The Cost of Living

The concluding chapter of The God of Small Things is possibly one of the best last chapter of a book I have ever read. It did a really good job of fully wrapping up the full meaning of the book and what/who the good of small things really is. The chapter starts off with Velutha and Ammu meeting up and sharing an intimate moment with each other. They are simply just enjoying each others presence and trying to live in the current moment with the joy they feel together. While they spent time together they “instinctively stuck to the Small Things. The Big Things ever lurked inside. They knew that there was nowhere for them to go. They had nothing. No future. So they stuck to the small things.”(320) This is such a powerful line and honestly sums up the entire book. Ammu and Velutha can’t be together and they know that so instead of dwelling on that and only thinking about that, they choose not to and I think that is super significant. They can’t be anything together and they beat that by just enjoying each other and letting that be enough. While spending time together, they decided to focus of “ant-bites on each other’s bottoms” and “the pair of small fish that always sought Velutha out in the river and bit him” While these things obviously don’t matter, it calms them to focus on little things. Sometimes, when you can’t control the big things it is easier to focus on the small things that you can control. The last chapter fully wraps up the full meaning of the book and the reason Velutha is The God of Small Things.

Indiana Jones: The Tones of Orientalism

Orientalism is a common theme that overshadows one’s culture with an imperialistic lens, adopting the culture. Orientalism is present in cinema, food, and pop culture. One specific place I want to focus on the presence of orientalism is Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones is a very popular family movie series that demonstrates the common ideology of orientalism and the westerner’s perspective on other’s cultures.

In the first installment of the series; Indiana Jones: Raiders of the lost arc, while Jones is in Cairo Egypt he encounters a talented swordsman. We see townspeople gather while Jones and the swordsman duel. This short scene is super popular as the fight choreography is incredibly impressive, however, this scene is meant to shock the viewers at how violent the people in Egypt are. This very short scene holds a lot of weight for the perception of Egypt since many of the series’ viewers are kids and this may be their first impression of Egypt.

In the second movie; Temple of Doom, there were many events that were intended to shock viewers or almost disgust them. In one scene they are attending a cultural dinner someplace where Indiana Jones is venturing off too. One element at the feast that was supposed to shock the audience was a mass amount of food. There wasn’t an obscene amount, but the clear intention was to signal that Jones was in a new place with “not normal” customs.

I grew up watching the Indiana Jones series and was surprised to see while looking back at the poor taste and judgment they had while conveying the simple story of finding some treasure. I can see how this orientalism can hurt cultures as they perpetuate untrue stereotypes to others, even at such a young age. The Indiana Jones movies are marketed as family movies, meaning kids are watching these movies and unintentionally forming these biases on these cultures based on untrue tellings of them. I do think that in the future filmmakers can do a better job at this, but for now, it’s very evident that orientalism can be seen in the media almost everywhere.

Casual Conversation

In the United States, there has been a pattern in popular culture of misrepresenting Eastern cultures. The classic examples are the cannibals in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the representations of people in Mulan and Aladdin. While outside the scope of Eastern cultures, there is also the film trope of the dry, barren, gang-ridden Mexican desert. The proper term for this is Orientalism, and I think it affects people to such a degree because they are exposed to Americanizations of those cultures at a young age, which they then take to adulthood. They are then rarely, if ever, exposed to the actual cultures. The solution to this? Casual conversation.

The world lost it for the past two years, but I believe the best way to interact with someone else is face to face. When two people are standing in front of each other, there is no computer-generated filter, no screen, and no director to tell them what to say. There are no assumptions, because there is another person to explain things. There is no shield of anonymity to hide behind, because that other person is 5 feet away from you and not halfway across the globe connected to you via social media. All that is left is two people, their looks, gestures, actions, thoughts, feelings, and voices. When these two people are in front of each other, orientalist ideals fall away completely, because they are founded on obviously false assumptions about the other person standing in front of you.

Casual conversation is something every American should try, at least a few times per year. Everybody should find someone different from them, as different as possible, and just talk to them. It doesn’t have to be about anything specific, but everybody should walk away having learned something.

Nigerians vs Aliens: Orientalism in District 9

Orientalism is broadly defined as stereotyping other people or cultures in a way that serves specific goals or the construction of power, especially in the context of western views of Asia and the Middle East. The philosophy of orientalism is largely present in daily life, and of course, many of the prevalent examples of orientalism come from media, such as art, literature, and television. 

This week, I watched a movie called District 9. This movie is essentially about the establishment and treatment of a slum populated by bug-like aliens that recently arrived on earth. The movie comments on oppression and racism using this extreme scenario. However, even beyond the stereotyping of the aliens, deeper-rooted orientalism in society is shown. This comes from the depiction of Nigerians, who populate the slums as well. The Nigerians are shown as violent, mystical, and savage, playing on many stereotypes of Africa and Nigeria in Western culture. 

In a way, Nigerians are depicted as the true “other” in the movie, even more than the Aliens. This is because some of the aliens were shown to possess human characteristics such as love and intelligence, because one of the main characters, Christopher, is an alien who fixed a spaceship so he and his son could go save their people. He expresses familial commitment, intelligence, and devotion to his moral beliefs and friends. Alongside a white protagonist, Christopher battles the larger society that seeks to marginalize the aliens. 

