God of Small Things Quotes Essay.
Extended metaphor: “Perhaps Ammu, Estha and she were the worst transgressors. But it wasn’t just them. They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much. The laws that make grandmothers grandmothers, uncles uncles, mothers mothers, cousins cousins, jam jam, and jelly jelly.
Rahel and Estha live in a society with very rigid class lines.
“Commonly held view that a married daughter had no position in her parent’s home. As for a divorced daughter – according to Baby Kochamma, she had no position anywhere at all. And for a divorced daughter from a love marriage, well, words could not describe Baby Kochamma’s outrage…”
“Chacko told the twins that, though he hated to admit it, they were all Anglophiles. They were a family of Anglophiles. Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away”
The concept of “Anglophilia” is a big one in this book, from the way everyone fawns over Sophie Mol, to Chacko’s cocky attitude about his Oxford degree, to the whole family’s obsession with The Sound of Music.
But it’s pretty clear that the thing they love also holds them down. When Chacko says their footprints have been swept away, he is making a reference to the way members of the Untouchable caste have to sweep away their footprints so that people of higher classes don’t “pollute” themselves by walking in them. Even though by Indian standards their family is of a relatively high social status, they are of a low social status in relation to the British.
Pappachi would not allow Paravans into the house. Nobody would. They were not allowed to touch anything that Touchables touched. Caste Hindus and Caste Christians. Mammachi told Estha and Rahel that she could remember a time, in her girlhood, when Paravans were expected to crawl backwards with a broom, sweeping away their footprints so that Brahmins or Syrian Christians would not defile themselves by accidentally stepping into a Paravan’s footprint. In Mammachi’s time, Paravans, like other Untouchables, were not allowed to walk on public roads, not allowed to cover their upper bodies, not allowed to carry umbrellas. They had to put their hands over their mouths when they spoke, to divert their polluted breath away from those whom they addressed. (2.270) This quote speaks volumes about the experience of the Untouchables, and it helps us appreciate the kinds of deeply ingrained attitudes that drive so much of the prejudice and hate we see in the novel.
Then [Baby Kochamma] shuddered her schoolgirl shudder. That was when she said: How could she stand the smell? Haven’t you noticed? They have a particular smell, these Paravans. (13.129) Like Mammachi, Baby Kochamma has a heap of prejudices against other social classes, and these prejudices run deep. By disparaging Velutha out loud and saying that his smell must have been intolerable, she tries to show just how high class she is.
Mammachi’s rage at the old one-eyed Paravan standing in the rain, drunk, dribbling and covered in mud was re-directed into a cold contempt for her daughter and what she had done. She thought of her naked, coupling in the mud with a man who was nothing but a filthy coolie. She imagined it in vivid detail: a Paravan’s coarse black hand on her daughter’s breast. His mouth on hers. His black hips jerking between her parted legs. The sound of their breathing. His particular Paravan smell. Like animals, Mammachi thought and nearly vomited. (13.131) Again, we see just how deeply Mammachi’s prejudices run. She doesn’t see Ammu and Velutha’s relationship as love between two people, as it might look to us. As far as she is concerned, it is as low as two animals going at it in the mud. The idea of a “coolie” (lower-class laborer) having sex with her daughter is so repulsive to Mammachi that it almost makes her puke.
Still, to say that it all began when Sophie Mol came to Ayemenem is only one way of looking at it.
Equally, it could be argued that it actually began thousands of years ago. Long before the Marxists came. Before the British took Malabar, before the Dutch Ascendancy, before Vasco da Gama arrived, before the Zamorin’s conquest of Calicut. Before three purple-robed Syrian bishops murdered by the Portuguese were found floating in the sea, with coiled sea serpents riding on their chests and oysters knotted in their tangled beards. It could be argued that it began long before Christianity arrived in a boat and seeped into Kerala like tea from a bag.
That it really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much. (1.207-210) This quote is full of what might seem like obscure references, but what it’s basically doing is pushing us to think about what caused everything to fall apart for Estha and Rahel. Did everything come crashing down because Sophie Mol came to Ayemenem? Or do the events of the novel happen as a result of decisions, actions, and rules that were made thousands of years before any of our characters were even born? Do things happen for a reason, because they’re part of this huge plan, or do they just happen because the world is fickle like that?
[Estha] knew that if Ammu found out about what he had done with the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man, she’d love him less as well. Very much less. He felt the shaming churning heaving turning sickness in his stomach. (4.245) We can be pretty sure that if Ammu ever found out that Estha was molested, she wouldn’t be upset with him. She’d be unbelievably angry at the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man, but she would never actually blame Estha. Yet, in Estha’s mind, what happened to him is his fault, and he carries it around as his shame
Ammu touched her daughter gently. On her shoulder. And her touch meant Shhhh….Rahel looked around her and saw she was in a Play. But she had only a small part.
She was just the landscape. A flower perhaps. Or a tree.
A face in the crowd. A Townspeople. (8.48-50)
This moment turns the way Rahel understands her role at home upside-down. All of a sudden, things are totally different than they usually are. Rahel’s realization that they’re in a “play” shows us that everyone here is playing a part to some extent – they aren’t being themselves. Sophie Mol’s arrival topples over Rahel’s reality; she goes from being one of the leads to being the “nobody” in the background.
Now, all these years later, Rahel has a memory of waking up one night giggling at Estha’s funny dream.
She has other memories too that she has no right to have.
She remembers, for instance (though she hadn’t been there), what the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man did to Estha in Abhilash Talkies. She remembers the taste of the tomato sandwiches – Estha’s sandwiches, that Estha ate – on the Madras Mail to Madras. (1.10-12) Rahel’s ability to remember things that happened to Estha and not her tells us a lot about their joint identity and how profoundly she understands him.