God of Small Things: A Review

Never again will a single story be told as though it’s the only one.” This is the epigraph that marks the beginning of Arundhati Roy’s novel ” God of small things”. Although seemingly peculiar at first, the relevance of these words is grasped only after reading the whole novel. Simply put, it has less to do with the plot and more to do with the numerous perspectives that feed into it. ‘’ God of small things’’ was Arundhati Roy’s debut novel back in 1997. Although an architecture graduate from School of planning and Architecture Delhi, she started her career by writing screenplays. Completed in four years, this novel became a fountainhead for her fame. Besides receiving stellar reviews this novel won the Man booker prize 199 and reached fourth place on The Times bestsellers list for independent fiction. Roy grew up in district Kerala in India after her mother’s divorce and with a few brief exceptions, this is where her novel is majorly situated.
The persistent switching between years 1969 and 1993 between its pages is how she accentuated the difference or how little of difference time makes as humans heal and how cruel history can be to anyone who breaks the love laws. ” The law that lays down who should be loved, and how. And how much”. Her writing style adds to this with a very distinct rawness, a language perhaps that is truly her own. A style that is almost unreal as she pens down tragedies that grip the readers and compete for their sympathies. With a backdrop of local politics infused with communism and deeply internalized prejudices based on caste and social taboos, Roy weaves a story of an illustrious Syrian Christian family and its sad poignant fall. She draws on the roots of political realities in India and presents insights as human desire and desperation challenge it. The frequent mention of communism and her evaluation of post-colonial India illustrates how class tensions and social relations fuel an inferiority complex. Roy accuses the family of being ” trapped outside their own history and unable to trace their steps” through the words of Chacko, a character from the novel. Belonging to this family are Estha and Rahel, two-egg twins, who first with their candid innocence and later with their subtleties suffer at the hands of love laws and demarcated limits set by them. Mostly, she writes about the force that love can be that breaks the social norms or perhaps about how social norms can’t contain the love in its actuality.
Roy humanizes her characters, giving a back story for each, becoming an architect of their worlds. Each world distinct but all of them woven together like pieces of a puzzle. The structure and timeline of the novel created the necessary interest that kept me engrossed and the story flows through the pages like echoes of a vivid yet suppressed memory but it was the uninhibited innocence that can only be associated with childhood that she highlighted through using capitalized phrases and certain words such as ‘’little less her Ammu loved her’’ and ”orange drink lemon drink man’’ that made this novel distinct. It takes the reader on a journey to minds of children which are yet to be tainted by horrors of society, all the while bringing to attention the issues that adults had long learned to internalized. Death of their cousin, Sophie Mol, becomes a catalyst for a tragedy that caused Estha to take asylum in silence while Rahel in indifference. Betrayal and a departure from long held beliefs, ideals and emotions is experienced intentionally or perhaps unintentionally and 25 years later the questions of love, fragility, suppressed differences and expressed class divides are still left unanswered but Roy sure makes it a point of raising them.

Musharfa Shah

Head full of elsewhere

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