I would like to start off with my opinion of novel, and I must say, it was not necessarily a favorite. I think the imagery throughout the novel was nice, and I enjoyed how certain characters developed throughout the story. But many times I was left absolutely confused. I think that may have been intentional as questions I had were answered throughout the story, but I think it being written that was didn’t allow readers to truly make connections with the characters and their stories and personal struggles. My favorite character was Velutha, simply because he seemed to have the most depth in character in my opinion.
Although I was not the hugest fan of the novel, I liked how it highlighted the breaking of a number of societal norms, whether they were specific to Ayemenem or just in general.
The first one I noticed was the number of failed marriages. I think divorce is still something people feel ashamed about today (although they should not) and it was interesting to see that almost everyone that was once married in the novel was either divorced or had a terrible marriage (like in Ammu’s mother’s case). And despite it being common in her family, it was still not common in her community. The text states,
Within the first few months of her return to her parents’ home, Ammu quickly learned to recognize and despise the ugly face of sympathy. Old female relations with incipient beards and several wobbling chins made overnight trips to Ayemenem to commiserate with her about her divorce. They squeezed her knee and gloated. She fought off the urge to slap them. Or twiddle their nipples. With a spanner. (43)
Ammu was still treated as if her situation was terrible and incredibly unfortunate just because she was divorced.
Another societal norm that was broken in the novel was the idea of a loving and supportive mother. Ammu seemed anything but that most of the time. She obviously loved her kids, but her love for them was often volatile and detached. Ammu literally said that she “loved her children but their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them — just as an education, a protection(pg 42).” I don’t really think that’s much of a nurturing mother way of thinking. And when she did things like shrug her kids off when they were embracing her, or telling Rahel she loved her less the epitome of a detached love that lacks insight on how her actions affect her children.
There is also the biggest societal role broken when Rahel and Estha slept together, which I really did not enjoy (but I’m sure that was the point). I was kind of expecting it as the book went on and highlighted their closeness and their “oneness.” But it was just so weird.
One thought on “God of Small Things and its Showcase of Broken Rules”
Micah, the way the novel plays with time can certainly be frustrating, but one of the conversations I hope we can have is WHY does Roy play with time. The novel, on one level, is about the inevitable march of History, the ways in which we — especially for those in a place and position like Estha and Rahel — do not have control over time. So a traditional (Western) progressive narrative of start-at-the-beginning and then end-at-the-end would just be a descent into pathetic sadness, in many ways.
By having the final chapter between a celebration of all the boundary-breaking you are discussing (the relationship between Ammu and Velutha breaks through all the racial, sexual, familial boundaries at once), I think the novel is giving us some hope. That, even if it’s fleeting, we can find a temporary happiness. I think there’s a bit of a debt Roy pays to Toni Morrison, the way she manipulated time as well to make a similar point.