God of Small Things is a story in flashback which is narrated by the twins’ Estha and Rahel. They were fraternal twins who come back to their village in Kerala after a long separation from their native place, after almost 23 years. They are trying to recollect the childhood memories that they spent in this village and through those memories, the author talks about the past experiences that these twins had gone through in their childhood. These experiences include lots of familial details and social taboos in this village, the customs, and traditions that have rigid caste rules. The twins’ family was Christian but despite that, they were rigid believers of the caste system and retained the feelings of untouchability and ‘superior caste’.
This family hated the communist workers and activists and we know that Kerala during 1969 was a place with Communism in trend. Their childhood begins in 1969 itself. It continues to talk about the childhood of children in the early 1970s but when they revisit it is around 1993. They find out their lost childhood and recollect the memories where their own aunt had gotten one of their workers murdered through utilizing the police machinery by instigating them against him because this man was a ‘lower caste’ worker in their family business and was found to have a relationship with their mother.
The mother was a widow lady who had come to stay in this village, in her maternal place with these two kids after the death of her husband. The story revolves around the caste system, family intrigue but also the author takes into account the communist and the hatred towards communist workers among the people who are wealthy in Kerala. The twins’ paternal uncle had gotten married to a British woman. Through her, he had a daughter called Sofia who died in childhood and that death of the child was also a strong, floating memory on the minds of these two twins.
All this has been narrated through the flashbacks of these twins’ but towards the end the story, it is suggestive that the twins had a physical relationship and that is why, besides the very artful and beautiful descriptive ability of the author, the end is something that brought out a lot of criticism and argument around this novel so much so that it was banned for some time and as a subtitle, the author writes that she is trying to probe as to why does this orthodox society decide whom to love and how much. This paraphrase is often given by the viewers that she is trying the probe as to who to love and why. This strong rigid tradition led by the orthodox society was revolted by Arundhati Roy in this novel.
This book, in it’s time, was a very revolutionary novel which talked about the relationship of a widow with a lower class man and this man, named Velutha, has been shown as an honest and good human being but he was trapped and jailed and killed by the policemen and all this political and family intrigue also goes into the subconscious of these young, developing twins who otherwise also had an upsetting childhood because of their abusive father who had toxic qualities. The novel ends with the union of these fraternal twins.
The reason why we believe it’s a great book to read is that despite being a book published in the year 1997, it holds relevance even today. Times change but the mindset and societal stereotypes, if not confronted, transcend unchanged with it. Issues like freedom of choice for women in deciding their partners, social discrimination, interference of society in persona lives, and the taboos in the social sector, all are more or less still prevalent. If a book raises social issues that still exist, even after 23 years, it indicates how our society functions and modifies over time. If you love reading books and are interested in themes that steer you to the very core, this is the book for you!