The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

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Student Question

How does Roy experiment with language in The God of Small Things?

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Arundhati Roy masterfully plays around with language, vocabulary, and diction in order to create a rich setting and complex dynamic characters in The God of Small Things. As you examine the work for playful experiments in language, notice how Roy weaves this into the storytelling to create a rich mix of poetry and complex prose.

Make note of Roy's imaginative use of vocabulary. She regularly employs invented vocabulary, often by combining already existing words. For instance, when a smell is described as "sicksweet," the reader gets a more vivid depiction than if the author had stuck to standard adjectives.

As you examine the novel, pay attention to how these creative words help to portray the mood and action in a scene. For instance, the chaos that ensues during the incident with the bat in Baby Kochamma's sari is described with neologisms like "furrywhirring" and "sariflapping." Even though the reader has never encountered these words before, they should easily be able to understand their meaning given the context and imagine the mayhem of the scene.

Furthermore, Roy is adept at employing creative uses of vocabulary to construct evocative physical descriptions. Often these combine multiple literary devices in quick succession, which really fires up the reader's imagination. For example, consider how the following mixture of metaphor, simile, personification, and alliteration evokes the image and feel of the first rains of the monsoon.

Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire. The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat.

Many authors might avoid packing so many different literary devices into a single passage. However, Roy finds a way to weave this creativity into the very language of the story in a way that feels both experimental and appropriate.

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