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ISSN: 0974-892X

January, 2009



Lata Mishra

Indian Masculinity and its Cultural Context: A Study of The God of Small Things

The present paper attempts to explore the questions like, how are gender constructions related to cultural memory or, how is cultural memory connected to generic, national and ethnic constructions? An attempt shall also be made to analyze gender, memory and nationality. The national identity refers both to the distinguishing features of the group, and to the individual's sense of belonging to it. Joseph Stalin defines nation as: 
A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.(3) 
In the formulations of masculinity, the functions of the two parameters of colonialism and modernity (globalization) shall be discussed. What masculinities emerge in Roy’s The God of Small Things, the multilayered, hybrid text torn between intersecting views of local concepts of the positioning of the man, the legacy of colonialism, and the impacts of modernity and globalization is analysed. The main discussion centers on the male identity construction as an embodiment of the gender politics of the Indian postcolonial society.  
Roy’s novel is a multidimensional tale whose many meanings cannot be reduced to a single message or lesson. Nonetheless, the novel has important implications for those in cultural and feminist studies attempting to theorise nationalism and transnationalism in relation to other systems of stratification like gender, caste and race. Roy describes and comments on history by narrating the story of a few individuals. The narrator of Roy's The God of Small Things uses imagery and symbols to impose coherence on the incoherent past. The novelist frames her narrative within ancestral family home. Set in a small town in Kerala, The God of Small Things is about a family, seen from the perspective of seven-year-old Rahel. She and her twin brother, Estha, live with their mother, Ammu, who was married to a Bengali, the children's Baba, but from whom she is divorced. The twins seem to live on sufferance in the Ayemenem house with their grandmother, uncle, and grand-aunt Baby.  
The family owns a pickle factory that comes into conflict with the Communists. The Ipe family, which has a long and distinguished history as members of the local Syrian Christian elite, disintegrates, fragments and scatters across the globe in the years between 1969 and 1992 as a new elite represented by Comrade Pillai, the local communist leader, comes to take their place. Two weeks before disaster strikes in 1969, the entire Ipe family comprising of the widow Mammachi, her sister-in-law Baby Kochamma, her divorced and Oxford-educated son Chacko, her divorced and rebellious daughter Ammu and Ammu’s twin children, the seven-year- old Rahel and Esthappen await the visit from England of Chacko’s ex-wife Margaret and their daughter Sophie, whom he has never seen. The twins plan how to escape across the river to an abandoned plantation house, where they secretly begin stocking their supplies. Sophie insists on accompanying them on one of their trips, but a floating log overturns their clumsy boat. Sophie drowns while the twins swim to shore too frightened to return home. 
Perhaps one of the most shocking depictions of female/male relationships in The God of Small Things is the relationship between Mammachi and Pappachi. Masculinity in a patriarchal society is a symbol of power and a living necessity for any man. The patriarchal society, in correspondence to the men’s anxiety for deficient expression of masculinity and desire for privileges, allows men to demonstrate masculinity through torturing their women. 'Masculinity' (like 'femininity') is a fictional construct. It carries no meaning outside its materialised and culturalized expression. New directions in feminist studies have begun to take up this problem of rethinking masculinity. Efforts are being made towards reconceptualizing the project and politics of feminist transformation. R. W. Connell defines hegemonic masculinity: 
as the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy which guarantees … the dominant position of men and the subordination of women.(71) 
 This characterizes asymmetric gender relations as 'practices' as well as it points towards proposition about the dynamics of change. By "[c]urrently accepted answers," Connell seems to suggest that hegemonic masculinities have the propensities to change as any other societal form.  
Gender is a social practice that constantly refers to bodies and what bodies do, it is not a social practice reduced to the body.(71) 
Manhood in the novel is” defined by the degree of control men exercise over women and the degree of passivity of women of the caste”. (Kannabiran and Kannabiran 254) The relationship between Mammachi and Pappachi is conducted as a complicated exchange between east and west as well as class, gender, and caste. While it might be expected that an aspiring Anglophile such as Pappachi would adopt so-called “modern” ways, the extent of Pappachi’s reforms were mostly limited to outer forms, such as his preference for western attire and his beloved Plymouth. The fundamental structures of his home life, particularly his manorial rule over his wife and children, did not change. When these intimate structures were found threatening to Pappachi on the grounds that they violated proper modes of gendered, class, or caste behavior, the problem was solved through the deployment of traditional gender roles. Traditional gender roles are deployed as the salve for egos bruised by a lifetime’s work that has gone unrecognized by the proper British authorities. For example, the deployment of traditional gender roles allows Pappachi to refuse Mammachi to explore her potentially concert class violin skills in Europe but enables her to be an entrepreneur who owns and manages her own business in Kerala.  
