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God of Small Things Analysis - Love Restrained by Society

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De La Salle University


Samantha D. Realica


“Love Restrained by Society”


        When I first started reading The God Of Small Things, I admit I had a hard time understanding and distinguishing the characters with all their Indian names and thus resulting in my immediate dislike for the book. However, as I continued reading on, I was slowly starting to understand the story and before I knew it, I was engrossed and the novel came to an end. The thing I liked the most about this novel was that it was always shifting back and forth in time. In every chapter, the time frame shifts back and forth at least thrice, and that allows the reader to try to solve the puzzle that is the complete time frame of the events.

        There were many themes as well as political and social issues that was discussed in the book. Some themes include that of Family, of Innocence, but mostly of Love – particularly love that is bound by various social issues. It is a well known fact that for a long time, the Caste system has been an integral part of India's culture. You have the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, The Vaishyas, and finally, the Untouchables. The Untouchables are known as the lowest of the low, throughout the novel, the main character of the untouchables or the God of Small Things himself, Velutha, was almost always treated like dirt. They are always ridiculed or spat upon and in Velutha's case, never given the taste of justice and acceptance in society. There was a part in the novel where the Untouchables in society were explained – they were not allowed to walk on public roads and that they had to wipe out their footprints so that nobody of a higher caste could accidentally step into them. And this was just among other socially dictated rules. Basically, the Untouchables like Velutha were not given permission to exist. The Caste System dictated every aspect in the life of an Indian for example, whom one shall marry, the profession or career choices for certain castes. Although the Caste System has already been abolished in India, there is still the unspoken air of discrimination and phantom castes. Roy has made her novel centered on the caste system and it's effects on the society in India even long after it has been abolished.

        Having known the gravity of India's caste systems, Roy expertly begins to integrate and base the main theme of Love, as well as other minor themes around this social background of Indian culture. Love was the predominant theme in the novel as it was an integral part of everyone's background stories. The novel was written with main characters and a main plot, but it also gave us background stories on the other characters as well.

        There were different types of love presented in the novel. One of which is the love between family, or familial love. It has been a constant worry of Rahel that her mother, Ammu, was slowly losing love for her and she always feared that the arrival of Sophie will steal her mother's love for her. Here we can see the typical attention and love that a child constantly craves from his/her parents and Rahel only ever wanted her mother's love and happiness, even until the death of Velutha ruins Ammu for life. Rahel would work hard to get her mother's attention and she did succeed in getting Ammu's attention, although it was usually for a scolding. Her days trying so hard to be a good daughter as a child could have resulted in her rebellious and mischievous acts during her days in school, years later. She probably grew tired of continuing to be in her mother's good light and broke her boundaries and rebelled in school in order to rebel against her mother's earlier disciplining. In turn, Ammu's love for her children was discussed as well. She seemed like a strict mother and seemed to be always angry with Rahel's actions. It was even said in the book that she was quick to discipline her children, but even quicker to defend them. She wasn't the typical affectionate mother, but more like the Tiger Moms of most Asian countries who showed hard love. The fact that she decided to take the twins with her when she left Baba showed that she was protecting them from his violent ways. Seeing Rahel playing with Velutha stuck a chord in her heart and we can take from this that she saw in Velutha what she didn't see in Baba, someone who would be a good father to her children. So in conclusion, she loved her children even though she wasn't so verbal about it.

        One can compare these parent-child love with that of Velutha's and Velya Paapen. Upon learning the truth about Velutha and Ammu's secret affair, Velya Paapen was devastated and scared. He knew the consequences of disobeying the Caste system and one of a higher ranking should never be with an Untouchable. He then ran to Mammachi and cried really hard. He told her about their affair and felt so much fear and shame in his son's disobedience to the social norm that he even told Mammachi that he was willing to kill Velutha, his own son. His belief in the importance of social norms was stronger than his importance and love for family that he could bear killing his own blood.

        Another relationship one can further look into is that of Mammachi and Pappachi's. It wasn't clear at first whether the novel was digging into the the abusive side of love – If even though Pappachi continued to abuse Mammachi, she still loved him no matter what. However, it was cleared up by Ammu, during Pappachi's funeral, while Mammachi was grieving his death. She told the twins that Mammachi was crying more because she was used to him rather than being in love with him. Their relationship was given a background story that started with Mammachi, who was actually the one who started the pickles business, was selling in a fair when she met Pappachi, who was retired from working in the government at that time but then became an Entomologist. It was also heavily implied that Pappachi was a firm believer in the caste systems which is why he refused to help Mammachi with making the pickles and the jams for he felt that he was above her to do bothersome jobs like that. He was also a very bitter and angry man, most of it stemmed from the new species of Moth that he discovered first, but was waved off by other professionals only to be accepted as a new species later on

by a different Entomologist that Pappachi particularly hated. He then began to envy Mammachi's fame and attention and in fact, every one else's success. Driven by envy and hatred, he began to beat up Mammachi every night. If not for Chacko intervening, the beating might have never stopped. Questionably, nothing was mentioned in the novel about Mammachi trying to fight back or go against the violence. Here we can suggest reasons as to why Mammachi never fought back. Possibly, She believed no one would believe her, even if she tried to ask for help from the police because Pappachi was a respectable man outside of the house and he used to have a position in the government so there was no use in trying to fight the presumptions of society.  Or perhaps, she did not want anyone outside the family to know in order to protect the reputation of her husband. Could there have been a little bit of love in their relationship after all? In the end, Mammachi got used to the daily beatings until Chacko stopped Pappachi. Ammu even said that “Human beings were creatures of habit and it was amazing the kinds of things people get used to”.



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