Essay Example. God of Small Things: The influence of Political and Social Structures

Published: 2023-11-14
Essay Example. God of Small Things: The influence of Political and Social Structures
Essay type:  Book review
Categories:  Discrimination Character analysis Books
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1808 words
16 min read

Political structures are the institutions and groups of individuals in a society and how they relate to one another within the community. The concept also covers the various patterns of interactions between members of society within their political systems. These systems comprise rules, regulations, and norms that dictate the political landscape, including how the government of a particular jurisdiction should run. On the other end, the social structure acts as the counterpart of political structure from the social domain. Therefore, political activities, along with social structures, strongly influence the coexistence of people in the community and how to treat each other. The influences of these concepts are evident in the 1997 novel "The God of Small Things," written by Arundhati Roy. In the book, the writer follows two fraternal twins' experiences who are also the main characters and how their lives are affected by society’s political and social structures. Therefore, the analysis conducted in this essay focuses on identifying and discussing how the various political and social structures in the novel influence the treatment and experiences of the characters.

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The theme that struck out the most in Arundhati's novel "The God of Small Things," is social relationships and the political and social factors that shape and define relations beyond one's own culture and caste. The novel focuses on Syrian Christians, which is a despised religious minority in India. It includes the history of the religion and their struggles and difficulties fitting in within the social structures established by local Hindus. As a result, the system influenced various characters changed their ways of lives and converted their religions. For instance, in the novel, Velutha’s grandfather decided to turn his belief. He decided to prevent him from being mistreated and tormented the untouchable (Sarker & Rahman, 2018). As a result, the choice presented the Anglicans' opportunity to take over and establish western colonial influence. In the first chapter of the novel, the story reveals that the great grandfather to Rahel and Estha was a former priest at the Mar Thoma church (Sarker & Rahman, 2018). Based on the story’s setting, members of society identify and recognize this church as a separate church and different from the local traditions. As a result, they mistreated and separated themselves from the associates of the church. For instance, Chacko, Rahel's, and Estha's maternal uncle laid out self-mocking comments about the family’s Anglophilia. He associates his family with admiration for western people and their cultures. Chacko narrates to Rahel and Estha about their family being Anglophiles. He argues that the family is trapped outside their history and culture, and therefore cannot retrace their origins and roots, which makes him despise them.

From the title, the novel addresses and explores how small and straightforward things of social and political background can affect people’s behavior and lives. The story addresses the case system, which is an essential part of the Hindu tradition in India. Arundhati Roy illustrates how people's divisions based on this system influence and determine people's treatment to one another. The caste system dictates not only the occupations of people but also the interaction levels of lower or higher castes. The concept of caste originates from early Indian myths and divides society into four different social orders. The upper caste enjoys opportunities and wealth, while the lower caste associates with menial tasks—however, another group of people, the untouchables who are outside and beneath the caste system. Society expects untouchables to engage in demeaning jobs such as garbage removal; therefore, they are required not to contact other groups. For instance, Velutha is a Paravan, an untouchable who, despite being smart, receives various forms of mistreatments due to his social status. He works as a carpenter at the Paradise Pickles and Preserves Factory owned by Ammu’s family. Ammu, on the other hand, is a Christian woman who belongs to the upper ranks of the social class system. The community did not allow the untouchables to travel freely on the roads, use umbrellas, or wear clothes in their upper bodies (Sarker & Rahman, 2018). On a separate occasion, Mammachi, the twins’ grandmother, tells Rahel and Estha that the community expects the untouchables to crawl backward with a broom to clean their footprints to prevent Brahmins from accidentally stepping on them.

