Typically, we look past the idea of Orientalism when it relates to the movies that we all know and love, and those are the classic Marvel superhero movies, yet there are quite a few examples of Orientalism shown in these movies that a lot of people don’t notice. Marvel Studios recently announced that they are developing a film with Shang-Chi, or Master of Kung Fu, as the protagonist. While many are excited for Marvel Studio’s first Asian-led movie, others are concerned that the studio’s choice of character was a stereotypical martial artist who happens to be the son of Fu Manchu, the offensive and racist fictional villain popular during the twentieth century. When adding a Asian character to a Marvel film, the producers usually add a stereotypical Asian fighter who has a strength of Martial arts. Some examples of this in past films include the characters like Wolverine and Katana. Both of these characters were introduced in the early stages of marvel and are pictured in many comic books where they are seen as Asian fighters who have mastered street fighting rather than other white superheroes who have more of a power and doesn’t necessary stereotype them as street fighters. It often goes unnoticed due to the popularity of Marvel, as well as the kid like persona that Marvel brings. When westerners are played in these type of action movies, there are often characterized as the villain and as a mean viscous fighter. Whereas the Eastern characters are usually the hero’s and are the people who have the superpowers. As we move forward in the future, I hope that Marvel can shy away from these stereotypes and switch things up and go in a different direction.
Category: God of Small Things
Leave Your Job and Sing Songs From the Hilltop: Orientalism in “Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom”
Set in the south Asian nation of Bhutan, “Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom” tells the story of Ugyen, a teacher who aspires to move to Australia to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a singer. However, to align with his duties to the Bhutanese government, he must complete his fourth year of mandatory service teaching in Lunana, home to one of the world’s most remote schools.
Right away, I noticed the strong juxtaposition between a city kid like Ugyen and this remote town in the Orient. Ugyen spends essentially the entire journey complaining about its difficulty and pondering how, exactly, people survive in the middle of nowhere. He almost never takes out his headphones, completely disengaged with his natural surroundings and embraced in the material world.
But as he spends more time interacting with Lunana and its people, Ugyen starts to realize that they are not just a bunch of other-worldly “savages” — the people of Lunana value his presence and value teaching him the legends of their culture. For example, the yak is a motif that is a symbol of love and survival — they sing songs about it, they honor the dead with it, they start fires with its dung to cook food. The students of Lunana expose Ugyen to a different, engaging culture, and in return they value his own lessons through his teaching. This moment of realization in Ugyen’s first few days is the catalyst in his decision to stay in Lunana rather than panic and leave at first sight.
Ugyen still struggles to see Lunana outside of the other-worldly orientalist lens — he has nothing to teach the students with, no electricity, and albeit he is learning, there is still a disconnect between the modern world and the orient in several instances — his students do not know what a car is, and after he runs out of teaching supplies, he must have more sent from the nearest civilization. While learning the traditional songs of Lunana, he is told to “leave his job and sing songs from the hilltop.” While the citizens of Lunana imagined the “hilltop” as the physical hilltop that people sing songs from, one cannot help but imagine Australia — where Ugyen planned to go to become a singer before being sent off to Lunana; the place he thought success was the most possible.
When wintertime comes, Ugyen has the ability to fulfill his lifelong dream, but instead of the “it’ll just be a few months” attitude we saw at the beginning of the film, we see him having trouble leaving. In spite of the disconnect, Ugyen did everything he could for his students, and they let him know. The students embrace of Ugyen as their teacher helped him embrace the culture of Lunana, and even as he heads off for the “hilltop” of Australia, he sings the songs of Lunana.
And I know, in this final scene of the film, Ugyen felt he was doing good — the reasons the filmmakers showed the altitude of each place Ugyen visited (Lunana being the highest; Sydney, Australia the lowest) was to demonstrate that Australia isn’t a “hilltop” after all. As Ugyen got further away from civilization, the altitude literally and figuratively increased. “Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom” demonstrates orientalism’s affect on civilization, and how one can somehow become more enlightened by getting away from the modern world.
