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  • “A few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes/

  • And that when they do, those few dozen hours,

  • like the salvaged remains of a burned clock

  • must be resurrected from the ruins and examined.”

  • This is the premise of Arundhati Roy’s 1997 novel "The God of Small Things."

  • Set in a town in Kerala, India called Ayemenem,

  • the story revolves around fraternal twins Rahel and Estha,

  • who are separated for 23 years after the fateful few dozen hours

  • in which their cousin drowns, their mother’s illicit affair is revealed,

  • and her lover is murdered.

  • While the book is set at the point of Rahel and Estha’s reunion,

  • the narrative takes place mostly in the past, reconstructing the details

  • around the tragic events that led to their separation.

  • Roy’s rich language and masterful storytelling

  • earned her the prestigious Booker prize for "The God of Small Things."

  • In the novel, she interrogates the culture of her native India,

  • including its social mores and colonial history.

  • One of her focuses is the caste system,

  • a way of classifying people by hereditary social class

  • that is thousands of years old.

  • By the mid-20th century,

  • the original four castes associated with specific occupations

  • had been divided into some 3000 sub-castes.

  • Though the caste system was Constitutionally abolished in 1950,

  • it continued to shape social life in India,

  • routinely marginalizing people of lower castes.

  • In the novel, Rahel and Estha have a close relationship with Velutha,

  • a worker in their family’s pickle factory

  • and member of the so-calleduntouchablecaste.

  • When Velutha and the twinsmother, Ammu, embark on an affair,

  • they violate what Roy describes as thelove laws

  • forbidding intimacy between different castes.

  • Roy warns that the tragic consequences of their relationship

  • would lurk forever in ordinary things,” likecoat hangers,” “the tar on roads,”

  • andthe absence of words.”

  • Roy’s writing makes constant use of these ordinary things,

  • bringing lush detail to even the most tragic moments.

  • The book opens at the funeral of the twinshalf-British cousin Sophie

  • after her drowning.

  • As the family mourns, lilies curl and crisp in the hot church.

  • A baby bat crawls up a funeral sari.

  • Tears drip from a chin like raindrops from a roof.

  • The novel forays into the past to explore the charactersstruggles

  • to operate in a world where they don’t quite fit,

  • alongside their nation’s political turmoil.

  • Ammu struggles not to lash out at her beloved children

  • when she feels particularly trapped in her parentssmall-town home,

  • where neighbors judge and shun her for being divorced.

  • Velutha, meanwhile, balances his affair with Ammu and friendship with the twins

  • not only with his employment to their family,

  • but also with his membership to a budding communist countermovement

  • to Indira Ghandi’s “Green Revolution.”

  • In the 1960s, the misleadingly namedGreen Revolution

  • introduced chemical fertilizers and pesticides

  • and the damming of rivers to India.

  • While these policies produced high-yield crops that staved off famine,

  • they also forced people from lower castes off their land

  • and caused widespread environmental damage.

  • When the twins return to Ayemenem as adults,

  • the consequences of the Green Revolution are all around them.

  • The river that was bursting with life in their childhood

  • greets themwith a ghastly skull’s smile, with holes where teeth had been,

  • and a limp hand raised from a hospital bed.”

  • As Roy probes the depths of human experience,

  • she never loses sight of the way her characters are shaped

  • by the time and the place where they live.

  • In the world of "The God of Small Things,"

  • Various kinds of despair competed for primacy

  • personal despair could never be desperate enough...

  • personal turmoil dropped by at the wayside shrine of the vast, violent, circling,

  • driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible public turmoil of a nation.”

“A few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes/

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Why should you read “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy? - Laura Wright

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/20
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