Roy’s “God of Small Things” is a work of literary genius that commentates on the difficulties and divisions created by Colonialism and, more broadly, the impact of western influence on the entirety of eastern culture. In the narrative, the idea of “love laws” that govern how the act of loving should be practiced is discussed and exemplified throughout personal character events along the narrative. The stories of characters including Ammu, Velutha, Estha, and Rahel often find difficulty in following the “love laws” as they seem unnatural. The characters are portrayed in a manner that supports civil disobedience in moderation for the purpose of challenging arbitrary rules set by humans in power that silence the powerless.
Roy lays down the love laws at the end of chapter one in the novel, explaining that these set of rules determine “who should be loved, and how. And how much.” (Roy 17) These laws control the intimacies of social behavior, controlling who should be talked to, who should be allowed into one’s home, who should be touched and more. The phrase quoted above is repeated essentially word-for-word in three times within the book. Each time, the repetition is used to further signify the extent at which these regulations are forced upon Indian society–everyday, over and over, again and again. These laws are integrated deeply into Indian society, appearing in rules of gender, family, and caste. As these laws forbid and create taboos about many types of human relationships, an intense curiosity and desire to see what occurs outside the forbidden boundaries can be created especially in those who have witnessed emotional trauma.
The narrative following the destructive path of the love laws sets out Ammu and Velutha to attempt to break down social oppression. Their relationship is perhaps the most blatant disobedience to the “love laws” within the entire story. Ammu and Velutha discover the immense struggle found throughout forbidden lust and desire. This struggle is emphasized through Ammu’s dream of the Velutha and the God of Small things represented by the being of the one-armed man. “If he touched her, he couldn’t talk to her, if he loved her he couldn’t leave, if he spoke he couldn’t listen, if he fought he couldn’t win.” (Roy 104). The use of contradictory phrases highlights how confusing and frustrating it can be to travel beyond the boundaries set by society. Velutha’s sense of confusion is heightened by a sense of abandonment. The communist party spends a great deal of time promoting civil disobedience and attempts to appeal particularly to the lower classes of which velutha is part. However, the party fails to actually go through with this preaching as “the Marxists worked from within the communal divides, never challenging them, never appearing not to.” (Roy 32). Once Velutha had actually performed this act of rebellion, he no longer had Marxist support as he no longer fit into the “communal divides” in which the party was comfortable. While desire and curiosity often fuel the intention of social disobedience, the lack of support from any individual or community in society makes the act a difficult one to carry out.
Yet sometimes the fear of social shame is not enough to stop even the most disgraceful acts against the love laws. Estha and Rahel’s disturbing attempt to love each other after years of separation and emotional trauma exemplifies how, while their are certain aspects of the love laws that were meant to be broken, other parts should be forever avoided especially when the rebellion stems not from lust and desire but confused and battered emotions. The audience doesn’t understand much from the night that the twins made love. It is only understood “that there were tears. Only that Quietness and Emptiness fitted together like stacked spoons.” Only that what Estha and Rahel had “shared that night was not happiness, but hideous grief.” (Roy 152). Roy’s repetitive use of powerful words with dark and hideous connotations emphasizes the principle that there are certain boundaries that, morally, should never be crossed. The twins’ histories of emotional destructive lives have created tendencies to carry out further emotionally unstable actions.
The necessity to challenge social oppression, however, is much better shown in Ammu and Velutha’s breaking of the love laws. While Estha and Rahel’s scene of lovemaking is full of negativity and grief, that of Ammu and Velutha is full of passion and joy. As they created a deep emotional and physical connection, Ammu “danced for him. On that boat-shaped piece of earth. She lived. He held her against him, resting his back against the mangosteen tree, while she cried and laughed at once.” Through this immensely sensual act, “seven years of oblivion lifted off her and flew into the shadows on weighty, quaking wings.” (Roy 157). This passionate scene is plentifully bestrewn with natural and animalistic imagery that depicts the instinctual purity of their forbidden relationship. While the consequences were grave, their prohibited acts were gave the character’s ends meaning. They died in the name of love and in the name of social progress. The somber fate of these characters is a tragedy, yet still is hopeful for a more socially accepting future.
Through the interpersonal struggles of individual characters, Arundhati Roy discusses the necessity to disregard the unwritten laws set by society, specifically against love. While love is a natural human force that is meant to transcend caste, gender and family responsibilities, there are certain laws that were never meant to broken such as those pertaining to incest. Ultimately, however, the artificial limits and boundaries often created by the influence of colonialism and western society should always be met with some level of noncompliance. There are many unjust rules and expectations placed upon powerless members of society. These laws must be broken if those without power should ever have a voice. The arbitrary rules set by humans to control other humans take power away from the weak, the emotional traumatized, and other hapless victims. The social constructs of the west and east will likely never cease without the help of civil disobedience and the desire to go beyond the boundaries set by the ignorant.