This Commentary will attempt to analyse the underlysing attitudes, assumptions and values of the characters, especially Baby Kochamma in the passage of the novel ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy.
The passage starts of with the imagery of Baby Kochamma sandwiched “between Estha and Rahel”, “on the back seat of the Plymouth” as if she is hiding from the truth and using the twins as a barrier. The truth of her actions, her character and her ideology about the twins.
The preposition “between” to describe her position represents her fear of being caught for her actions explored later on in the story. This is a foreshadowing of an all-important event within which Baby Kochamma plays a vital sinful and murderous role – murder not only of humans, but the theme of love. A dysfunctional family is portrayed through how she, the aunt of the twins, finds her niece and nephew a burden and a “waif”. When Baby Kochamma sits in the back a hierarchy is presented in that more important people sit in the front and the trivial are uncomfortably placed at the back.
The minor sentence “Ex-nun, and incumbent baby grand aunt” is used to give more information for character development and realization of Baby Kochamma’s proudness. The pre-modifier “worse” helps to give a listing effect – a listing of all the uncontrollable negatives the helpless twins had in them, in this case, being half-hindu hybrids. This shows the racism within the Indian society. The alliteration of the ‘h’ sound accentuates their characteristics.
Racism and prejudice is the main reason Margaret Kochamma, a British national is seated in the front of the car. The fact that the words are capitalized gives the effect of it being quoted directly from members of society
The fact that Baby Kochamma believes that “no self-respecting Syrian Christian would ever marry [the twins]” shows the backwardness of society in the rural areas of idea. Baby Kochamma’s character is shown to be very narrow minded – very similar to the caste system in India. This is a criticism of religious discrimination and Roy questions the attitudes, assumptions and values of the characters indirectly. She interrogates the negativity with intercommunity marriages and pleads for a more open-minded and rational society.
Baby Kochamma looks down on Ammu for being a divorcee and the mother of twins. Ammu threw away what Baby Kochamma longs for – love. This is one reason for her hatred. Character development is seen when ironically Baby Kochamma “was keen for them to realize that they (like herself) lived on sufferance…where they really had no right to be”. Baby Kochamma does not want the powerless twins to live in the house she conveniently believes is hers; what she does not realize is that the same rule applies for herself as well as the twins. Her selfish and careless attitude is emphasized on here as her true, materialistic colors are brought to the surface to the reader’s eyes. Later on, as she “persuade[s] herself” that her unrequited love was actually entirely due to her own restraint and determination to do the right thing illustrates how she cannot accept the truth and has to fabricate a false image and perception of the truth to satisfy her own self. This idea puts emphasis upon the theme of betrayal, which she continuously portrays.
The compound word ‘man-less’ is used to show the little power women hold in India without a dominant man in the house. It is as if the presence of a man completes a woman, whose rights are actually very limited by society. The word creates a feeling of deficiency. The repetitive listing of implications of being a divorced daughter in her parents home accentuates her old-fashioned ideology of it being a sin and so shows her ignorance to the modern day world in which they live.
The parenthesis “intercommunity love marriage – Baby Kochamma chose to remain quiveringly silent on the subject” shows her disapproval and will to uphold the rigid social code in which love may be forbidden. The parenthesis also symbolises the taboo associated with multicultural love marriages and shows how Baby Kochamma rather distance herself from it and its related cultural and social tensions. When Baby Kochamma “grudged them their moments of high happiness”, it shows her jealousy. The fact that they can live freely, unlike her who has to live in the darkness due to her past. She finds it difficult to accept the fact that they live amongst happiness.
The last paragraph of the passage relates to the theme of divide amongst social classes. The whole family is described to be a group of Anglophilians “trapped outside their own history and unable to retrace their steps” as they idolize western culture. When there are two flasks of water, boiled and bottled, with bottled being for those who live abroad, there is a juxtaposition of the value held by Indians in India and non-resident Indians. Racism is evident as British people are treated with more respect and admiration. For some characters, being solely an Indian doesn’t hold enough social position, power and definitely does not bring in much respect from a global perspective. The pronoun ‘less’ is repeatedly compounded with words, for example in “Father Mulligan-less Baby Kochamma” and “fatherless waifs”. In both scenarios, there is a man missing from the life of a woman.
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