God of Small Things and Parasite
“How could she stand the smell? Haven’t you noticed? They have a particular smell, these Paravans.”Baby Kochamma, God of Small Things
“No, no, it’s not that. What is it? Like an old radish. No. You know when you boil a rag? It smells like that.”Park Dong-ik, Parasite
*spoilers* GOST reminded me of many works of art, including Parasite, one of my favorite movies. Both works put smell at the center of tensions between classes.
This use of smell is very striking in both stories. Even though it’s one of our most powerful scenses, smell tends to be sidetracked in movies and books.
Class might visually or audibly present itself differently in different cultures. Scent is the most universally recognized measure of class; no matter where in the world you live, it requires privilege to have access to perfume, running water, and soap, and to live in an area that isn’t heavily polluted or have a job that doesn’t include interactions with trash/chemicals.
The effects of orientalism are also present in Parasite. I haven’t seen the movie for a while, but a detail I remember is that one character, Ki-jung, uses the fake name “Jessica” and claims to have studied in America when she tries to become the Park family’s art therapist. She seems more qualified to the Park family because of her English name and American education.
There are more similarities between the two stories. Both are about relations between families of different classes, and all families involved in these stories are destroyed because of these relationships. If you haven’t seen Parasite, I highly recommend it. Like GOST, it is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking.
The Art of Orientalism
When I was about 7 or 8, my dad took me to visit The Art Institute of Chicago for the first time. I had been to museums before, but I’d never seen anything quite like those galleries, 20-foot ceilings with walls coated in thick layers of gold filigreed frames and various conglomerations of paints. The rooms I always felt most connected to were the ones holding Van Goghs and Monets, feeling that connection they held to my heritage.
I wish I could say that, as an 8-year-old, I was able to spot the imperialism and Eurocentricity that binds together the walls of so many art museums, but that wouldn’t be true. Like many European Americans, the interest I had in ancient Chinese, Indian, and Japanese art came from a sense of exploration, exposing my mind to the foreignness of the sculptures and pottery. For many years, I suppose I assumed that the exploratory aspect of myself was sufficient reason for any inclination I bore towards East and Southeast Asian art, that the interest, in and of itself, was something to be proud of. However, the difference between the fixation I had for European Impressionist paintings and my curiosity surrounding the Asian galleries was an appreciation and understanding. Even now, I can’t honestly say that I understand every painting I see, but behind that, there is a search for understanding, a drive to comprehend the complexities of each brushstroke.
In the topic of Orientalism, the thing that separated cultural appropriation from appreciation is just the same; some people seek to enjoy the commodities of other cultures, and some people seek to respect them. Respect, not just acknowledgment, whether it be in tangible art, literature, or ceremonies, is what ensures that people do not simply see and take. Respect establishes civility, attentiveness, and accountability for all of the culture Eurocentricity has treated like a trend.
Orientalism in Avatar
When I first watched Avatar as a kid, I was too young to really absorb the story. Instead, I loved it for all the bright colors and fun action sequences. However, after rewatching the movie recently, I noticed that it follows the basic structure for Orientalism in movies. Jake Sully, a white man, becomes a part of a study of the native “aliens” (the Na’vi) of the planet Pandora. The beginning of the film contains many scenes depicting the Na’vi as a wild and uncivilized group that needed help from humans. The main researcher, Grace, even tried to create a school on Pandora in order to teach them to live like humans. However as the film progresses, Jake begins to learn the ways of the Na’vi people and eventually be integrated into their community. By the end of the movie, Jake Sully acts as the leader of the Na’vi in order to protect them against the humans trying to take over Pandora. Basically, a white American man is thrown into this uncivilized group, learns their ways and begins to appreciate them, and finally ends up being a better version of them and becomes their leader.
