The Effects of Eurocentrism

Firstly, my opinion of the novel could be higher. The God of Small Things had some brilliant moments of storytelling, but its nonlinear plot and slow pace often made it a confusing beast to read. The constant and unexplained time jumps often lead to my confusion, and from time to time, I felt dissatisfied by seemingly dull or flat characters. The characters could feel one dimensional, which would often block me from really connecting or empathizing with a character, with Velutha as an exception.

There was however, many insightful moments in the novel showing both the deep rooted self-loathing in the characters and revealing wisdom.

“Baron von Trapp had some questions of his own

(a) Are they clean white children?

No. (But Sophie Mol is.)

(b) Do they blow spit bubbles?

Yes. (But Sophie Mol doesn’t.)…

(e) Have they, either or both, ever held strangers; soo-soos?

N…Nyes. (But Sophie Mol hasn’t.)

‘Then I’m sorry,’ Baron von Clapp-Trapp said. ‘It’s out of the question. I cannot love them. I cannot be their Baba. Oh No.'”

Chapter 4 Page 101

This scene takes place while the family goes to see The Sound of Music after Estha returns to the theater from outside. He creates a scenario in his head contemplating if a fictional character would accept him. His own mind crushes him as he convinces himself that Baron von Trapp wouldn’t love him or Rahel. The reasons he decides that Trapp couldn’t be his father are heartbreaking. Estha’s believes that he can’t be loved because he isn’t a “clean” white child and because he believes he was at fault for being forcibly molested. He hates himself for his actions and appearance.

Another crucial aspect of this passage is that Estha doesn’t blame Trapp for his decision and takes the opportunity in his head to raise Sophie Mol on a pedastal. Despite knowing his answers wouldn’t please Trapp, Estha mentions, at least to himself, that Sophie Mol doesn’t share in the behavior that Estha has been taught to identify as barbaric. This behavior is simply being a child, but Estha was raised in a Eurocentric household that placed whiteness and Western culture over their own native culture. Even if Sophie Mol blew spit bubbles, she’d still be treated like princess because she was white and European.

One thought on “The Effects of Eurocentrism

  1. So I hear what you are saying about the way the novel plays with time, and it definitely can be frustrating. But I do think Roy’s non-linear plot is very purposeful. I addressed this in my comment on a recent post by Micah: https://storypower.criticsandbuilders.com/2020/04/03/god-of-small-things-and-its-showcase-of-broken-rules/#comment-787 …. In the context of your discussion of Estha’s childhood experience of abuse and sense of inferiority, I think my point there very much applies. Roy is trying to make the connection between our adult lives and our childhood traumas (like a good psychologist). Life, in that sense, isn’t literature. Our past haunts us.

    Having said that, I think Roy was acutely aware of leaving us with a sense of home — or a feeling that we still have some power even in oppressive situations. So we return to positive moments of childhood — ones where we see people achieving a type of happiness, however temporary — as much as we do to moments of pain.

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