How Cruelty has an Impact on the Characters of The God of Small Things
Throughout the many relationships in Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things, love, both familial and romantic, is presented as a beautiful, cruel, unjust, and empowering aspect of life. The story, told through the eyes of the young twins, Rahel and Estha, takes place in post-colonial India where strife among class, religion, race and political ideologies runs rampant. As a result of this conflict, society has laid down the so-called “Love Laws” that are tested in the novel. In a non-chronological manner, the twins bear witness to severe pain when their lives are turned upside down time and time again due to clashing boundaries and the power of love. Cruelty in The God of Small Things, as a result of cultural love restrictions, reveals the vulnerability of young children, shaping them to be the indirect and emotional victims of society.
The “Love Laws”, which are so prominent in the novel, serve as consequential catalysts for the fate of relationships. Breaking them inflicts pain and suffering, while following them creates tension and constriction for the characters involved. For example, Pappachi and Mammachi’s relationship strictly follows the Love Laws since they are a result of a traditional marriage that wasn’t necessarily grounded on a basis of love. They live a life of enforced gender roles, and Pappachi is not scared to show his utmost authority over Mammachi. He ends up frequently beating her, and, by the end of his life, they have pretty much lost all feelings for each other. Mammachi cries at his funeral because she is use to his presence, not because she loves him which shows that Mammachi values familiarity and consistency, two main components of the “Love Laws”.
Contrary to Mammachi, Ammu ignores the “Love Laws” to pursue her feelings towards Velutha. Ammu, who comes from a successful and powerful family, crosses the line when she starts an affair with Velutha, an “untouchable” meaning he’s a member of a very low caste. Their relationship defies society since they come from very different backgrounds and situations. Based on the “Love Laws”, it isn’t the norm to marry outside of one’s caste, and it is even considered disrespectful for both sides. The relationship is discovered after Velutha’s father betrays him resulting in Velutha’s arrest and death. Ammu is left in shambles and never fully recovers from her heartbreak. In both relationships, one that follows the “Love Laws” and one that contradicts them, there are victims that are hurt by the cruelty of society and the expectations of love. Ultimately, the “Love Laws” are extreme measures that tend to prohibit happiness whether they are followed or not which demonstrates that society should not judge people’s romantic actions, as they lead to constricting agony.
As a result of the painful relationships that the adults in the novel partake in, Estha and Rahel are severely affected, and ultimately become the real victims of the cruelty inflicted on their family. Even though the situation with Velutha and Ammu ends in a tragic way for both of them, Estha and Rahel experience the most emotional pain and guilt from the horrible events that unfolded. Velutha might have been killed in a brutal and unjust way, but his death was more of a sacrifice. He died a martyr for the sake of the family and the ones he loved. By committing himself to a relationship with Ammu, he took a huge risk that made him choose love over safety making him one of the most courageous characters of the novel. However, his fate hurt the children significantly since they lost the only trustworthy adult role model they had. He represented both a father figure and a mother figure in their lives making his loss horribly devastating to the children. Ammu, who had already started to spiral downward, mentally clasps after the death of Velutha. She attempts to find a job while being unable to care for the twins, and eventually dies a lonely premature death. She fails to reconnect with her kids, and they have a hard time forgiving her for their neglect while growing up. What is more, the children were guilted into insuring his conviction by Baby Kochamma, leaving them with a feeling of resentment and loss for the rest of their lives. The aloofness of the adults such as Baby Kochamma and Ammu is what makes the situation even more cruel since Ammu doesn’t seem to ever consider the feelings of her children while risking her life for love, and Baby Kochamma doesn’t realize that they have a mind of their own for which they can figure out the truth of what they got themselves into by lying to the law enforcement.
As far as the story suggests, the children never fully recover from the devastation they witnessed at the age of nine, demonstrating their immense vulnerability at a young age. Ammu, who never truly recovers from heartbreak, becomes completely incapable of taking care of the twins. Estha is “Returned” to his alcoholic dad and, from that day on, he becomes a mute presumably due to the fact that he has been taken away from everyone he loves, in addition to feeling guilt over Velutha’s conviction. Rahel is left with her extended family where she is sent to various boarding schools. She gets kicked out of many of them showing her mental instability and lack of adult guidance. She later marries an American man named Larry and lives with him in Boston. They eventually divorce partly since Rahel seems preoccupied every time they make love. It is understood that Rahel is permanently scarred from the trauma of her childhood surrounding the idea of love. Once reunited, Rahel and Estha share a lot of intimate time together back in India, and they eventually goes as far as to sleeping together. This extreme measure is not out of love or lust, but out of pain. It represents a culmination of all the hardships that the twins have endured both together and separate throughout the years. The act is also a drastic action that goes against the “Love Laws”. It demonstrates that everything has come full circle. Sometimes, the cruelty that love has on characters can stay with them for years and come back to bite them in extreme measures such as incestuous sex. All in all, the lives of Rahel and Estha are severely changed due to them losing their innocence at such a age, making them victims of cruelty.
Estha and Rahel, being young children, are grievously affected by tragic relationships in the novel The God of Small Things. Although they do not suffer physical hardship, the cruelty that is present when young stays with them into their adult lives which shows the vulnerability of children and the power of that love can have.
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Throughout the many relationships in Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things, love, both familial and romantic, is presented as a beautiful, cruel, unjust, and empowering aspect of life. […]