Being a Paravan, Velutha receives unfair treatment from other workers who always resent him, and he is also paid less money despite delivering quality work. His presence at the factory and society at large seems to worry people since they consider him to be actin above his perceived levels. Even his father identifies this issue as a significant concern from his son. Society feels threatened by the way he walked, held his head, provided suggestions without asked, and the way he disregarded other opinions with less or no appearance to rebel. Velutha’s sense of self-satisfaction and pride seems to cause him troubles and mistreatment throughout the story. For instance, he is a dedicated member of the Marxist Party. Still, his Paravan status makes his colleagues hate, dislike, and mistreat him (Chapter III social realism in Arundhati Roy’s the God of small things, n.d). Even the local party leader, Comrade K.N.M. Pillai, is routed to be successful in the political field without the help of Velutha. Elsewhere, Ammu, an upper-caste woman, gets in a love relationship with Velutha, a member of the lowest social class in society. Therefore, Velutha finds himself breaking a rigid social rule and an ancient taboo that often viewed as a bodily and fatal protest towards old oppressions (Sarker & Rahman, 2018). As a result, the authorities and Ammu's family punish him for his actions. Therefore, the police beat Velutha to death, and the author describes their violent acts as out of fear of powerlessness and nature. On the other end, according to the traditional norms of the story’s society, a woman is to be expelled from her caste if she engages in a sexual relationship with a man from a lower social class. As a result of that social norm, Ammu's family and friends shunned her (Chapter III, social realism in Arundhati Roy’s the God of small things, n.d).

The author of the novel also addressed the concept of social norms that portrays society backwardness through the relationship of Mammachi and Pappachi. Mammachi is an extremely talented violinist, and this is indicated through her teacher’s comments. The tutor revealed that she possessed great potential and abilities that can make her a famous violinist. However, the community’s social values require a woman to get married and submit to a man’s demand and attend to his service. As a result, Mammachi dropped her dreams of becoming a famous violinist and instead decided to get married to Pappachi. The twins’ grandfather forced their grandmother to immediately stop her violinist lessons to attend household chores and play the housewife role. In this case, Pappachi was afraid of Mammachi making more of herself than him. Through this relationship, the Arundhati Roy aimed to portray the theme of women objectification, which was deemed right during the time. The social norm concerning women as men’s object shaped and influenced Mammachi’s treatment throughout her marriage. For instance, Mammachi suffered physical abuse from her husband, Pappachi, for several years. Later, the abuse stopped when Chacko, the couple's son, confronted his father for his mother's sake. Surprisingly, upon her husband’s death, Mammachi cried at the funeral despite the mistreatments she received from him. However, Ammu revealed that her mother mourned his father's death not because she loved him but because she felt obligated to do so, and she was also used to him. Mammachi’s tears represented emptiness since she was bound to him, and social values also perceived marriage as a source of happiness.

Elsewhere, the submissive nature of Mammachi is not only portrayed towards Pappachi but also her son, Chacko. Mammachi ensured that her life revolves around providing pleasure and happiness to her son and husband since she felt that society required her to worship and satisfy male figures. After Chacko stood up to defend her against Pappachi’s abusive behaviors, Mammachi thought that she is obliged to attend to Chacko’s desires. For instance, she designed a door specifically for her son’s sexual needs every night. She would allow Chacko to bring women of distinct class in and out of the door and permitted herself to be controlled him ever since. Also, the author of the novel portrays several instances of political oppression and social seclusion through Ammu and her twin children. First, Rahel and Estha receive unjust treatments simply because they have no home or father who is identified as the head of the family (Shukla & Bareli, 2009). While growing up, the twins faced massive seclusion from society, and all they had was each other, which made them be develop a strong sister-brother bond. On the other end, their mother, Ammu, faced unjust treatments due to the unfair social structures and political underpinnings. For instance, she was forced to marry an abusive and alcoholic husband just to fulfill the social requirement of marriage. Ammu endured the oppression of her husband since she had no power to confront or impact change to the oppressive political system.

In general, through her novel "God of Small Things," Roy portrays various instances where political and social structures influence the treatment of members of society. For example, Chacko despises his family for turning their backs on their roots and embracing western culture. Also, the community has a caste system, which distinguishes individuals into social classes. For instance, members of untouchables such as Velutha are mistreated and paid less money despite delivering quality work. The Paravans are also barred from engaging in love affairs with women from higher social classes. As a result, the police officer brutally beats Velutha to death while Ammu is expelled from society. Elsewhere, Mammachi is also forced to abandon her dreams of becoming a famous violinist to become Pappachi's wife. In the marriage, she receives unjust treatment and physical abuse.


Chapter III Social Realism in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things (n.d.). Retrieved August

16, 2020, from

Sarker, M. A., & Rahman, M. M. (2018). The intermingling of History and Politics in The God of Small Things. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 9(4), 138., V., & Bareli, F. (2009). Untouchability and Social Exclusion in Arundhati Roy’s The

God of Small Things (1997). Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences, 1(3), 963–967.‌

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