A Summary of the PlotThis first novel is written in English by a native Indian who makes her home in India. It is thetale of Esthappen (Estha for short) and his fraternal twin sister, Rahel, and their divorced mother,Ammu, who live in the south Indian state of Kerala. Ammu, a Syrian Christian, has had nochoice but to return to her parental home, following her divorce from the Hindu man she hadmarried--the father of Estha and Rahel.The story centers on events surrounding the visit and drowning death of the twins half-Englishcousin, a nine year old girl named Sophie Mol. The visit overlaps with a love affair betweenAmmu and the familys carpenter, Velutha, a member of the Untouchable caste--"The God ofLoss / The God of Small Things." (p. 274)Told from the childrens perspective, the novel moves backward from present-day India to thefateful drowning that took place twenty-three years earlier, in 1969. The consequences of theseintertwined events--the drowning and the forbidden love affair--are dire. Estha at some pointthereafter stops speaking; Ammu is banished from her home, dying miserably and alone at age31; Rahel is expelled from school, drifts, marries an American, whom she later leaves. Thenarrative begins and ends as Rahel returns to her family home in India and to Estha, where thereis some hope that their love for each other and memories recollected from a distance will healtheir deep wounds.Set in a small town in Kerala, The God of Small Things is about a family, seen from theperspective of seven-year-old Rahel. She and her twin brother, Estha, live with their mother,Ammu, who was married to a Bengali, the childrens Baba, but from whom she is divorced.Ammu and, therefore, the twins seem to live o`n sufferance in the Ayemenem house with theirgrandmother, uncle, and grand-aunt Baby. The family owns a pickle factory that comes intoconflict with the Communists.ChildrenIt is the story of two fraternal twins, Rahel and Estha, caught in the entanglements of adultcorruption, punished for the sins of a world out of their control. Roy relates the events that leadto this tragic end, where one mistake can spiral out of control and can implicate the mostinnocent. Much of the story is told through the eyes, the fragile perceptions, of these twochildren. They are struggling to secure a safe environment, the unconditional love of a parent andthe promise of a livable future. Their struggle to safeguard themselves and the childhood endsone day, a day after which futures are abandoned and recovery is unthinkable.
"The book really delves, very deep I think, into human nature. The story tells of the brutalitywere capable of, but also that aching, intimate love. And for me the twins are what that isabout...the ability to actually dream each others dreams and to share each others happiness andpain. " - Arundhati RoyThe IdeaWishing for one day, a single moment, that is free from suffering, boundaries and prejudice tolast for a lifetime is a dream inverted and ultimately defeated in Arundhati Roys first novel TheGod of Small Things. Simultaneous events combine and combust in one tragic day, a day ofpersecution and loss that is fated to last a lifetime: love lost, lives taken, families disjointed,childhood destroyed. Love lost, such a cost, Give me things that wont get lost Like a coin that wont get tossed, Rolling on to you.But when they get back to where they belonged they realize that things have changed. Twinsbecome strangers, and I do not think that such strangers, esp. Estha , who is strangled with hispast and cannot get his self to become "normal" , and Rahel being the reader of her brother,shedoes the perfect thing -- provides him love - for all the child in him needed was affection,perversion is just to the reader who would feel blasphemed because he does not realize that thisis all A.R. has been trying to do in the book - to show the small world we live in - and how webecome Gods of our worlds, where there are no worshippers, no takers, but only givers. And in arepressive society where truth has to be hidden for the sake of tradition , the real Gods come upand finally end up feeling gratified.Acculturation, Colonialism, Developing Countries, FreedomThe backdrop to this tragedy, set in India during the late 1960s, is an environment as beautiful asit is dangerous. Roys unique and intense attention to detail pulls the reader into this lush,pulsating and ultimately deadly setting. Dwelling there within is a world of dysfunction: agovernment clumsily struggling to establish itself, a country cut off from its past and unable toclearly define its present, a people turning away from each other. It is the story of forbiddenaffections, of children abused and criminalized, and of families ruptured. The God of SmallThings (the God of loss) presides over all of this, unable or unwilling to stop the suffering,offering no salvation even to the most innocent. A God as weakened and as weighted by tragedyas its victims. Great loss is not marked by ceremony. It is hardly even recognized. A loss issimply a loss, suffering is simply suffering. What occurs is an intensely personal loss which inturn becomes a loss of person, where lives continue but living ends.
