is not against the idea of charity, for through charity, she can maintain her moral superiority, and her superiority must be maintained at all costs.

Chacko, like Baby Kochamma, feels moral superiority, but more importantly, feels he is intellectually superior, mainly as a result of his studies at Oxford. He sees himself as a liberal thinker, fancying himself a friend of the Communist party within his village when in fact he is in the position that the communist workers are reacting against. It is in Chacko that the double-standard of the higher caste members finds its home, as he attempts to run the factory as a good manager with a Communist leaning, while at the same time exploiting the workers and using his female employees for his own sexual pursuits. He holds himself above other members of the family because of his Oxford days and his travels in England, and as a result, he is the favorite, partially because of his time in England, and partially because he is male. Like Pappachi he is allowed freedom to move and do as he pleases, and is given even more leeway once he stands up to Pappachi. When he rescues Mammachi from Pappachi's...

(The entire section is 3,387 words.)