Some critics talk of a transition from patriarchy to what they call ‘masculinism’.  They characterize patriarchy as a pre-capitalist social order organized around household production and ‘masculinism’ as the industrial capitalist system itself. The novel voices patriarchal prejudice against the education of women, which actually was a commonly held view during the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, and whose final aim would be to grant the superiority of the husband in relation to his wife, keeping the family patriarch in a position of power. The theme of denial to access to education to a woman concerns Mammachi. After she has been married to Pappachi (the father/grandfather in the Ipe family), she went to Vienna with her husband, for a six month period (the time of Pappachi’s course), and she started to attend violin lessons: 
The lessons were abruptly discontinued when Mammachi’s teacher, Launsky-Tieffenthal, made the mistake of telling Pappachi that his wife was exceptionally talented and, in his opinion, potentially concert class. (227). 
The fact that Arundhati Roy makes Pappachi particularly resentful of his wife’s talent is not very meaningful in itself. Though this behaviour may be interpreted as an individual flaw in character and nothing more than that but the issue takes a different dimension due to the coherence of all the scenes regarding women’s education. Repeatedly, the men around all the women prevent them from developing their potentialities to the full. Radical feminism equates patriarchy with male domination.  It is a system of social relations in which the class ‘men’ have power over the class ‘women’ because women are sexually devalued.  One of the tasks of postcolonial writers is to reconstruct the histories silenced by colonialist history or, if these histories have been lost completely, to construct alternative histories.
In The God of Small Things, Roy attempts to blur the boundaries between the binary archetypes of the ‘bad’ colonizer and the ‘good’ colonized by introducing characters of both races and all possible moral standings to the story. Pappachi is the perfect example of this binary archetype as he is very much a part of the colonized, both racially and politically. His description as an Anglophile or, more crudely, “a Hindi shit-wiper” (50) places him in a hegemonic relationship with his colonizer. Although he believes that he has some choice and some authority in his social position, it is obvious that Pappachi’s dreams, ambition, occupation, and hobbies are defined and determined by the English and reveal his dependence on the white colonizer’s expectation of him. While he is most definitely a colonized individual, Pappachi is anything but innocent and does not conform to the faultless, innocent, subservient stereotypical role. His behavior exposes his faults as a human being and reveals the abuse of power and exploitation within the colonized group. 
Entrepreneurship and independent business ventures seem a more typically masculine activity insofar as they require a more substantial dealing with the economic sphere of commerce. Pappachi seems to tolerate Mammachi’s entrepreneurship because it had to do with the cooking and preparation of traditional Indian foods and condiments. Mammachi’s business venture allows her access to the public sphere of economic exchange, which eventually morphs her home into a factory and Pappachi’s coveted Plymouth into an advertisement on wheels, all of which make the homely domestic sphere an unhomely one through its overt commercialization. The fact that this venture engages with the traditional feminine role of woman as nurturer and guardian of authentic tradition through traditional foods mitigates any threat to her femininity. Still, Pappachi views the business venture as some sort of threat, for it expands the bounds of their home, but not in ways that result in the increase of maternal or wifely attention towards children and a dejected, lonely husband. Pappachi may weave “sullen circles around the mounds of red chilies and freshly powdered yellow turmeric” (46-47), but he never engages in an act of violence against the business as he does against her budding musical talent when he snaps Mammachi’s violin in two.  
