The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

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To what extent does The God of Small Things contain autobiographical elements?

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It is an interesting question to consider how much a work of fiction reflects the life and concerns of its author. When we examine this excellent novel in this light, we are able to detect some similarities. Arundhati Roy herself studied architecture like her heroine, Rahel, though now no longer pursues it. Interestingly, given the massive success of this, her first novel, she has never written another work of fiction. Instead, she has involved herself in protesting against a variety of dam projects that threaten to uproot and disempower indigenous people. She has been effective in using her celebrity status to champion such causes. We can see her focus on the way that man alters nature for the worst in her description of the river in Chapter Five:

One it had had the power to evoke fear. To change lives. But now its teeth were drawn, its spirit spent. It was just a slow, sludging green ribbon lawn that ferried fetid garbage to the sea. Bright plastic bags blew across its viscous, weedy surface like subtropical flying-flowers.

Note how political opportunism and greed is said to be responsible for the "death" of this river. Mankind's unthinking attempts to control nature and bend it to man's will are shown to be destructive in every sense, which is a true theme of Roy's work in protesting against large-scale damming schemes.

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