The Opposing Forces in Anundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things
In “The God of Small Things” by Anundhuti Roy, there are two opposing forces in various forms effecting each character. There is the “Small Thing” which constitute literally small things in nature but also the small things in life like secrets. “Big Things” include the controlling factors of life which is society and those governing everything around them. Velutha, a very crucial character in the novel is seen to be the God of Small Things as well. An analysis of Velutha representing “Small Things” and his role with the river shows him trying to break a barrier between the “Small Thing” and the “Big Thing” which is representative of how nature is being destroyed and thrown out like Velutha is by the end of novel.
Velutha’s role as being the God of Small Things is explicitly shown and represented through Ammu’s dream in Chapter 11. Her dream shows her having an intimate moment at sea with one arm man who left no trace, who gave her happiness. The chapter titled “God of Small Things” shows signs of Ammu’s attraction towards Velutha. On page 210, she says, “She knew who he was – the God of Loss, the God of Small Things. Of course she did.” This is a clear indication of how Velutha represents the God of Small Things.
Figuratively, Velutha is a small thing in society because of his status as an untouchable. That is transmitted literally into reality because of how he is dismissed in many places due to his social status. Ammu’s family and even his own family begin to detest him, and think that he will bring trouble to their families. However, the twins, Rahel and Estha, don’t see him in eyes of society and build a bond with him. They are unaware of his status as an untouchable or as a communist, and still continue a friendship with him despite the family’s protests. Firstly, we see him trying to break the barrier of the Big Things with the help of nature, the river specifically, when he teaches the twins how to fish. On page 75, it says “It was Velutha who made Rahel her luckiest-ever fishing rod and taught her and Estha to fish.” He’s trying to pass his knowing and knowledge of the river to the twins.
Moving on, when Velutha returns after a disappearance of few years, that is when his relationship with the twins is prospering. He’s able to surpass being a small speck in the background and become more to the twins, become more in the factory, and even become more for Ammu. He uses the river to travel beyond the “low hut” his family of three lived in. Living in a forest and away from society shows that he is opposite of the Big Thing, but rather that Velutha is the God of Small Things. He is in his own space in the hut, despite its circumstances, it brings him content and is home to him. The river is what separates the Big Things and the Small Things, specifically the untouchables and the rest of society. .
The river is the “forbidden territory” that all of members of the family cross over, and almost all the encounters led them to meet with Velutha, one way or another. “They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws…” (31) And the biggest rule broken was the forbidden love between Ammu and Velutha. Despite it being forbidden, they made it work till it led Velutha to his ultimate death. First of all, Velutha is seen floating before their meeting in the last chapter. “He was free to lie in the river and drift slowly with the current. A log. A serene crocodile. “(315) It is as if he is one with the river, and that he is content with it and his life at the moment. The description of him being a like a log and crocodile make it seem like he is a part of the river, a part of nature even, rather than a Small Thing or the enemy of the Big Thing. This can be related back to Ammu’s dream of a man who left no footprint or ripple in the ocean, who left no mark behind because Velutha is one with nature. This is also why he is able to carry out his feelings for Ammu in this moment, he is able to rid himself of society’s disapproving and use the river to meet his love. The river is seen as the only witness of their consummation that night, and that’s why the river is a crucial factor in how Velutha, the Small Thing, tries to break the barrier of the Big Thing, society and its rules, to be with Ammu.
An idea the reinforces his character being a part of Nature is the metaphor revolving around his name. In Malayalam, Velutha’s name mean “White.” This is such a contrast because in reality, Velutha is very dark colored. The meaning of his name can indicate the Velutha is all that is pure and natural, reinforcing the idea of him being a part of nature and disregarding all of society’s pressures and expectations.
Despite him trying to break the barriers, it is clear that he is not successful in doing so. Right in the beginning, we are told that Velutha is dead and we make an inference that is related to Ammu’s family somehow. When the twins and Sophie Mol try to run away and travel through the river, they lose Sophie Mol and the police charge Velutha with this horrific incident. But in the end, we come to know that he dies due to the beating he endures the by the Touchable policemen despite being innocent of all the crimes he was accused of.
As mentioned earlier, Velutha is all that is pure and nature, thus the river’s life is analogous to how Velutha’s life becomes as well. In the beginning of the novel we see told about the beautiful view of the river, then how it shrinks in every May. Estha even goes on to describe the river to be “warm, the water. Gray green. Like rippled silk.” (116) But right after the death of Sophie Mol, the river has changed its appearance. It “was no more than a swollen drain now. A thin ribbon of thick water that lapped wearily at the mud banks on either side, sequined with the occasional silver slant of dead fish.” (116) The river no longer had the beauty and power that it once held, similar to how Velutha was beautiful and one with nature at one point but was killed at the hands of the Big Things.
A way the river goes along with the “Big Things” is when it protects them. While Chapter 5 starts off by describing the foulness of it, the smell, the swollen drain it has become, it signifies everything it holds for the people. (117) It holds Ammu and Velutha’s secret love, it holds the separation of the caste systems (Paravans and the Touchables), and it holds the secret to Sophie’s death. These are topics that were present but never publicly acknowledged by anyone. So, the “Small Things” are in fact actually helping to cover what the “Big Things” have continuously tried to suppress or do not approve of. But unfortunately, in the end, it is the Small Things that end up destroying itself, the river and Velutha.
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