Mammachi is portrayed as the stereotypical vulnerable woman, defenseless against her husband’s violence and powerless against his rage. She makes no attempt to defend herself and constantly lives in fear.  In the name of this “morality” she accepted the interruption of her violin classes, the beatings with a brass flower vase and the flogging of her daughter, Ammu. The violence Pappachi inflicts on his wife and daughter is a theme which combines sexism and colonialism in such a way that it deserves particular discussion, connecting this episode to other similar moments of intersection in the plot of the novel (like the family adoration for Sophie Mol and the indecent proposal of Mr. Hollick to “take care” of Ammu). By beating his women, (Mammachi and Ammu) he is asserting his masculinity in the only way left for him. According to Ania Loomba, this unfortunate scheme of compensation was neither isolated nor unique: 
(...) Colonialism intensified patriarchal relations in colonised lands, often because native men, increasingly disenfranchised and excluded from the public sphere, became more tyrannical at home. They seized upon the home and the women as emblems of their culture and nationality.”(168) 
For some men the most effective and efficient way to extract women’s respect and subjection to manhood is to discipline their bodies by violent humiliation, especially when men feel that there is an urgent need to put their fists on them for punishment. Pappachi, retired from his government job, spent his retirement watching his wife running her own career successfully, feels his manhood hurt. He decides to restore his masculine pride in a way deserving of real man, so  
every night he beat her with a brass flower vase. The beatings weren’t new. What was new was only the frequency with which they took place.”(47) 
In this case, tyranny at home is not a form of cultural or nationalist assertion, for Pappachi rejected Indian culture and the only nationality he covets is British, but, as a man, he feels “disenfranchised and excluded” assimilating racial disempowerment as a form of castration. For the colonised subject, the violent subjugation of women becomes perversely important as mimicry of a display of colonial power. While Pappachi is not alive during the unfolding of events, his presence as a dominating, controlling male figure is felt throughout the book and is objectified in the infamous moth that “torments him and his children and his children’s children”. (48) The numerous descriptions of him beating his wife with a brass vase or cruelly destroying the gumboots his daughter adores portray him as a malicious tyrant and reinforces the common female victim/male victimizer binary opposition. 
Late at night he went into his study and brought out his favorite mahogany rocking chair. He put it down in the middle of the driveway and smashed it into little bits with a plumber’s monkey wrench. . . . He never touched Mammachi again. But he never spoke to her either as long as he lived. . . . In the evenings, when he knew visitors were expected, he would sit on the verandah and sew buttons that weren’t missing onto his shirts, to create the impression that Mammachi neglected him. To some small degree he did succeed in further corroding Ayemenem’s view of working wives. (47) 
The physical violence of the nightly beatings shifts to a more subtle and less obvious form of intimate violence that also has a dual political agenda of keeping wives unemployed and as economically and emotionally dependent on their husbands as possible, even as those husbands were themselves unemployed and physically decrepit. The gendered subjugation of Pappachi’s passive aggressive “revenge” is quite obvious; what lurks just beneath the surface is a highly gendered and classed definition of women’s rightful place. Because he is unemployed and because his career ended without “proper” acknowledgement of his achievements, he is jealous of his wife whose business is thriving. Hence, Mammachi’s greater success becomes the thing that enables a larger hatred and fear of women and a conservative backlash against improper class behaviour. 
            The God of Small Things launches big political questions not through the public sphere of politics, the Communist party, or national historical narratives, rather it demonstrates that the private sphere of intimate relations and the family saga it relates is the only site where the things that the Small God can tell are buried and discovered, examined and accounted for, and preserved as a different sort of historical memory. Pappachi’s inability to gain the public accolades of the British administration is metaphorized in his moth, which is then cast into the intimate sphere to bring about destruction to Rahel and Estha. Pappachi’s moth becomes a family curse that visits itself upon each subsequent generation of the family.  
Gender is a key issue that Roy deals with in her novel. Women in India have been subjected to a certain degree of patriarchal rule throughout the centuries. While women were definitely seen as the weaker sex in the past, India, like most nations, has experienced a form of feminism and is moving towards female empowerment. (Narasimhan 10) By designating different degrees of power to different individuals, Roy challenges the dominant/subordinate conventional nature of the female/male relationship. The novel’s realist project is manifest in its record of the daily events of family life and the complexity of family dynamics; a fidelity to children’s experience, language, and perspective; detailed descriptions of setting that give narrative representation to the little-represented Keralan community of Syrian Christians. These themes are painstakingly represented in the novel. The text sharply focuses on the “small” people (children, women, and dalits) and the seemingly insignificant moments of everyday life.

