This is an essay on The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. What Roy shows us is that caste position affects everything: Every minute of the day for those in traditional Indian society was choreographed by a person’s caste position.
What Roy shows us is that caste position affects everything: Every minute of the day for those in traditional Indian society was choreographed by a person’s caste position. A passage early in the book lays the groundwork for how each one of the characters bears the mark of caste as an almost visible sign: So thoroughly is each person’s behavior, mien and attitude influenced by their caste position that they can never act in ways that are entirely free from that position.
“It’s a little too late for all of this, don’t you think?” he said. He spoke the coarse Kottayam dialect of Malayalam. He stared at Ammu’s breasts as he spoke. He said that the police knew all they needed to know and that the Kottayam Police didn’t take statements from veshyas or their illegitimate children (p. 9).
For the characters in the novel, it is always a little too late – for everything. Everything of importance in their lives has arguably been determined at the moment of their births – indeed, at the moment of their parents’ births.
And yet, even as people’s lives are ordained by the social system and its basis in religious doctrine, they continue to struggle for a sense of self-worth that the system would deny to them and for greater freedom in determining their own lives than seems possible. Ammu and Velutha are the characters who succeed to the greatest degree in breaking away from the constraints placed upon Indians by the traditions of the caste system. Ammu falls in love with a man outside of her caste, something almost unthinkable for someone of her lover’s lowest-possible social position (and indeed the descriptions of this cross-caste love affair prompted obscenity charges to be made against Roy) (http://www.salon.com/sept97/00roy.html).
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