Orientalism vs. Classism in The God of Small Things

In Amurhatti Roy’s, The God of Small Things, it is interesting to note how different people are judged in different ways. While there is blatant discrimination and oppression in the Caste System, there are less regulated prejudices in orientalism.

The classism seen in The God of Small Things mostly fits within the Caste System, but where it does not is where it is shown at its strongest. Through the Ipe family, we see what it’s like to be at the top of the chain. We see how Baby Kochamma treats others that are not of their class, such as Velutha, and the magnitudes she goes to in order to preserve the family name. The most obvious being framing Velutha, whose death shows that Boaby Kochamma will go to any length for the family’s position. Usually, as with Sophie Mol, the British are seen as high up in the caste system, just because of the color of their skin. Interestingly enough, this does not matter to Baby Kochamma. When Tacko told his family he was marrying Margaret Kochamma, Baby Kochamma did not approve, despite her future daughter in-law’s nationality. To Baby Kochamma, money is what really sets people apart.

In comparison, it is less surprising that Margaret Kochamma’s family also didn’t approve of her and Chako’s marriage. Margaret Kochamma’s family is afraid of their daughter marrying an Indian Man because they have been tamed by orientalism. Through orientalism, the protrayal of the East in Western media and entertainment, Margaret’s family considers India an “other”. They are scared of their daughter going to a place that they aren’t comfortable with, and losing the “civility” that they associate with the West. They don’t truly understand what a place like India is really like, and the death of Sophie Mol must have only intensified their prejudice.

Edgar: Too Good for His Own Good?

In King Lear, it is hard to find a more honorable character than Edgar. Edgar, being Gloucester’s only legitimate son, had the ability to ignore his brother when he advised him to flee. But, like the good brother he was, he listened to the “illegitimate” Edmund. Edgar’s loyalty and trust were vital to the development of the plot of King Lear.

Edmund’s plan to gain power began with overthrowing his family. Edmund knew that he wouldn’t inherit anything from his father, since he wasn’t “pure” in blood. Edmund needed to somehow gain his brothers status. To do so, Edmund used Edgar’s loyalty against him. He convinced Edgar that he was banished, and turned his father against his brother. Edmund then had the power and influence to begin his attempted claim that lead him to contribute to the tragedy of King Lear. Without Edgar, Edmund would never have gotten past his father.

If another character was in Edgar’s shoes, such as Lear, Edmund would have never been trusted. Edgar is both a good character and a good person. He has the ability to look past the fact that his brother isn’t completely related to him, something many others could not look past at the time.

While Edgar’s banishment and his transformation into Poor Tom feel unjust at the time, Edgar gets his revenge at the end of the play when he takes down Edmund as the honorable Edgar. Most deaths at the end of the play feel justified, except for the death of Cordelia. As a reader, I was happy that besides Kent, at least one likeable character remained well at the end of the play. I liked that even while Edgar’s trust and devotion to his family almost cost him his life, he gets the revenge he is looking for.

A Tribe Called Poetry

A Tribe Called Quest is a hip-hop group that formed in Queens in 1985. The fourth song on A Tribe Called Quest’s second studio album, The Low-End Theory, is “Butter“. Butter is a great example of the ability of The Tribe’s wordplay, specifically by one of their four members, Phife Dawg.

In Butter, Phife Dawg immediately brings us back to his alma matter in 1988.

1988 senior year at Garvey High

Where all the guys were corny but the girls were mad fly

Phife then gets into what his life was like for him at his high school.

I was the b-ball playing, fly rhyme saying

Fly girl getting but never was I sweating

In 1988, the year Phife’s taking us back to, Phife is pursuing a professional basketball career but is eventually convinced by the rest of the tribe to rap instead. Phife is a self-proclaimed “fly girl getter” but soon has to choose between girls and music.

‘Cause when it came to honeys I would go on a stroll

Until I met my match—her name was Flo

Phife meets “Flo”, which is a metaphor for him recognizing his rhythm and flow. Flo is his match because Phife realizes that he should be a rapper instead of a basketball player.

Yesterday your eyes were brown but today they are blue

Your whole appearance is a lie and it could never be true

Later in the song, Phife describes that Flo’s appearance is a lie because he finds the rap industry is different than he expected.

In his young rap career, Phife realizes that the music industry is fake and heartless.