            From a feminist point of view, the selected writer offers a critique of local patriarchies, advocating an agenda for social reform that would improve the position of women in our Indian society. Through the use of “gender” as an analytical concept the patterns of thought and behaviour, determined by patriarchal mentalities may be established, exposing their stressing effect on women. Simultaneously, sexual difference theories enables one to monitor resistance and evaluate self-awareness, as a means to confront the social perpetuation of patriarchal codes, inscribing in the horizon of possible role models alternative ways of being a woman. Patriarchy may be explained as a system of male authority which oppresses women through its social, political and economic institutions.  In any of the historical forms that patriarchal society takes, whether it is feudal, capitalist or socialist, a sex-gender system and a system of economic discrimination operate simultaneously.  The concept ‘patriarchy’ is crucial to contemporary feminism because feminism needed a term by which the totality of oppressive and exploitative relations which affect women could be expressed.  Over and above this particular characterization, each feminist theory finds that a different feature of patriarchy defines women’s subordination.  Kate Millett argues that patriarchy is analytically independent of capitalist or other modes of production. She defines patriarchy as 
a set of social relations with a material base operating on a system of male hierarchical relations and male solidarity.  She denies that patriarchy is universal and unchanging and claims that its intensity changes over time. (26) 
Arundhati Roy offers a concrete set of directions to change the position of women in Indian society, but she puts a lot of energy in encouraging a critical, rebellious perspective to consider current patterns of feminine identity in India. By contrast to the traditionally promoted accommodating and devoted figures, Roy constructs rebellious and dissenting women characters. Parents tend to see daughters as a sort of mere passing guests, a continuous source of worry until they are married off and dowries adequately paid, dismissing daughters as future members of the household. Since they are to be given away, daughters have less “locus standi” at the core of their own blood families, which amounts to say that power, continuity, and, eventually, acknowledged membership, are all male privileges in terms of family organisation.  
What is special in Roy’s text is that she explicitly links this “male child” oriented mentality to a lack of support and care concerning daughters, which diminishes their self-esteem from birth, affecting their own self-image for life. Our societies live by these codes, especially the higher castes or powerful high class communities (like the Syrian Christians of Kerala). Arundhati Roy vehemently denounces and criticises gender segregation among one’s progeny. The example of the tense relationship between Ammu and her family is a clear fictional argument to confront the reader with the no place of daughters inside traditional patriarchal families, as it happens with the Syrian Christian community of Kerala.  Since daughters are to be married off, it does not make sense “to waste money” in the education of girls. That is why, in this high caste/class family, the son, Chacko, is sent to Oxford to study, while the daughter, Ammu, is expected to remain quietly at home after high school. Pappachi (grandfather, the patriarch of the household) considered “a college education (...) an unnecessary expense for a girl”( 225), so, after high school, there would be no prospects for Ammu, apart from waiting for marriage. But even that was neglected in this case. Ammu simply did not count, and there was no question of raising a dowry and finding a suitable husband. Not even that. The same procedure was repeated years later with Rahel, the daughter of Ammu.  
The fact that the plot includes the lives of three generations of women from the same family is important as a context for all the feminist issues discussed in the novel. It makes one reflect on both the mutability and continuity of certain forms of oppression. Education is a key topic for that matter. For the women of the older generation, Mammachi and Baby Kochamma, education was regarded as something “damaging” in a bride, or wife. The novel only mentions two details, but they were significant enough to hover through the rest of the plot, as a complement for the wider point, which is the unfair treatment of women as concerns education opportunities within the frame of traditional Indian mentalities. The first of these telling passages refers to Baby Kochamma. Her father only allowed her to study ornamental gardening in America because she had developed a ‘reputation’, “was unlikely to find a husband”, and “since she could not have a husband there was no harm in her having an education”(226). Note, nevertheless, that the last generation of the Ipe family, Rahel, does get access to university, and it seems to be the case that, in more general terms, the old prejudice has eroded away.  
Chacko, nurtured by the same culture that has a fixation on masculinity, concealed the reality that he was not able to get a place in the job market by taking over Mammachi’s pickle factory,even though he had legally claimed ownership of all the family’s properties. “My Factory. My pineapples ,my pickles,” Chacko spoke loud like a roaring lion (56). Chacko creates an image of a well educated dignified man by ceasing Pappachi’s domestic violence. This way he easily manages to take his father’s position. Ammu calls him “a Male Chauvinistic Pig” (144). He assigns easily Mammachi the title of “sleeping Partner “(55) in the Pickle Factory. As a successor to Pappachi, Chacko becomes a new patriarch of the Ipe family. Pappachi recedes back to  
his favorite mahogany chair which is reduced to “a heap of varnished  wicker and splintered wood”(47). “Mammachi packed her wifely luggage and committed it to Chacko’s care. From then onwards he became the repository of all her womanly feelings (160). 
