The God of Small Things Summary
The God of Small Things Summary
Author : Arundhati Roy
Subject : The novel, which is about the forbidden love of the daughter of a rich Hindu family and a worker from the lowest part of society, tells the history of South India through the eyes of a girl. The events in the novel develop around the yurmurta twins Rahel and Estha, a girl and a boy couple from the ex-wife of a young woman, and are told through the eyes of the girl.
Characters : Estha, Aleyooty Ammachi, Rahel, Ammu, Father
Type : Novels, Psychological Fiction, Emotional Fiction
Ammu and Velutha’s forbidden affair. Ammu is a member of a higher “Touchable” caste, while Velutha is a Paravan, or “Untouchable.” Although the revelation is important, the reveal almost feels like an afterthought for its simplicity.Ammu and Velutha’s relationship forms the thematic core of the novel and gives rise to the meaning of the novel’s title.It is the “Small Things” a glance, a river teeming with life, a moment beneath the stars that provide the impetus for much of the novel’s events, and Velutha, an “Untouchable” Paravan, is the “God” of them. It is fitting that Velutha’s capacity for love and kindness, Ammu’s bond with him, and their moments together relegated to only the “Small Things” like delighting in each other’s bodies or noting the insects around them, are only truly revealed in the final chapter.
In the novel’s opening chapters, the themes of love and “unnaturalness” are established, as three main characters Ammu, Baby Kochamma, and Mammach are shown to have unfulfilling love lives, and Rahel, the story’s main narrator, shares an “unnatural” bond with her twin brother, Estha.Ammu gets engaged to Babu after knowing him for only five days, thinking she’s escaped her boring, confined life back home, only to find that he’s an alcoholic.When Babu violates Ammu’s decency, she beats him and returns to her family’s home with their twins. Baby Kochamma becomes a nun to be near Father Mulligan, a priest she’s fallen in love with. However, when her love is not reciprocated, her feelings turn obsessive and perverted, and her heart hardens.Baby Kochamma becomes a villain and one of the root causes of the family’s downfall.Mammachi is beaten by her husband Pappachi every night until their son, Chacko, forces Pappachi to stop.As a result, Mammachi turns Chacko, her own son, into her metaphorical husband by giving him her “wifely” luggage, an emotional burden that effectively perverts the bonds of their mother son love.In each case, the characters are both pulled by the “love” of something, whether it be freedom, passion, or connection, while also pushed away before feeling love’s fulfillment.
Rahel, who lives the life of an outsider in her own family for most of her life, is saturated with the unnatural.This unnatural feeling mostly exists in the psychic bond she shares with her twin, Estha, but also appears in their act of incest at the end of the novel, an act which “fulfills” their bond of love in a perverted, unfulfilling way. Even with her own brother, Rahel too is excluded from love’s fulfillment.Rahel and Estha entertain morbid thoughts as children and have a penchant for reading signs backward.They are the targets of their parents’ problems and bear the burden of Baby Kochamma’s spite and bitterness when they are forced to testify against the only real father figure they had, the “Untouchable” Velutha. Rahel and Estha listen, hidden in the shadows of the History House, as Velutha, the man whom they love as a parent, is brutally beaten for having an affair with their mother.Velutha later dies from this beating, another example of how the characters are kept from experiencing a long-lasting, true and healthy love.
While love is the shadowy impulse that drives most of the characters’ motivations, the ostensible main plot event at the center of the novel is Sophie Mol’s death.Sophie Mol is Chacko’s daughter. She is half-Indian, half-English, a hybrid of cultures, a girl who has “Pappachi’s nose” and European blue eyes and light skin.She is the object of “love” in the child Rahel’s eyes the person the adults are most fascinated with and focused on impressing.The novel’s beginning chapters reveal the exposition leading up to the event which causes Sophie Mol’s death, and all of the chapters beyond her drowning contain the falling action which describes the fallout of the tragic event.The details of Sophie Mol’s death that Sophie Mol simply accidentally drowns in the river one night and quietly drifts away without the twins noticingis ironically only given a few sentences’ worth of description.It is the tug of war between the “Big Things,” such as marriages, deaths, family honor, and so forth, and the “Small Things” like love, the little moments between lovers, and even the minute flora and fauna of the natural world that forms the bulk of the novel.
In the end, it is Baby Kochamma’s jealousy, bitterness, and betrayal of her family that causes the family to break apart and suffer. Upon learning of Ammu and Velutha’s relationship, Baby Kochamma goes to the police station to report their affair, making it an “official” matter by lying that Velutha raped Ammu.She then implicates Velutha in Rahel, Estha, and Sophie Mol’s disappearance, and later gets Rahel and Estha to testify against Velutha to save her own skin.In her final act of destruction, Baby Kochamma manipulates Chacko to banish Ammu and the twins from the family home. Baby Kochamma’s bitterness leads her to make a series of devastating choices.In her efforts to uphold and protect the family and her own name, coupled with her desire to get revenge on everyone she perceives as happier than she is, Baby Kochamma ends up an angry old woman who will die alone.Even the family’s pickle factory is closed once Chacko loses control over it without the family’s help.
In the end, as the last chapter suggests, it is the “Small Things,” the things that can never be touched, both literally and figuratively, that have the final say and seem to matter the most. Velutha, literally an “Untouchable,” is the sacrificial lamb not only for the family, but also for India, a nation and culture at the crossroads of modernization, British imperialism, and its own traditions and history.In his love with Ammu, Velutha consummates the one true connection he has even had, and allows Ammu to have the one true experience of love in the novel.