Orientalism in “The God of Small Things”

“The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy highlights the aftermath of colonization through characters that readers emphasize with. The idea of orientalism is shown in the novel through the character’s beliefs and way of life as well as their relationships with others. The negative impact of this belief is depicted through the perception of characters such as Baby Kochama, Ammu, Velutha, Estha, and Rahel. This results in social and political issues being at the core of the novel which informs readers on the long-lasting effect that orientalism has on the lives of people and their mindsets.

One example of this is Rahel’s relationship with Larry McCaslin. Larry is never able to understand the darkness that Rahel has experienced which results in him not being able to connect with her. This is evident when Larry does not understand a certain look of Rahel. “He was exasperated because he didn’t know what that look meant. He put it somewhere between indifference and despair. He didn’t know that in some places, like the country Rahel came from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy. And that personal despair could never be desperate enough” (20). This passage is extremely powerful in illustrating the long-lasting consequences of colonization and orientalism. Orientalism has controlled the way of life and the values of those around Rahel which has caused a lot of destruction. Larry as an American has never experienced the power of history and the repercussions of colonization. While Roy portrays the damage caused by an orientalist mindset, she also sheds light on the misinformation of the east that is portrayed in western media and the false beliefs that form as a result.

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