Love Laws often become flexible for men. Dube comments, 
In the case of inter-caste sexual relations a man incurs external pollution which can be washed off easily but a woman incurs internal pollution which pollutes her permanently. (231) 
 When Chacko was discovered having sexual activities with the women in the pickle factory, the act was justified since trite sexist values and biased caste ideology of society were already internalized. Mammachi said, “he can’t help having a Man’s Needs” (160). Mammachi, 
had a separate entrance built for Chacko’s room, which was at the eastern end of the house, so that the objects of his “Needs” wouldn’t have to go traipsing through the house. She secretly slipped them money to keep them happy. …. The arrangement suited Mammachi, because in her mind, a fee clarified things. Disjuncted  sex from love. Need from feelings. (161) 
This injustice is perpetrated by a group of the characters who are themselves the victims of injustice. Mammachi, Ammu's mother, who endured her husband's abusive attitude, ignores Chako's sexual exploitation of the female workers, but she cannot tolerate her daughter's love affair with a Parvan. Baby Kochamma, the defender of the system, would go to any limit to save the so-called family honour. The novel shows the process of creating and labeling Parvans within the high class families -- the people who go beyond the unwritten laws of society in pursuit of happiness.   Chacko represents allegorically a decaying and ineffective Brahmin elite caught up in a love- hate relation with its former rulers.  
Leela Dube’s clear observation about Indian culture is an index for us to figure out the intricate relationship between gender and caste. As Dube has pointed out,
The cultural schemes which underlie the caste system are based upon a fundamental difference between male and female bodies in respect of their vulnerability to incur impurity through sexual intercourse.(232) 
Feminist cultural criticism and the postcolonial critique of nationalist discourses have illuminated how women are constructed as signs and symbols of the nation or ethnic/cultural community in nationalism.  As such, women's bodies often begin to bear the symbolic burden (Chatterjee 233)10, as evidenced by colonial historians like Partha Chatterjee and literary critics like Sangeeta Ray, amongst others, of signifying culture and tradition, community and nation. (Ray 250) While the violence perpetrated by men against women's bodies has received much attention, this article deliberately focuses on the cultural representation of masculinity in the novel. The theme of caste and gender is also explored in the form of Ammu’s and Velutha’s romantic love affair, which undermines the logic of caste superiority as well as sensibilities of propriety for the high caste Christian Indian woman.  
As a young boy Velutha used to come with his father to the back entrance of the Ayemenem House to deliver coconuts (Pappachi didn’t allow untouchables into the house). Mammachi noticed Velutha’s remarkable facility with his hands when he was eleven and therefore persuaded Vellya Paapen to send him to the Untouchables’ School that her father-in-Law had founded. When he was fourteen years of age he began to work with Johann Klein in his workshop. He went to Kottayam every day after school by bus and only returned at night. At the age of sixteen Velutha finished high school and was an accomplished carpenter. He had his own set of Carpentry tools and a distinctly German design sensibility. He built Mammachi a Bauhaus dinning table with twelve dining chairs and for Baby Kochamma’s annual Nativity plays he made her a stack of wire-framed angel’s wings. Apart from his carpentry skills he also understood a lot of machines. Mammachi often said that if only he hadn’t been a Paravan, he might have become an engineer. He looked after everything in the House.   
Vellya Paapen had the sensation that his son had qualities and characteristics that were perfectly acceptable and even desirable in touchables but should and could not exist in a Paravan. He offered suggestions without being asked and didn’t consider suggestions that others made but simply always acted as he wanted. Vellya Paapen had fear of what this might cause in the future and tried to caution Velutha. But since he could not exactly say what it was that made him think so, his son misunderstood him and interpreted it as nagging which started to destroy the good relation between father and son. Consequently, Velutha began to avoid going home and preferred to sleep outside near the river. One day he disappeared and only returned four years later without giving any explanation. By then his mother was dead and his older brother paralysed. Velutha still had the same qualities which his father so much feared when he returned, but this time Vellya Paapen didn’t say a word even tough he feared for him now more than ever. 
Five months after he returned, Mammachi rehired Velutha and put him in charge of general maintenance. This created angriness among the other workers as Paravans were not meant to be carpenters and surely not meant to be rehired, so, in order to keep the others happy, she paid him less than she would a touchable carpenter but more than she would a Paravan. Mammachi wanted him to be grateful that he was allowed on the factory premises and touched things that touchables touched, therefore she always said that it was a big step for a Paravan. In the months since he had returned a big friendship arose between him, Estha and Rahel. They began to spend much time together, Velutha taught them how to fish and they often sat together for hours. He also helped them to mend the boat which they had found. Vellya Paapen feared for Velutha. He couldn’t say what it was that frightened him. 
