Motherly Love in The God of Small Things

As I was reading The God of Small Things today, I found myself connecting similar themes to past books and movies I’ve read and watched. Particularly, I found myself thinking about the theme of “Motherly Love”. I found this to be prominent in some of the first chapters of GOST; in addition to GOST, I recalled a similar theme in Beloved, a book we read earlier this year. From what I can see, there’s this pining that children have for their mother’s love and become paranoid when they feel they are losing it.

Specifically, after the Estha, Rahel and family arrive at the theater to see The Sound of Music, and Estha experiences the traumatizing event regarding the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, he sees Rahel being reprimanded by Ammu after her comment on her marriage.

‘D’you know what happens when you hurt people?’ Ammu said. ‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.’ (107)

Ammu’s comment implies that she loves Rahel “a little less” and it shook Estha to the core. After this, he was even more afraid to tell Ammu about what had happened with the man at the theater which led to him just never mentioning to her. This longing for motherly love is also seen in Rahel after this where she constantly checks if Ammu loves Sophie Mol more than her and Estha and when she feels she needs to be punished for losing some of the love Ammu has to offer her. This seems like an ongoing theme that led to consequences later in the book.

She thought of the phlegm and nearly retched. She hated her mother then. Hated her. (153)

Similarly, you see this in Beloved where a child too focused on obtaining their mother’s love eventually turns against the mother. This ongoing theme throughout GOST says a lot about the household Rahel and Estha grew up in (at least in my opinion). The constant fear of losing their mother’s love led to several holes and traumatizing events throughout their childhood and I think it shows in their adult life. In some sense, the instability of their mother led to them to seek love from each other which turned problematic too.

Overall, the theme of motherly love seems to run deep throughout The God of Small Things. I remember before we started Beloved, there was a google form questionnaire we had to fill out and I think one of the questions was “A mother’s love can possibly lead to a decision to destroy a child.” and we had to give our opinion on it. I think this speaks to both Beloved and The God of Small Things (though I think there were also more factors than just Ammu’s instability that led to how damaged Rahel and Estha were in the future.

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