Magazine article Herizons

The God of Small Things

Magazine article Herizons

The God of Small Things

Article excerpt

THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS

ARUNDHATI ROY

NEW YORK: VINTAGE BOOKS, 1997. 321 PP

The God of Small Things has achieved international fame as a sensitive delineation of forbidden loves, familial bonds, rivalries and guilt; it has also generated protest in the southern Indian state of Kerala where the story is set, for vilifying the Syrian Christian community.

For me, it is not for the story it tells so much as the way it tells the story that makes for its excellence. T.S. Eliot has a line, "A notion of some infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing." The bonds between the twins, Rahel and Estha, and between their mother, Ammu, and Velutha the fisherman-oddjob man, are delicate and quiescent; descriptions of the house, of nature, of the river are luminiscent; and there is always a feeling of motion beneath the surface of things, emotions and events that resonate for a reader.

Rahel returns to her native home from a failed marriage with a white American when she hears that Estha has returned to the family home.

Thirty-year-old Rehal relives two weeks at age seven, when her half-English cousin, Sophie Mol, Estha and she met with an accident that changed their lives. Estha was returned to his estranged father, and now, he had been re-returned by the father to his mother's family. He has totally withdrawn from human contact and speech, and spends his days endlessly walking.

The story is one of irreversible returns. It is a story of a woman and her children, all of whom tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much.

Interestingly, Arundhati Roy's mother, Mary Roy, is a foremother in a feminist context. In India, a section of family law is governed by religious affiliation. Among Syrian Christians, inheritance laws stated that a woman's share of her father's property was one-fourth of each of her brothers' or 5,000 rupees, whichever is less. …

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