The Structure of Society in God of Small Things

God of Small Things is a novel written by Arundhati Roy. The novel unfolds the lives of a family who lives in Ayemenem, a village in southwestern India. The novel follows two characters, Estha and Rahel, twins living with their divorced mother, Ammu. The main event of the novel involves their American cousin Sophie Mol who visits Ayemenem with her mother, Margaret Kochamma. We learn at the beginning of the novel that Sophie Mol drowns in the river by the family’s house. The rest of the novel pieces together the events that led up to her death and the aftermath that ensued, darting back and forth between Estha and Rahel’s childhood and adulthood in the process.

With a street-fighter’s unerring instincts, Comrade Pillai knew that his straitened circumstances (his small, hot house, his grunting mother, his obvious proximity to the toiling masses) gave him a power over Chacko that in those revolutionary times no amount of Oxford education could match. He held his poverty like a gun to Chacko’s head. (14.63-64)

In the novel society and class is shown through characters/parties in the novel. For example the communist movement basically represents the lowest members of society – the workers of the world – looking to break class lines and fight for their own rights, whether it means marching in the streets or taking more violent measures. While Estha and Rahel family is a high upper class in India culture, with Chacko running the pickle factory and having a education. While their family seems wealthy in India, in British culture the would be considered as one of the workers of the world, and be classified as low members of society.

4 thoughts on “The Structure of Society in God of Small Things

  1. You bring up the contradictions in the idea of Communism — a political philosophy that enforces a type of radical equality — in a world that colonialism, among other things, has made incredibly unequal. I would also note, though, these political contradictions occur even in the local Ayemenem community in the novel. Comrade Pillai refuses to have the union and the Communist Party support (and fight the persecution of) Velutha, a Paravan or Untouchable, a clear representation of someone suffering under the power of the class/caste hierarchy in India. Part of what I think Roy is showing that even a humane philosophy like Communism (Roy’s own political leanings veer that way) is only as good as the humanity of its practitioners and how willing they are to truly break out of the hierarchical systems.

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  2. brettski1212

    You brought out the collectivism during this time and the things that were going on in the book that brought people unjust. I also liked when you brought up the living status of Estha and Rahel, a “high upper class in India culture”, made me connect to the different types of social classes seen throughout the book.

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  3. JOHN V

    It is an interesting perspective seeing why one turns to communism when they have nothing. It is easy to get on the “free stuff” bandwagon as seen by the Bernie campaign.

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  4. Natalie S

    I agree with this analysis. The book is insightful for people from other countries to read. It kind of takes us out of our idea of what it means to be wealthy and appreciate what we have. Americans need to delve into more stories like these to be less focused on status and be more thankful for what they have.

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