“The God of Small Things” is an iconic creation of the great Indian writer Arundhati Roy (1961-present). The author presents a powerful and vivid portrayal of the downtrodden in Indian society, particularly the lower castes and women. Here is a point-to-point discussion of the picture of the downtrodden in the novel;
1. Historical Context:
The novel is set in the post-colonial era of India, where the caste system is still deeply ingrained in society. The untouchables, also known as Dalits, are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and face discrimination and social exclusion.
More Notes: The God of Small Things
2. Caste discrimination:
The novel depicts the oppression and exploitation of the lower castes by the upper castes. The lower castes, such as the Paravans and the Dalits, are considered untouchable and are subjected to various forms of discrimination and violence. For example, when the Paravan carpenter, Velutha, is accused of having an illicit relationship with an upper-caste woman Ammu, he is brutally beaten and killed by the upper-caste police.
Again As Ammu naps during the afternoon of Sophie Mol’s arrival, Ammu dreams of Velutha. The image fits his status as an Untouchable.
“If he held her, he couldn’t kiss her. If he kissed her, he couldn’t see her. If he saw her, he couldn’t feel her”.
3. Gender oppression:
The novel also highlights the oppression and subjugation of women in Indian society. Women are often treated as second-class citizens and are denied basic human rights. For instance, Ammu, the mother of the protagonist twins, is forced to live in poverty and isolation because she has left her abusive husband. She is shunned by her family society and Baby Kochamma because of her status as a divorced woman.
4. Economic inequality:
The novel depicts the stark economic inequality that exists in Indian society, with the poor and the marginalized living in abject poverty while the wealthy and privileged enjoy extravagant luxuries. For example, the twins’ wealthy cousin, Sophie Mol, is able to afford a fancy houseboat and expensive toys, while the Paravans live in squalor and struggle to make ends meet.
5. Political corruption:
The novel also highlights the pervasive corruption that plagues Indian society, with politicians and officials using their power to exploit and oppress the poor and the marginalized. For example, the upper-caste police officer Mathew beats Velutha in an unthinkable way. Roy here remarks about that incident,
There was nothing accidental about what happened that morning … This was an era imprinting itself on those who lived in it.
Again the police officer who is responsible for Velutha’s death is able to get away with their crime because of their political connections and influence.
“The God of Small Things” presents a dark picture of the downtrodden in Indian society, highlighting the various forms of discrimination, oppression, and exploitation that they are subjected to. However, the novel also offers a glimmer of hope, with its emphasis on the power of love and compassion to overcome these barriers and bridge the gap between different social groups.