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.

Albany and Power

Throughout King Lear, there is a fight for power. Regan and Goneril become obsessed with gaining all the power that they can and using it to their benefit. Edmund also becomes power-hungry and betrays Gloucester and Edgar in order to rise in the ranks. In the beginning scene, Goneril and Regan express their love for Lear in order to gain land but they discard Lear as soon as they receive it. However, Albany is portrayed as being indecisive. While Goneril fights for power, Albany makes no moves to use his power for which Goneril often criticizes him.

During the second half of the play, Albany shows his lack of interest in power when he berates Goneril for being a bad daughter to Lear and comparing her to an animal. Albany further expresses his distaste for having power after the death of Goneril and Regan. “For us, we will resign, during the life of this old Majesty, to him our absolute power; you to your rights, with boot and such addition as your Honors have more merited” (V.iii.363-366). Albany wants to restore all of the power to Lear despite having the opportunity to have it all for himself. Albany continues to convey his dislike when he tells Edgar and Kent to “rule in this realm, and the gored state sustain” (V.iii.389). Albany remains dedicated to his morals by refusing to take the power from Lear as Goneril and Regan did. This goes against traditional gender roles as Albany can be described as a coward and Goneril is seen as the villain for stealing power. Albany becomes one of the only people left at the end of the play and is viewed to be a good person, almost saint-like. While Albany does not conform to traditional gender roles, he succeeds and gains power while acting with female stereotypes.

Poetry In Music

Sam Smith is an artist who is particularly known for his sad romantic songs. The song “Too Good At Goodbyes” was released on September 8, 2017, as part of the album The Thrill Of It All. In this song, Smith is describing a rollercoaster of a former romantic relationship. He depicts the problems with a relationship that is on and off and the emotional toll that it has.

I’m never gonna let you close to me

Even though you mean the most to me

‘Cause every time I open up, it hurts

So I’m never gonna get too close to you

Even when I mean the most to you

In case you go and leave me in the dirt

In the chorus, Smith is illustrating the distance that is created after a breakup. Despite, getting back together, he is not able to move past their breakup and it harms their relationship. He is not able to forget what happened between them and therefore is no longer able to be as close with his partner in an effort to protect himself.

I know you’re thinkin’ I’m heartless

I know you’re thinkin’ I’m cold

I’m just protectin’ my innocence

I’m just protectin’ my soul

In this verse, he is describing why he is unable to open up to his significant other. He argues that he is not a cruel person but has to distance himself in order to protect himself from being hurt again. He is unwilling to endure any more pain and therefore feels the need to close himself off from his partner.

‘Cause every time you hurt me, the less that I cry

And every time you leave me, the quicker these tears dry

And every time you walk out, the less I love you

These lines illustrate the love that is lost as a result of the turbulence in the relationship. Smith describes how he becomes more detached from his significant other every time that they break up and is unable to return to how their relationship was previously. Their relationship weakens whenever they break up and they become more distant as a result of protecting themselves.

The Role Of Technology

In Exit West, technology is used as a way to connect with the outside world and to find an escape in other countries. The use of social media and the internet plays an essential role in the lives of young people in the city as they are able to distract themselves from the war that is happening before their front door by exploring the different parts of the world.

Saeed and Nadia use their cell phones in different ways but they both use them to connect with each other and with the outside world. “Nadia and Saeed were, back then, always in possession of their phones. In their phones were antennas, and these antennas sniffed out an invisible world, as if by magic, a world that was all around them, and also nowhere, transporting them to places distant and near, and to places that had never been and would never be” (39). The phones allow for a new world to exist, one that is very different than the one that they are currently experiencing.

The cell phones allow Saeed and Nadia to travel and to experience different cultures without having to leave their home and family. The technology allows for these parts to connect and become a part of something that is larger than themselves.

The Verdict

After killing the Arab, Mersault is imprisoned while he awaits his trail. Before and during the trail Mersault is asked to recount the events that took place before the shooting including the funeral of his mother. While Mersault confessed to the crime, it seemed that his character was on trial and not the actual crime.

The prosecutor speaks in great lengths about Mersaults actions at the funeral of his mother. “It was then that he talked about my attitude toward Maman. He repeated what he had said earlier in the proceedings. But it went on for much longer than when he was talking about my crime-so long, in fact, that finally all I was aware of was how hot a morning it was” (101). The prosecution is more interested in his relationship with his mother than they are about the crime that Mersault confessed to committing.

This perception of Mersault being inhumane, a monster, and soulless is ultimately what sways the jury against him. The jury sentences Mersault to be beheaded in the town square. While Mersault did commit a crime, it is hard to believe that if Mersault had different beliefs and a different personality that he would have been judged as harshly.

Initial Thoughts On The Stranger

In chapters 1-3 of The Stranger we begin to see the type of person that Meursault is. This is mainly done through the interactions that he has with other characters. One part that really struck me was how submissive Meursault is and how he is unable to stand up for himself. He does things because they are easy for him and not because they are the right thing to do. For example, he is apologetic towards his boss for having to take two days off for his mothers funeral. When he sees that his boss is not happy about Meursault taking days off, he says “‘It’s not my fault.'” I thought that it was odd that he was saying sorry to his boss when he is using that time to attend the funeral of his mother.

He does not stand up for himself and later in the story, he tries to understand why his boss was upset at him taking time off. “And, naturally, my boss thought about the fact that I’d be getting four days’ vacation that way, including Sunday, and he couldn’t have been happy about that” (19). He makes excuses for his bosses behavior and accepts his bosses belief as the right one. I found it interesting how compliant Meursault is and how he does not defend himself but instead apologizes.