I was shocked when I first noticed this. How did a sci-fi movie about an entirely different planet still manage to have Orientalism? This really scared me. A movie that isn’t even about Earth managed to spread the message of Orientalism. What’s even scarier is that Avatar is the #1 top grossing movie. How many people have watched it and not picked up on its problematic message? Although it has been criticized many times in the past, I doubt most of the world really took the time to look into what is so problematic about it. How many children have watched this movie and are subtly being influence they are better than people from other cultures? I also wondered, how many other movies have I watched with not-so-subtle Orientalism that I just didn’t even pick up on? How many other movies are spreading these messages around without anyone noticing or caring? Although I doubt that I will always pick up on all the different problematic themes in movies, I definitely will be paying more attention from this point forward.
Orientalism in The God of Small Things
While reading the theory of orientalism, I reflected on how casually and habitually orientalism shows up in television, works of literature, and every day discussion in Western countries. This theme is repeatedly incorporated throughout The God of Small Things,, specifically through its emphasis of “the other” and the power dynamic that this perspective enforces.
Exaggerated contrasts of culture are highlighted with the initial greetings of Sophie Mol and Margaret Kochamma. For instance, Margaret Kochamma exclaims, “How marvelous!…It’s a sort of sniffing! Do the Men and Women do it to each other too?” which is returned by Ammu, ” Oh, all the time!…That’s how we make babies.” Chacko then requests that Ammu apologizes to which she responds with, “Must we behave like some damn godforsaken tribe that’s just been discovered?”(171). Ammu’s sarcasm and frustration with Margaret Kochamma justifiably stems from the condescension of not only her inquiries, but the suggestion of other cultures being exotic or strange by Westerners as a whole. Moreover, this exaggeration of differences establishes the power of Westerners, as cultures of the East are further pushed into the label of being outsiders or labeled as “the other”.
Furthermore, the idealization of Sophie Mol further emphasizes the presence of this perspective on a global scale. For example, “‘She has her mother’s color,’ Kochu Maria said. ‘Papppachi’s nose’, Mammachi insisted, ‘I don’t know about that, but she’s very beautiful,’…Sundari kitty. She’s a little angel’. Kochu’s Maria’s insistence of Sophie Mol’s possession of solely her mothers physical characteristics and continued use of the word “beautiful” to describe her continues to reinforce the idea of orientalism, especially considering Estha and Rahel’s consequent perspective of what “beauty” is. Roy notes, “Littleangels were beach-colored and wore bell bottom. Little demons were mudbrown in Air-port Fairy Frocks…”(170).
Fiction for Fissures in Orientalism
In my life, I feel like my learning of the East and “other” cultures is pretty limited and after hearing about Orientalism it makes sense when I get a certain confusion about other cultures and lifestyles. The confusion can be frustrating and the lack of knowledge I have sometimes is real and this makes me think about why. The TV I watched or the books I read glamorized finding oneself in the East or oversexualized women from different cultures and realizing the extent of that is scary. The framework of analyzing these images has been opened up to me through discussions of literature that immerse readers into the “other’ that Orientalism misrepresents way too often.
Last year, I got into reading and a fantasy fiction two-book series caught my attention, which inevitably led to a reading binge with breaks to eat, sleep, and repeat. Written by Hafsah Faizal, We Hunt The Flame and We Free The Stars raptured what I originally expected in reading a book. The books are based on ancient Arabia and I recall starting the book and being so clearly confused that I was desperately looking up terms like what sirwal were or what damma meant. Now reflecting on it I think Orientalism that has been around in my life became all too normal to me and while reading those concepts were challenged with the precise details that brought wonder and a desire to know more in this different setting. Faizal incorporated all these aspects into these characters’ lifestyles with terms and structures that I had little to no knowledge of. In my learning of history, I acknowledge the bafflement that comes with the fact that I did not cover much of it with the importance it deserves and being immersed in a society based with Orientalism, there is a lack of understanding that comes with trying to know real aspects of different lifestyles around us. Instead of associating deserts with personal European discovery journeys, the author immersed readers into the realistic details of life at those times for people not normally represented accurately in media with aromas, food, clothing, hierarchies, transportation, and decor. Despite the series being a part of fiction, the books taught more to me in the value of self-reflecting on what knowledge I lacked and thinking about wonder/romanticizing the details of different cultures than I ever really had known. I acknowledge that numerous factors are playing into the perception of these cultures that Orientalism in our society puts into categories such as exposure, effort, and conscious thinking but I still believe that literature opened me up to perceptions that cracked the one mind path track that Orientalism tries to manipulate into being accurate.