The novel is rich with Indian family relationships, social custom and mores, politics, and themost universal of human emotions and behavior. At one and the same time, it is a suspensefuland tragic mystery, a love story, and an exposition of the paradoxes that exist in an ancient landwhose history was forever altered by its British colonizers.ReservationsReligion ? Sex ? Perversion ? False Exotic Images ?Despite the fine writing, the evocative descriptions, there is something formulaic about it. Theinter-caste affair and the death of a child that lies at the heart of the book are very predictable andthe love affair is not plausible, it does not spring from either the characterisation or the needs ofthe story. There is a sense of manipulation by the author and I thought the incest scene at the endwas unnecessary but probably, it was one of the things that people look for nowadays & whichmakes for a successful book. The masturbation of the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man by Estha isone of these so-called necessary components of a successful book.In this connection it must be said that Roy handles the sex scene between Ammu and Veluthawith artistry. Nevertheless, Ammus affair with the untouchable is wholly implausible, the moreso because Roy does not bother to develop the relationship, it is suddenly sprung on us and wecannot imagine the motivation. This could also be one of the drawbacks of using a seven-year-old as ones narrator.The God of Small Things is often very amusing; there is a lovely passage where a child recitesLochinvar with a Malayali intonation and pronunciation.For those who know Kerala, it is allvery interesting and for those who dont, it is certainly exotic and interesting, but despite all thefine writing, the bottom line is that one is left largely unmoved by the tragedy that unfolds. Butperhaps that doesnt matter and the styles the thing.The StyleThat, as Rahel would say, is the purely practical way of looking at it. There is much more. Thebook is certainly well written and some comparison has been made with Rushdie. However,unlike Rushdies work, this is easy reading and very accessible. There are some nice turns ofphrase and very interesting images. A character dies aged 31 at "a viable, die-able age."
Like most first novels, it is heavily autobiographical and the child character Rahel is so clearlyRoy herself that she is a completely plausible character with whom the reader can empathise. Infact, the books strength lies in its portrayal of the family, its weakness is the story. In this sense,it might be analogous to reconstructing an illness from a chaotic patient narrative. The narrativestructure is skillful, weaving back and forth from the present to the past, foretelling withoutrevealing future events alert to signals but isnt immediately sure what they signify, and is drawnto return to earlier sections as the story unfolds, in order to derive full meaning from all of itsparts.The authors style is both poetic and whimsical. The larger story contains many smaller ones thatstand alone as small gems of observation and insight. The perspective of childhood--ofimagination and inventiveness, of incomplete understanding, fear, dependence, assertion ofindependence, vulnerability, comradeship, competitive jealousy, and wonderment--is beautifullyrendered.What is the god of small things? "To me the god of small things is the inversion of God. Gods a big thing and Gods in control.The god of small things...whether its the way the children see things or whether its the insectlife in the book, or the fish or the stars - there is a not accepting of what we think of as adultboundaries. This small activity that goes on is the under life of the book. All sorts of boundariesare transgressed upon. At the end of the first chapter I say little events and ordinary things arejust smashed and reconstituted, imbued with new meaning to become the bleached bones of thestory. Its a story that examines things very closely but also from a very, very distant point,almost from geological time and you look at it and see a pattern there. A pattern...of how in thesesmall events and in these small lives the world intrudes. And because of this, because of peoplebeing unprotected.. the world and the social machine intrudes into the smallest, deepest core oftheir being and changes their life." - Arundhati RoyThe novel is rich with Indian family relationships, social custom and mores, politics, and themost universal of human emotions and behavior. At one and the same time, it is a suspensefuland tragic mystery, a love story, and an exposition of the paradoxes that exist in an ancient landwhose history was forever altered by its British colonizers.