The God of Small Things Themes
by Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The seeming illogic of what is allowed and what is not allowed by this particular culture is explored to a great extent on several levels. This includes the double standard of the treatment of women, as Mammachi enables Chacko's sexual exploits while denouncing Ammu's sexuality. Also, the juxtaposition of Ammu's marriage to an Indian and Chacko's marriage to an Englishwoman and the resulting favor that Chacko receives provides commentary on the poor treatment that women receive within this family's culture. This issue is also complicated because, ironically, it is the females in the family that dole out this inconsistent treatment. They seem to value Chacko precisely because of their own powerlessness to move outside of their small circle of influence. This powerlessness, of course, is due to their gender and the subsequent dependence on the male members of the family for freedom and protection. Chacko replaces Pappachi in influence and therefore Mammachi's devotion must shift from Pappachi to Chacko. Ammu's denunciation by Baby Kochamma stems from Ammu's choice of freedom over family. Upon Ammu's subsequent refusal to maintain her marriage and her return to the family in Ayemenem, she is viewed as a failure as a wife, the proper role for a female. Therefore her value in the family is lowered. Chacko, although also divorced, is seen as the protector, a role that he continues to maintain, and therefore he is viewed as a success within the family. He also accepts the Western influence that the family sees as valuable, thus gaining stature within the family unit.

Additionally, the loss of innocence that punctuates the end of childhood is a prime focus of this novel. As the story of Sophie Mol's death unfolds, the twins slowly move to their separation, and thus the end of their childhood. Their close bond and ties of nonverbal communication are blocked in times of tragedy, like Estha's experience with the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man, thus forecasting their eventual separation following Sophie Mol's death. This link must be reestablished and the nonverbal communication must be reinstated after Rahel returns to Estha for them to complete the cycle that started with Velutha's death and the end of their innocence. As this change occurs, the smells that accompanied Velutha's death resurface throughout the novel and the memory of the end of their innocence is recaptured as the twins negotiate the effects of that day. The changes that they undergo echo changes that their society must undergo as a whole as the country continues to rebuild its own identity after colonization. The communists in the story have found their own way to combat the memory of the English colonizers' interference in their country's life. Each character within the story does this in his, or her, own way, whether it is consciously or unconsciously. Each must develop their own way for assimilating the traditions of the Indian way of life and intrusion of the Western way of life that results from colonization.


(Novels for Students)

Indian History and Politics
Indian history and politics shape the plot and meaning of The God of Small Things in a variety of ways. Some of Roy’s commentary is on the surface, with jokes and snippets of wisdom about political realities in India. However, the novel also examines the historical roots of these realities and develops profound insights into the ways in which human desperation and desire emerge from the confines of a firmly entrenched caste society. Roy reveals a complex and longstanding class conflict in the state of Kerala India and she comments on its various competing forces.

For example, Roy’s novel attacks the brutal, entrenched, and systematic oppression at work in Kerala, exemplified by figures of power such as Inspector Thomas Mathew. Roy is also highly critical of the hypocrisy and ruthlessness of the conventional, traditional moral code of Pappachi and Mammachi. On the opposite side of the political fence, the Kerala Communist Party, at least...

(The entire section is 1,138 words.)