Orientalism as a Veil for Promiscuity in Art History
Orientalism is the theory coined by Edward Said which shines a light upon West’s modern conception of the East. Siad claims with the West’s increased interest in eastern culture (particularly ancient eastern culture) came the rise of a distorted perception of eastern customs and lifestyle. The scientistic, sociologists and archeologist perpetuated narratives about middle eastern and northern African culture that cast them mystical and mysterious in an archaic, patronizing manner. This narrative served the imperialist agenda; branding these foreign cultures as otherworldly and and antiquated justified European colonialism as a means of “civilizing.”
Orientalism modern application are far reaching and fascinating, but what interests me most is the prominence of this theory applications in art history. Recently in my art history class, we looked at a piece by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres entitled La Grand Odalisque (Odalisque refers to female member of a concubine).
In the painting, done by a French artist, a women sits nude with her back to the audience. She is surrounded by relics from the East; a hookah pipe, bangle bracelets, a head scarf. Although the women does not appear to be from the East herself, her environment suggests that she belongs to the western conception of the orient.
This painting was likely created for several reasons. For on, Europe’s newfound exploration into the middle east and northern Africa sparked an interest in these cultures that were seen as new and “exotic.” But the arguably more prevalent reason why this piece was created, or rather how is was created, was because orientalism served as an excuse for sexual themes in art.
For hundreds of years in European art history, various excuses had been made for including suggestive female nudes in master art works. Most commonly, people referred to the nude figures in their paintings as “Venuses.” This titled referred back to the greek goddess of love and beauty. So while is was frowned upon to have images of naked women for the sake of having images of naked women, if theme images were put in the context of ancient greece, they were no longer promiscuous, rather they were academic. The sexual nature of the piece could be cast off by the pagan environment it was set in. In fact, the piece that most heavily influence La Grande Odalisque was in fact Venus of Urbino which depicted one of these venus figures.
La Grande Odalisque has a similar idea only instead of using greek mythology to cloak sexual content, orientalism was the cloak. At the time of the paintings creation, France had just exited their revolution and while social change was stirring, people remained highly conservative in their beliefs. In order to get away with a painting of a nude female, Inges cast the figure as a part of an Eastern harem, or, Odalisque. It was a widely held notion to westerns at the time that people in the East often engaged in immodest sexual practices and multiple marriages. As such, setting this peice in the environment of the oriental allowed the artist and the patron to conceal the sexual themes as an interest in the eastern world and its culture (that is, its percieved culture).
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.
Orientalism in 19th Century Interracial Relationships
While reading God of Small things set in post colonial India, I was reminded of the effects of Orientalism among British officers in the East India Company. More specifically when examining Orientalism, the relationships between British officers and Indian women came to mind.
The theory of Orientalism discusses the dangers of both stereotypes that diminish the validity of nations on the “orient” describing places outside of the West “primitive” and stuck in time, as well as stereotypes that over romanticize the culture, depicting the people, especially the women of the “Orient” as sensual, mysterious, and exotic. Both stereotypes are equally harmful because both work to dehumanize the people that live outside of the West, not allowing people who live in the “orient” the mutual recognition they deserve.
As a case study, the interracial relationships in colonial India reinforce the idea that Orientalism can manifest as a positive, or attractive view of people in India for instance, but is still extremely harmful because it diminishes humans to a single trait. Many British Officers of the East India Company, like James Kirkpatrick, married Indian women upon moving to India with stereotypes of women in the “orient” as their reason for attraction. British men claimed Indian women to be “more sexual” and “exotic” than British women and thus preferable as a sexual partners.
