The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

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How does patriarchy influence The God of Small Things?

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Roy tells the stories of various husband-wife couples whose relationships are distorted because of the patriarchal structure.  The most obvious example is that of Pappachi and Mammachi.  Pappachi rules his household like a demented despot--beating his wife and children and destroying their prized possessions.  Chacko, though less aggressively, than his father, is responsible for his failed marriage.  He has no job, but he refuses to help out around the house, and turns into a lazy slob.  Ammu's husband is willing to prostitute her to save his job.  Roy gives example after example of men's tyrannical actions in their household.  Some are physically abusive, such as Pappachi and the Kathakali Men; but some are more insidious in their domination and sense of entitlement:  Conrade Pillai and Chacko.  Even brother/sister relationships are unequal. As Chacko tells Ammu, "What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine."  These relationships form a stark contrast to that of Ammu and Velutha. 

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Roy's novel can be viewed as a complete indictment of patriarchy. Male-dominiation in all things is the norm in India, whether the domination be in the realm of political, social, or financial arenas.

There is an interesting article about India's patriarchy and Roy's views on the subject, "Arundathit Roy and Patriarchy" by Kalpana Wilson. I have excerpted a poriton of Wilson's article here (a link to the full article appears below):

Wilson arugues that patriarchy in Roy's novel is inseparable from its intensely personal themes of love, memory and loss is a savage indictment of patriarchy, and of its specific character in a semi-feudal, backward capitalist society.

Arundhati Roy is the only woman in the oft-cited list of top-ranking Indian writers in English. Her anger at the crushing and destructive effects of patriarchal oppression runs through the novel, making it explicitly political... Clearly, "The God of Small Things"who is to commit the ultimate transgression by loving the low-caste Velutha, epitomises this. Roy by turns mystifies and explains Ammu's ability to resist in small ways: 'Occasionally, when Ammu listened to songs that she loved on the radio, something stirred inside her. A liquid ache spread under her skin, and she walked out of the world like a witch, to a better, happier place. On days like this, there was something restless and untamed about her. As though she had temporarily set aside the morality of motherhood and divorceehood...".

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