History: A Vicious Cycle

In The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy oftentimes repeats certain phrases and words. Some examples include the lines “a viable, die-able age” (pages 5, 310), “The God of Small Things” (250, 274, 312), and “tomorrow” (321) (a word that already implies repetition and routine). Roy does this specifically when writing about major plot points. These include Ammu and Velutha’s relationship being contrasted with Estha and Rahel’s incestuous encounter. The breaking of the Love Laws in these affairs, and the constant occurrences of loss and mortality throughout the novel. 

When these themes are being detailed, Roy describes them using phrases that are often repeated when discussing separate, but similar, events. In doing so, she is able to communicate the idea that they’re not the only thing happening again and again in this novel. Rather, they are used to create a sense of deja vu that effectively expresses one idea. Where these phrases pop up, again and again, something else is repeating too: the breaking of the Love Laws, the re-enacting of history, and the human inclination toward carnal gratification. We are constantly making the same mistakes, breaking the same rules, and dying in the same ways as our ancestors. 

History, Roy argues, is shaped like a circle. Mankind gladly enforces it through acts of defiance and rebellion that echo those or the past. By using certain words and symbols over and over again, she signals to the reader when she’s detailing an event that has happened, in some way or shape, before when someone is repeating history when it is more evident than ever that repetition lies in the nature of humanity.

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