Book Reviews

Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” is a masterpiece: Ambreen Bashir

“The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy is based on social impacts of post colonialism in Indian society. The novel got published in 1997 and won the Booker Prize in the same year. Roy in her novel draws a sketch of the major post colonial consequences and shows the bitter truth of Indian society. The novel is about twins, their mother and her lover who are punished because of post colonialism impacts like racism, women subaltern and love laws.

Racism is a belief that people are superior or inferior because of their color or class. Throughout Roy’s novel these beliefs are appeared clearly. The class differences and treating the people like animals because of their race as they are Paravan (untouchable). They are treated as lesser human beings or inferior because of their caste.

The caste system is a social issue in India till today which Roy portraits in her novel. As Samitha Narula said, “They are not allowed to drink from the same wells, attend the same temples, wear shoes in the presence of an upper caste, or drink from the same cups in tea stalls.” The same details about untouchables are given in the book and in Roy’s characters.

“Pappachi would not allow Paravan into the house. Nobody would. They were never allowed to touch anything that touchables touched.” (Pappachi ‘s mouth. Chapter 2).

The characters of the book go through the similar consequences in which, actually, Paravan are going through because of their caste in India. She portrays the reality of Indian society in her novel that no matter what a Paravan does, he remains just a Paravan, an untouchable who does not get the same respect, values and the rights of a common human being.

“After all, whatever job he does, carpenter or electrician or whatever, for them he is just a Paravan.” (Work is struggle. chapter 14).

Antonio Gramsci used the term “subaltern” to identify the cultural hegemony which displaced and excluded the right of specific group of people from their social and economic rights and to deny their voices in colonial politics. Roy’s novel “The God of Small Things” captures a clear image of Antonio Gramsci’s definition of subaltern through her women characters. Ammu’s character, whose social and economic rights has been taken by the male characters of novel, proves the subalternity of women in the novel.

“Papacchi insisted that a college education was an unnecessary expense for a girl. Whatever is yours is mine and whatever is mine is also mine, said Chako to Ammu.”

Ammu ‘s social and political rights were snatched by her father, brother and her husband because she was a woman and women, according to Indian society, are weak or below the men so they (men) marginalized and oppressed them (women) and denied their voices to have the authority and the power.

The other subaltern character who is the perfect example of subaltern woman in the novel is Mamachai. She received beatings from her husband because she was seventeen years younger and attractive and was earning well.

The masculine power and the subalternity are clearly showing the dark side of post colonialism throughout the characters and the events of the novel. Roy beautifully paints the Indian society’s women who are oppressed and marginalized by the men.

“The Laws are laid down, who should be loved and how, and how much.”

Love Laws are the moral boundaries which exist in every society and religion. The religion and society have set some boundaries about who to love and how much to love. Crossing these boundaries or not following the love laws means going against the society and religion and they have their own price to pay.

As “The God of Small Things” is a novel based on Indian society, it was against the love laws to love someone who is not the spouse and it is even worse to love someone who belongs to a lower caste. As in the novel Ammu and Valetha had an affair without a marriage and Valetha, being a Paravan, made it worse in the eyes of the society, as crossing the love Laws was a disaster in form of punishment. Valetha had to lose his life and Ammu was kicked out from her house.

Arundhati Roy, through her beautiful story-telling abilities, drew a painful but a beautiful sketch of post colonialism in her novel “The God of Small Things”. In her novel, she narrates the problems which exist in Indian society – even the novel was written before 23 years [1997], but these problems still exist in India and many other parts of the world. It ultimately makes her novel a masterpiece.

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