Three Children On The Riverbank

In Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, Roy builds to the climax of the novel just for it to fall short of surprising. Through constant foreshadowing and revealing small details throughout the book, Roy leaves the audience already expecting what will happen, leaving a more emphasized yet comfortable storytelling. In Chapter 16, the disaster of Sophie Mol’s death finally transpires. The passage begins with the kids entering the river bank with the motives of making the adults feel guilty. Sophie mol is hesitant and Roy’s writing infers that something bad may happen, “Sophie Mol was more tentative. A little frightened of what lurked in the shadows around her.” Roy contrasts the comfortability of Estha and Rahel who “seemed to trust the darkness” with Sophie Mol’s hesitation and unfamiliarity, commenting on the twin’s eastern origins and being careless with danger, while the cousin is western–innocent to the shadows. This idea of attempting to combine both the east and west is carried on when Sophie Mol tries to convince Estha and Rahel that her accompanying them is “essential”. She states that “the absence of children, all children, would heighten the adults’ remorse.” Sophie Mol, while it would seem like the whole novel tries to depict easterners as yearning to become more western, tries to mix in with Rahel and Estha–her rejection of Chacko and Baby Kochamma in order to win their approval.

Roy, subtlely discusses the failure of the westerners trying to familiarize themself with the east, and this results in a horrific scene. With Sophie Mol’s death left in the hands of Estha and Rahel, the motif of Pappachi’s moth returns, showing the fear and anger that resides in Rahel’s heart: “On Rahel’s heart Pappachi’s moth snapped open its somber wings. Out. In. And lifted its legs.” The metaphor of Pappachi’s moth is finally completed at this moment, finally opening its wings. This passage really exemplifies one of the main tragedies of The God of Small Things and answers questions about Orientalism that influence Western perceptions.

2 thoughts on “Three Children On The Riverbank

  1. Ann Marie H.

    I really agree with you about this passage and feel like you really do a great job at articulating and supporting your point. The deeper meanings and the choices that Roy makes in literature helps enhance this idea.


  2. Maggie B.

    The connection to the moth is something I had not thought of before and you analyzing that with the peak plot point in the story is a great way to note the significance of both. I think the meanings you grab from this specific event are very relevant and as a reader coming from the Western World, I can see the attitudes that Sophie Mol expresses around us as well. The failure of accumulating is a great point.


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