On the other hand, the Nigerian gang does not add to the commentary on oppression, and more serves a comedic role and creates more interesting battle scenes. For example, the gang built their empire off illegally selling food to aliens in exchange for alien weaponry they cannot use but believe they can use, and they attack the protagonist because they want to eat his arm for their mystical beliefs. They are not the main villains of the movie, nor do they show complex, admirable characteristics. They are simply a savage part of the slum, clearly enforcing ingrained stereotypes and orientalist viewpoints.

Judging a Book by its Cover

The saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is much easier said then done. Usually when I am put in a situation where I have to choose from two books, I will most likely choose the book that has a more “aesthetically pleasing” cover. A cover usually associates with what is inside the book, making the cover a preview of the book at hand. When ‘The God of Small Things’ was first placed on my desk, I started making assumtions of what this book could possibly be about before even reading the summary. Now that I have finished the novel I can not help but reflect on what I assumed the novel would be about based on the cover versus what the novel was really about.

The simplistic flowers on the cover are to vague to assume any specifics in the novel. Even after reading, at first glance, the flowers were not a major part nor brought up in the novel. These flowers are symbolic rather then literal.

Farther downstream in the middle of the river, Velutha floated on his back looking up at the stars…he was free to lie in the river and drift slowly withe the current.

When I first saw the cover of ‘The God of Small Things’ I was reminded of lilypads. Lilypads symbolize many gods in different parts of the world and cultures. Velutha is defined as the god of small things throughout the novel. The way that Velutha is floating in the riveris simillar to the ways that lilypads also float on bodies of water meaning these flowers could represent Velutha in a way.

Aside from Velutha, the flowers could represent the small things. In society flowers are seen as these beautiful pieces of life. Flowers are given as a symbol of proudness, a gift and/or love. Flowers are small, cheep and can be found anywhere, but the idea of recieveing and giving flowers feels genuine. Giving small things such as flowers are not necassarly for a purpose of a physical gift but rather a symbol of the love that one has for another. The small things in life can represent the most crucial pieces of life.

Bathroom Buddies

The novel, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy exhibits some tendencies of the twins, Rahel and Estha, through a particularly unique scene of the Ipe family at the cinema. Before heading to watch the film, the family splits up to go to the restroom, Estha is directed to go alone while Ammu, Baby Kochamma, and Rahel go together. The significance of this passage was more specific to developing and reflecting the traits of the characters which would account for their actions later in the novel. 

When Rahel sets foot into the restroom, Ammu and Baby Kochamma help her to relieve herself by holding her up above the pot. As Rahel is held up by her mother and baby grandaunt they have a little moment of laughter as Ammu is trying to mimic the urinating sound. Then while Baby Kochamma takes her turn Rahel thinks to herself that she “liked all this. Holding the handbag. Everyone pissing in front of everyone. Like friends’’ (91). Rahel values the time she spends with the people she loves although they may disapprove of her. She feels secure in a vulnerable environment with others while Estha, on the other hand, feels, or at least tries to be more comfortable alone. 

When Estha enters the restroom he faces a problem at the urinal, he is too short. He rectifies this issue by organizing some cans he found sitting on the ground in front of the urinal to stand on top of. The book states that Estha “stood on them, one foot on each, and pissed carefully with minimal wobble. Like a Man” (92). Through this action we can see that Estha wants to be seen as more mature and tries to present more grown, physically and mentally. Ammu confirms his act when Estha leaves the restroom to join the women. Ammu states that she “felt a sudden clutch of love for her reserved dignified little son in his beige and pointy shoes, who had just completed his first adult assignment” (93). Ammu is able to feel the matured energy from Estha which can explain why Baby Kochamma saw him as the ‘responsible’ and ‘practical’ twin when he was selected to confirm an identity for the inspector later in the novel.

Altering the Love Laws As We Thought We Knew It

Throughout the novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy the topic of caste differences, specifically between Velutha and the Ayemenem house. However, in the last chapter of the novel, we get an in-depth explanation of sex between Velutha and Ammu. From about the middle to the end of the novel the relationship between Ammu and Velutha seemed to be a crime of passion and lust. But with the description of the sex between these two, not only is it the only time in the story where we are told this is happening vividly, but the chapter holds more power than just lust. This chapter contrasts the traditional viewpoints between Touchables and the Untouchables and destroys everything thought of with the Love Laws motif explained throughout the novel, more specifically, who can be loved. In it’s explained, “She could hear the wild hammering of his heart. She help him till it calmed down. Somewhat” (Roy 316). The explanation of Velutha’s heart-pounding somewhat humanizes him, which goes against how he has been characterized before, as an animal. I also find the word choice of the chapter, The Cost of Living, very interesting because it tells the severity of the relationship between Ammu and Velutha. This while chapter not only describes the intimate story between two people but it’s an opposition to the mistreatment and alienation of lower caste people but the true love between Ammu and Velutha, far beyond what Baby Kochamma — who could not believe that Ammu would even allow this to happen— thought of their relationship.