It was nothing that he had said or done. It was not what he said but the way he said it. Not what he did but the way he did it (71) 
While Velutha was known and familiar to the family and develops a loving and even father-like relationship with the youngsters, because he is a dalit servant, he is assigned “outsider” status to the house and the family designation. Velutha offers what is denied to Ammu, Estha and Rahel in society and family. In the daylight, he is the best companion of the children, who feel suffocated in Aymenm because of their divorced mother. The outer world is hostile, and only the few moments they spend with Velutha afford real happiness. Ammu meets him in darkness, along the riverbank -- a symbol of division between the two classes. Failure to observe culturally valued and gendered prescriptions for behaviour can lead to social disapproval and even punitive social reaction. It also leads to self-doubt, guilt and shame since these values are deeply internalized and become core regulators of self-esteem. This helps to understand how women are co-opted into systems that oppress them. 
Reader in Ammu’s broken marriage perceives a cowardly husband. He failed his responsibility, withdrawing from his position as a father and husband out of the family. By his not being an loving husband or protective father that conforms to social expectations, Roy raises a question about the concept of traditional masculinity: Is it appropriate to regard masculinity as a result of cultural constructs? In the novel, the laws of India's caste system are broken by the characters of Ammu and Velutha, an Untouchable or Paravan. Velutha works at the Paradise Pickles and Preserves Factory owned by Ammu's family. Yet, because he is an Untouchable, the other workers resent him and he is paid less money for his work. Velutha's presence is unsettling to many who believe he acts above his station. His own father notes this problem:
"Perhaps it was just a lack of hesitation. An unwarranted   assurance. In the way he walked. The way  he held his head. The quiet way he offered suggestions without being asked. Or the quiet way in which he disregarded suggestions without appearing  to rebel" (73).  
When they were young, Velutha used to call Ammu Ammukutty (= little Ammu) even though she was three years older. He made several toys which he would hold out on his palms so that she wouldn’t need to touch him to take them. Ammu’s love affair with Velutha has very little interiority, which makes it appear to have abandoned its realist sensibilities. In their affair, the political injunction of the Love Laws that forbids members from unequal castes from romantically associating with each other forces the novel away from interiority. Their relationship seems tender, yet a purely erotic encounter that is described with all of the sentimentality of a popular romance novel. While the events of the plot certainly revolve around the love affair between Ammu and Velutha, there are few actual representations of the two interacting. Those rare moments in which they do interact are charged with much emotion and passion, but most forms of “communication” are silent: 
The man [Velutha] glanced up and caught Ammu’s gaze. Centuries telescoped into one evanescent moment. History was wrong-footed, caught off guard. Sloughed off like an old snakeskin. Its marks, its scars, its wounds from old wars and the walking-backward days all fell away. In its absence it left an aura, a palpable shimmering that was as plain to see as the water in a river or the sun in the sky. . . . So obvious that no one noticed. . . . Ammu saw that he saw.  She looked away. He did too. History’s fiends return to claim them. To re-wrap them in its old, scarred pelt and drag them back to where they really lived. Where the Love Laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much. (167-68) 
Here begins the famous moment of recognition in which Ammu and Velutha seem to see each other for the first time. The initial recognition is told in a detached third-person narrative, which frames the moment of recognition as something otherworldly, dangerous, and world changing to the course of history, but does not give readers an entry into the interiority of either of the two potential lovers. Roy concludes one narrative sequence—the Velutha and Ammu love story—with the idealistic vision of the romance still intact. That is, instead of concluding with the fatal outcome of the romance between Ammu and Velutha and the image of the bloodied pulp of Velutha’s body that vanishes all hopes that romance can succeed, the novel concludes with the representation of the two making love for its final image. This produces a mixture of emotional affect and narrative results. Roy maintains allegiance to realism when she quite realistically depicts Velutha’s credible violent end, and the overwhelming revulsion towards the inter-caste affair felt by the family, community, and Communist party. The destruction of Velutha’s body suggests that such romances are impossible. Hopes for communal reconciliation between classes and castes facilitated by both Communism and romantic love are dashed. Yet Roy stubbornly remains attached to the hopes that erotic desire imbues, even as the lovers themselves acknowledge the political and romantic limitations of their own affair: 