The British men of the East India Company were prime examples of Orientalism in action, their attraction to the women in India was motivated by stereotypes of women in the “orient” rather than the quality of their character. Thus, the concepts of Orientalism still apply even when the stereotypes are more positive, and desirable, the dehumanization no matter the stereotype remains the same.
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.
The Orientalist Mindset Through “The God of Small Things”
“The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy brings a lot of issues to light, and compelling storytelling on the part of Roy helps emphasize systematic issues in interesting ways. A common theme one can associate with “The God of Small Things” is the orientalism and orientalist mindset present throughout the story, as well as how that affects characters and their perceptions of others. Roy does an excellent job of depicting the negative effects an orientalist mindset can have on a person’s perspective and worldview, as well as how society’s natural perception is not often prone to change. Although the story itself has a compelling plot, the way issues of class, politics, as well as societal issues are immersed into the story make it extremely informative and beneficial to read. Many societal issues are highlighted throughout the story, specifically those regarding the orientalist mindset and how it can be detrimental.
For example, from the beginning of our introduction to Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol, it is evident that they feel out of place, and they already have a predisposed idea of what they will be experiencing on their holidays. Although Roy does not shove these misalignments in your face, she does make it a point for readers to notice the difference in perspective, as well as how it is ultimately untrue and even offensive. For example, Ammu remarks sarcastically to Margaret Kochamma after she asks a question about Kochu Marie smelling Sophie’s hands, asking whether or not it is a custom. Although to Margaret it may have seemed like an innocent question, so few words really put into perspective the misinformation that many people have, especially those with previous notions and opinions about things they have not experienced.
Roy’s specific use of words and articulation of these differences shed light on how destructive the orientalist mindset can be, as it creates the expectation of stagnancy, without the anticipation of growth or development. Roy does an excellent job of bringing awareness to these differing perspectives and how although there is a lot of tradition and custom, such is true in any culture, and the division of “The East” and “The West” stems from a lot of misinformation and assumptions.
The Dangers of a Single Story paired with Orientalism
One of the most powerful TED talks that I have ever listened to debuted in 2009. The conversation Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie holds with this audience about what a single story can hold against many people throughout the world and the harm that it may possess is captivating.
A single story is a concept which emphasizes the possibility of misunderstandings with another person or culture. Single stories spread throughout the world like a wildfire. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explained her experience with her American roommate when attending college she explained the difficulties of the single story her roommate held for Adichie being from Nigeria, “My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.” Single stories lead to misconceptions about culture, gender, and race.
Orientalism is described, by Richard Said, as a critical concept to describe the West’s commonly contemptuous depiction and portrayal of “The East”. Societies and peoples of the Orient are those who inhabit the places of Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. The critical concepts many people perceive are damaging and hold stereotypes that are untrue.
The single story articulates a similar narrative to Orientalism. Both contain a false conception about the cultures and lives of many people, which have lasting effects throughout the generations.
When i started reading God Of Small Things, I immediately noticed Roy’s altering use of language and specifics in his writing. Especially his comparison of almost anything and everything with nature. I was curious as to this style of writing and I found a word I think accurately describes Roy’s literary ability to incorporate nature and how it challenge societys rule and customs: ecocriticism. Broadly speaking, ecocriticism is the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment. There are many events or significant places that represent this relationship, as well as give a deeper meaning to things in nature that may otherwhise go overlooked. For example water. The river had a very important meaning in this novel and served a physicall represntation fo a “boundary” one must overcome in order to cross it. Another example is the garden in which Baby Kochamma took upon herself in creating a whole world for herself and find pride in.
The title of this novel, being “God Of Small Things” has a bit of a two sided meaning when it coems to Roy’s portrayal of nature and its meaning thorugout the book. In this wirting, nature is definitely more so seen as the “small things,” while society, class, gender is all more seen as the “big things,” which is why we end up understanding why Velutha is the “God Of Small Thing,” because of his appreciation and commitment to the small aspects of nature and environment that surrounds him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.