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Arundhati Roy's novel The God of Small Things reveals a complex relationship between individuals and the historical and cultural forces that shape them and their society. In Roy's novel, a "Big God"

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Introduction

Jason Dondero English 1B May 2, 2006 The God of Castes, Cultures, and Nations Arundhati Roy's novel The God of Small Things reveals a complex relationship between individuals and the historical and cultural forces that shape them and their society. In Roy's novel, a "Big God" has control over the large happenings of the world, the "vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation (20)." In contrast, it is a "Small God" that has control over the individual lives caught up in events too powerful and large for these individuals to understand and to change. This Small God is "cozy and contained, private and limited (20)," watching over people for whom "Worse Things" are always happening. Individuals ruled by the symbolic Small God withdraw away from mass movements, while at the same time their abuse makes them "resilient and truly indifferent (20)." The novel takes place in modern India, in the state of Kerala, during a time of social change and as television is just beginning to broadcast television-enforced democracy into a closed world. The characters in Roy's novel exist in a culture of strict rules. There is a caste system and a class system that put much force upon the characters. Conflict is created for the individuals who can't adjust to these systems of social control. ...read more.

Middle

When Rahel meets Comrade Pillai as an adult, there is a tension in the meeting, because Pillai had played a role in the death of Velutha. This is recognized when the narrative states, "she and he knew that there are things that can be forgotten. And things that cannot (122)." One of the historical forces that shaped modern India is its colonial past under British rule. For the characters in the novel, this past is still alive. Chacko, who received his education in England, educates the twins Estha and Rahel on the ways of the world. He tells them that their family is "all Anglophiles. . . . Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away (51)." This statement to their footprints relates to the caste system in India. Roy mentions a time, within memory, when Untouchables, or the lowest caste of people, were required to sweep away their footprints in public for higher caste members. When the British ruled, another form of class structure was imposed upon the society. This structure, according to Chacko, "locked out" Indians from their world, because of "a war that has made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves (52)." From Chacko, the twins "learned how history negotiates its terms and collects its dues from those who break its laws (54)." ...read more.

Conclusion

Velutha's grandfather had converted to Christianity, but even the new religion could not overcome the caste laws of the society, and the churches became segregated for the Untouchables. The individual freedom represented by the love between Velutha and Ammu is short, and other characters in the story continue the cultural pressure of such displays of rule breaking. Baby Kochamma lies and betrays Velutha, as does the Communist Pillai, which leads to the murder, by official forces, of Velutha. It is because of betrayal by individuals that Velutha is murdered unjustly for breaking the Love Laws. Estha gets caught up in the situation as well, when he is manipulated by Baby Kochamma into lying against Velutha. For Estha, this event has deep effects in his life, as he loses his voice and lives numbly thereafter. In the end, the novel shifts and the cultural forces begin to work their power over the individuals. When the cultural powers decide that Velutha must be held responsible for breaking the rules, the story provides a glimpse of the men in power, Comrade Pillai and Inspector Mathew. When the police beat Velutha to death, it is an unfriendly event, as the caste laws had severed any connection between themselves and him. Later, many years after the incident, the culture protects the men who uphold its prejudices and injustices. When Rahel meets Comrade Pillai, she notices that he didn't hold himself in any way personally responsible for what had happened. He dismissed the whole business as the "Inevitable Consequence of Necessary Politics." ...read more.

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