If your hair and eyes were real, I wouldn’t have dissed ya

But since it was bought, I had to dismiss ya

Flo is given fake ears and eyes because Phife thinks that the music industry puts material growth first, something Phife doesn’t want.

On the outside “Butter” is a story about a guy getting girls, but on the inside, it is a song about the struggles of a young rapper getting into the music industry.

Adapting to Migration

In the novel Exit West, through Saeed and Nadia, Mohsin Hamid shows two ways in which people may react to migration. When Saeed and Nadia travel through the magic doors to Mykonos, London, and Marin, we see how they react to their new environments. As I read, I questioned how Nadia and Saeed’s backgrounds, or past experiences from their home, would affect how they reacted to migrating.

Saeed struggles in their pursuit of a new home. When Saeed and Nadia are in Mykonos, Saeed is much more hesitant than Nadia. In London, it is especially more of the same, as Saeed feels so unsafe and afraid that he resorts to leaving the house they are occupying for entire days to visit people in another home that are from his country. I think that this reaction is best explained by Saeed’s past. Saeed had a much less independent life than Nadia did in their home country. Saeed had more that he had to leave behind. Saeed had to leave his father, family, home, friends, and memories of his mother behind. And the fact that he and Nadia struggled to find a permanent home probably made him question if his new situation was much better than what he had before. However, Saeed finally seemed to have found happiness and comfort once he met the preacher’s daughter and separated from Nadia. I think that Saeed was happier once he and Nadia separated because he was finally able to put his past aside, and didn’t have to be reminded of everything he left behind.

Nadia finds migration much easier. She fits in and is more comfortable every time they move. Nadia was independent before they even entered a door. She lived by herself, away from her family. And, while she still did have to abandon her family, she did so much before she would have been forced to when traveling through a door. The circumstances in which Saeed had to choose whether or not to leave his family were much different than Nadia’s. But Nadia also seems more satisfied when spending time with the cook, away from Saeed. While she had to leave less, she still misses her home and is probably better off without Saeed for the same reason he’s better off without her.

Should we imitate Meursault’s mindset?

While Meursault may be happier than most with his emotional indifference, there are elements of his mindset that are not the best to mimic. There is one specific thing I hope to emulate from Meursault’s mindset. Meursault views everything as if he is removed from the situation. This skill adds to Meursault’s happiness because he observes natural beauty and lives in the moment. When looking out on a rainy day Meursault finds it to be, “a beautiful afternoon. Yet the pavement was wet and slippery, and what few people there were were in a hurry” (21). Even when others don’t seem happy, or the day itself isn’t actually that beautiful, Meursault is able to see the best in almost every situation. I hope I can take after Meursault and learn how to do this, because appreciating every moment I have would only add to my happiness.

However, Meursault also has habits that I would not want to replicate. While removing himself from situations adds to his happiness, it would diminish my own. Meursault is too distant. He is distant all of the time instead of when he should be. For example, at Maman’s funeral one of Mamans friends is crying. Instead of showing support to his mothers friend, he “[wishes he] didn’t have to listen to her anymore” (10). This tactic may work for Muersault, but if I felt this way it would add to my guilt rather than happiness. Meursault’s lack of empathy allows for him to feel happy because he doesn’t feel any guilt or remorse. But the average person does feel these emotions, which is why Meursault’s mindset is not one that I would conform to.

Meursault and the Sky

So far, throughout Part 1 of The Stranger, Meursault describes the sky above him most often as something that brings him dread. In chapter 1, Meursault states, “The glare from the sun was unbearable” (page 16). Also near the end of Part 1 he mentions, “The sun was the same as it had been the day I buried Maman, and like then, my forehead especially was hurting me…” (page 58). It’s a pattern for Meursault to be bothered by the sun physically, but the sun also reminds him of solemn events such as his mother’s funeral.

Meursault also uses the sky, intentionally or not, to foreshadow another grave event. He describes the sky as having “the same dazzling red glare” (57), and as a result of this glare, “the blazing sand looked red to [him]” (53). He foreshadows how the sand on the beach went from looking red because of the blazing sun to actually becoming red, from both the blood of Masson’s stab wound and the gunshot wounds of the Arab man who was after Raymond. As we continue to read onto Part 2, I’m curious as to how the sky will continue to affect Meursault and if a deeper meaning of the sky will continue to form.