The Child That Lives Within

From the start of the book, Arundhati Roy’s writing style intrigued me. From the innocence she portrays through Rahel and Esta’s imagination to the dynamics of the familial relationships that she exposes through dialogue and flashbacks, there are so many meanings that are embedded in each line that she writes.

I could talk about the passages that might confuse me but those passages need context that we will get later on in the book. I’d rather discuss the passages where Roy surprised me with the world she builds around the reader. The way she uses certain techniques to portray the meanings of the book are ways I’ve never seen before and ways that certainly deserve a lot of attention and praise.

To be able to capture a child’s innocence and imagination is something that I’ve seen to be very hard for authors to do yet Roy does it so well and in such a unique way. An example that really stood out to me was in chapter 2 on page 45:

“Rahel thought that boot was a lovely word. A much better word, at any rate, than sturdy. Sturdy was a terrible word. Like a dwarf’s name. Sturdy Koshy Oommen—a pleasant, middle-class, God-fearing dwarf with low knees and a side parting.”


When I read this passage I was genuinely shocked at the way she played on the world of creativity and imagination that kids live in. No adult or teenager would think so creatively about a single word yet kids do this with most new words that they learn. The way Roy had Rahel give a full name to this dwarf and even an in depth description on how it looked was refreshing. It was refreshing to dive into a world we all once lived in yet had forgotten about and no longer use. To me when I was a kid just like Rahel and Esta, words were all based on the way they sounded and they resembled magical creatures or places. When we grow up, life becomes more practical and logical. We learn the way things are and should be rather than imagining all the things they could be.

Roy presents the way our imagination and innocence fades away with age through the way it does within Rahel and Esta. Once upon a time, Rahel and Esta thought they were one person. They imagined their cousin doing cartwheels at her funeral and imagined words being mystical creatures. However, they had gone 25 years without seeing each other and aren’t the same wide-eyed kids they once were. It amazes me how Roy captures the purity of Rahel and Esta when they were young and contrasts it with their cold outlook on life 25 years later to represent the loss of innocence in the book.

2 thoughts on “The Child That Lives Within

  1. You explain how Roy captures the wonder and “imagination” of childhood so well, Olivia. And I do think, as you say, that while Estha and Rahel are unique individuals with unique experiences, that perspective is something we all have, at some point, when we are young.

    The question is, maybe, why do we lose it — and maybe, should we lose it. Often our “loss of innocence” is just explained as “growing up” — but the novel makes me feel like that’s letting the world off the hook, a bit. The best of us keep that wonder and imagination into adulthood, even as the world tries to crush it.


  2. JULIA Y

    Wow this post is so well written! I like how you dove into the deeper meaning behind their innocence. Throughout this entire book, I’ve been taken with how Roy is able to write from a child’s perspective- and in such a creative way- yet also write through 4 generations. In my post, I touched on how we get to see 4 generations of female characters and how they different, but on a broader scale, I think we get to see how childhood and the past affects people’s lives. I focues on Ammu specifically and how her past stuggle in a patriarchal society shaped her, but I think this could extend to how much did a loss of innocence and growing up shape her as well.


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