Lemon Soda, Oranges, and Dirt

I can’t stop thinking about Estha’s abuse scene. I can’t stop. Every time I think about GOST, I think about that scene. It’s like it’s haunting me. And I want to write about it, but I can’t come up with the words. Nothing I can say feels important or necessary. Any words just manifest as tears hiding behind my eyes that can’t escape. So I’m going to talk about what happens directly after instead.

As Estha stands, drinking the rest of his lemon soda, he starts to refer to the hand that was involved in the assault as his “Other Hand”. It’s as though he’s alienated from it. I think this alluding to him possibly starting to disassociate, although I’m not sure. To be honest, a lot of this book’s narration feels disassociated from the actual events, emotionally separated. But I think it’s particularly noticeable here.

Back inside the hairoil darkness, Estha held his Other Hand carefully (upwards, as though he was holding an imagined orange). He slid past the Audience (their legs moving thiswayandthat), past Baby Kochamma, past Rahel (still tilted back), past Ammu (still annoyed). Estha sat down, still holding his sticky orange.

The God of Small Things (pg 100)

The repetitive, blocky nature of this paragraph signals to me Estha feels separated from what is happening. He is moving, and observing the details around him, but he’s not really in control. The reason I think that is because disassociation is very common after trauma, as I believe I have discussed in earlier posts. Disassociation, to me, feels as though you are strapped to a chair inside your brain and things are occurring and you’re seeing everything but you’re no longer in control of your actions. You feel like your body is moving but it’s no longer you because you’re just stuck trying to process everything. Estha is moving and holding his hand up and noticing everything but it’s all very stilted and short. It’s the childish way a young boy might experience world but it seems even more mechanical than other sections.

Here’s the sentence that really stuck with me: “Oh Baron von Trapp, Baron von Trapp, could you love the little fellow with the orange in the smelly auditorium?”

Something has fundamentally changed in Estha. He no longer feels lovable, in comparison to the “clean, white children” in the film. He is dirty now. He has been violated, and spoiled, and ruined, and dirtied up. I think that’s the thing that’s staying with me, is that feeling of being dirty due to factors outside of your control. Estha did nothing wrong, but it doesn’t matter. He’s dirty now and that makes him unlovable. Okay, I wrote something and I feel better. I’m going to try not to think about this anymore.

4 thoughts on “Lemon Soda, Oranges, and Dirt

  1. mayap

    This post was very accurate and I think I can speak for most people, if not everyone, in saying that we had the same reaction. It is a horrible thing that happened, and the events and thoughts that played out were very well thought out and written to show how traumatic this event was for Estha. I think you captured this all very well in your analysis.


  2. “Dissociation,” which has a clinical psychological definition, is a very appropriate concept here. It’s hard not to read Estha’s entire adult life as a post-traumatic experience, from his attempt to order the world (see Ch. 7 — the “Wisdom Exercise Notebooks) to his ultimate utter silence.

    What the novel makes clear, though, is that almost worse that the moment of abuse itself is the denial that it happened — or at least the lack of awareness of Estha’s genuine suffering. And this might be Ammu’s greatest mistake, despite her aching love for her children. Rahel is the only one (she instinctively knew something happened and confronted Ammu awkwardly about it as they were leaving the theater), but ultimately Rahel herself is ripped away from Estha when he is Returned.

    It is the novel’s intimate acknowledgment of Estha’s pain that makes it powerful — and an experience the reader is better to have known. That’s my feeling, at least.

    Thanks, Connor, for having the courage to write about it — to acknowledge it — in our own conversation.


  3. It is so cool how Roy was able to explore dissociation with Estha, especially in someone so young. I had a similar experience with this book where I was unable to stop thinking about that part of the story. What happens to Estha is horrid and seems to impact him for the rest of his life. As you said, he feels dirty. This really stuck with me.


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