Monday, October 15, 2012

Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things

Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things is a novel full of sexual and psychological undertones that move the story through space and time. Roy gives no clear pattern of the story to simulate the idea that life is unpredictable. In the novel, the seemingly minor character of Velutha becomes as central and essential as the roles of the twins. Velutha contributes directly to the name of the novel through becoming a sort of divinity in the eyes of the twins. Although he is having an affair with their mother, which causes the family shame and outrage, Velutha is the children’s only father figure and true friend. He is “The God of Loss” and “The God of Small Things” because through their respective relationships with him, Ammu and the twins are allowed to notice the small things in life and cast a mask over the bigger things, such as the painting on the ceiling at Sophie Mol’s funeral compared to her actual death. Velutha’s classification as an “Untouchable” are related to his Indian Caste and his godliness. A likened to the Christian narrative of Jesus Christ, Velutha’s story has many similarities. For example, when Ethra betrays Velutha and lies about his kidnapping the twins, we may be reminded of when Judas betrayed Jesus. In Chapter 15 this idea is especially prevalent, where Velutha makes the swim across the river naked. “…he began to swim with easy, powerful strokes, striking out towards where the current was swift and certain, where the Really Deep began. The moonlit river fell from his swimming arms like sleeves of silver. It took him only a few minutes to make the crossing. When he reached the other side he emerged gleaming and pulled himself ashore, black as the night the surrounded him, black as the water he had crossed (Roy 306).” His swim is like Jesus’ journey to the mountain on which he would be crucified. Where Christ carried the cross, Velutha swam towards the swift current. The river “falling” from his arms signifies life leaving the body. When he emerges on the other side, he is “reborn” or “resurrected” into his place in history. Making these connections allows the reader to see Velutha how he is seen in the eyes of the children and Ammu. Velutha, like Jesus, knew all of the small and big things that occurred in the lives of the characters. He forgave them for the things they had done and as an “Untouchable” in more ways than one, he moved throughout the novel and propelled the inner stories of the central characters that helped them to discover and come to terms with the big things in their lives by seeing them through the scope of the small things.


This video is a compilation of interviews with many Indian authors. They speak about how Indian novel has evolved over the years. Roy speaks about Magical Realism, an idea that we discussed in class that is a characteristic of Roy's writing. Magical realism, is the quality of a moment so special, or so profound to a life, that it almost seems unreal or in other words, magical. This is especially true when that moment is in the eyes of a child. Roy's novel is full of these moments due to the fact that the twins are, at least for awhile, children; and they recall these moments as such. Roy acknowledges that she just made the decision to write this way in the way that any writer would make a decision regarding the lens through which we see their story.

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