The God of Small Things
The God of Small Things written by Arundhathi Roy, an Indian writer, bagged the Booker Prize in the year in 1997. This was her first novel and her only novel so far. This book put her into the league of other famous Indian writers like Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth and the book sold in 21 countries. Though the setting and theme is basically Indian, love and betrayal, a universal phenomenon, must have caught the fancy of the readers and made it one of the best sellers of that year. The style and language is unique; there are many Malayalam words in the novel. Though the book received laurels from many quarters it has been criticized for its language and theme.
Flash Backs and Flash Forwards
The story moves from 1969 to 1993 and it is told in third person and many times it is a narration by Rahel. It is the story of a rich Christian family whose family members leave their village for various reasons only to come back to their roots. The society and its cultural influences, forbidden love, betrayal brings about the twists and turns in the story. The main story happens in a village in Kerala, Ayemenem and is about the children and grand-children of Pappachi and Mammachi.
They have two children Ammu and Chacko. Chacko leaves for higher studies to Oxford. Rahel unable to bear the ways of her overbearing father goes away to Calcutta for a short time. There she meets Baba, a tea estate worker form Assam and gets married to him. Both these children come back for same reasons – failure in marriage. Chacko marries an English girl Margaret and has a daughter by that marriage. Soon after he realizes that she is having an affair with a man called Joe. Chacko divorces Margaret and comes back to his village.
Predicament of Ammu
Ammu on the other hand suffers at the hands of her husband who is an alcoholic. She gives birth to fraternal twins. His behavior and poor performance takes him to point where he is about to lose his job. His boss agrees to keep him if he allows having sex with his wife. Ammu is compelled by her husband to have sex with his boss but she refuses and eventually walks out. She also comes back to her village with both her children. The children are 7 years old and along with her parents Baby Kochamma is also in the house. Baby Kochamma is the aunt who has become bitter with what she faces in life and is a trouble maker.
Soon Chacko hears the news that Margaret’s husband dies in an accident and he invites them for Christmas to India. Margret and his daughter Sophie arrive and the children especially Estha the son of Ammu is a little weary about his cousin. But all is well and the three get along well. Velutha, a worker in Chacko’s pickle company frequents the household and becomes very friendly with the children. The children love Velutha and Ammu the mother soon realizes that she also loves him and they start their affair. When the affair comes to light Ammu is locked in the room and she calls her children a burden in her life. Rahel and Estha plan to run away from home and they plan to go to deserted house across the river. Sophie joins them but ill fate was beckoning the children. The boat overturns and Sophie drowns while the other two swim to safety.
Incidents around Velutha
Baby Kochamma alleges that Velutha tried to kill the children and rape Ammu and gives a complaint in the police station. The police beat up Velutha who dies in the jail. Ammu confesses about their relationship to the police and is sent away from the house. She goes away but dies soon. Estha is sent to his father. Rahel goes abroad for studies. She comes back to Ayemenem when she hears that Estha is back. They find each other, they also realize that there were happy in each other’s company and that no one could understand them as the other. This love crosses all boundaries and they find themselves in bed and in love with each other.
In and through this story, the communist leaning of the state, caste and religious discrimination is brought out through Velutha, Baby Kochamma and Ammu. This novel has not been staged nor filmed. The forbidden laws of love are broken and that is something that cannot be accepted by all readers. The main contention from the readers was the love making by the twins. That love and care can culminate in such an act is something Arundhathi Roy thought of.
The characters have more of negative shades than positive. Pappachi beats up his wife and mammachi a talented woman withdraws into her world. Baby Kochamma is the most bitter and vicious person in the whole story. In the next generation Chacko is by far a stable person while Ammu knowing the risks involved has an affair with someone from the lower caste. Ammu’s husband places an indecent proposal from his boss earlier on. The children are the ones with their innocence intact but that is also lost soon. The much loved Velutha is imprisoned and finally dies. The mother deserts them and Estha goes back to his father.
Estha becomes a silent person after all that happens in his life and it is Rahel come back that brings some meaning into his existence. Then again there is unexpected twist to their relationship which can shock the readers. A good story has been created by Arundhathi Roy and it has received wide appreciation and its share of criticism as well. Just like breaking the rules of love she also has broken the rules of the language but literature and art in the world has progressed to accept a new thought without crucifying the author or the artist. This book has raised many eyebrows and brought accolades as well but whether it will stand out as a classic, only time will tell.