Only one thing mattered now. They [Ammu and Velutha] knew that it was all they could ask of each other. . . . Even later, on the thirteen nights that followed this one, instinctively they stuck to the Small Things. The Big Things ever lurked inside. They knew that there was nowhere for them to go. They had nothing. No future. So they stuck to the small things. (320) 
Ammu’s and Velutha’s affair is not escape from the “administered world of exchange.”(268) In its very taboo nature, the affair defies the social regimentation of every day life: who one can love, who one can associate with in public, and where and how one lives. When Velutha has an affair with Ammu, he breaks an ancient taboo and incurs the wrath of Ammu's family and the Kerala police. He breaks the rigid social rules of the caste system and therefore, the authorities must punish him. Roy describes the policemen's violent actions as being done out of fear, "...civilization's fear of nature, men's fear of women, power's fear of powerlessness"(292). The division between the Touchables and Untouchables is so ingrained in Kerala society that Velutha is seen as a non-human:  
If they hurt Velutha more than they intended to, it was only because any kinship, and connection between themselves and him, any implication that if nothing else, at least biologically he was a fellow creature--had been severed long ago. (293)  
Ammu rebelled in two ways. One of them was to opt for a divorce, imposing her presence (together with her twins) to her own blood family, demanding from them the material support her husband was supposed to grant. For a while, she almost succeeded in conquering a sort of “place” for her small family, in this improvised, deviant household. Her second rebellious attitude, and one for which she paid dearly, was to refuse a sex-less, body-less identity only because she was a divorced mother (she is only twentyseven in 1969, when the central plot of the text develops). Velutha, her untouchable lover, is the assertion of her female desire and her right to live on, passionately, after divorce. However, Ammu is also, to a certain extent, a “failed” model of transgression because she follows the traditional narrative scheme of shame, marginalisation and death. Still, her exemplary punishment does not undo the impact of the previous transgression. It is interesting that the main anti-colonial voice in the text, Ammu, is also the most subversive in specifically feminist terms.  Ammu’s affair with Velutha is an explosive issue in feminist terms. In a society where assertion of  feminine desire outside the sanctioned frame of marriage and wife-hood is problematic, Ammu takes the step. To make this desire visible is very important because the existence of desire implies selfhood.  
Through complex characters, intricate social regulations and complicated relationships, Arundhati Roy deconstructs the binaries that are often utilized to explain the post colonial situation. By challenging these roles, Roy reveals that there are no clearly defined sides to the post colonial question and that Indians are not fighting one clearly defined oppressor. The culmination of the novel, Velutha’s murder, is not caused by the conflicts between colonized and colonizer, male and female, or touchable and untouchable, but a combination of these factors. Roy argues that individuals cannot be classified into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ categories according to their race, caste, or sex because these binaries have not clearly defined boundaries or codes of conduct. No two females, males, touchables, untouchables, colonized or colonizers react or behave in the same way to the same situations. By challenging these binary stereotypes, Roy points out that there are more than two sides to the post colonial question and that the politics and social situation of India is far more complex than a simple black and white issue.  
Literature often reflects the cultural assumptions and attitudes of its period, and that of course includes attitudes towards women: their status, their roles, their expectations. But a literature doctored of male-orientated views would be failing in its first requirement, to present a realistic or convincing picture of the world. Roy, through The God of Small Things, is strongly advocating less misogynous mentality, one which would protect women’s legal rights and see to their access to education and other opportunities for individual self-development. Beyond echoing concern with education and property rights, Arundhati Roy adds another layer to her critical survey of Indian patriarchies when she addresses the position of divorced wives. Actually, Roy maps an absence of space for women in our heavily coded society: as a daughter one is second best, as divorced wife, one does not exist at all. By inviting reflection on these issues, Arundhati Roy is stating her belief in the need to break with these traditional views.



Works Cited 

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Essays in Colonial History. Eds. Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid. New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1989. 

Connell, R.W.  Masculinities. Oxford: Polity Press, 1995. 

Dube, Leela. ‘Caste and Women’. Gender and Caste. Ed Anupama Rao. London: Zed Books, 2005. 

Kannabiran, Vasanth and Kalpana Kannabiran. ‘Violence and Sexuality’. Gender and Caste, Ed Anupama Rao London: Zed Books 2005.  

Loomba, Ania. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. London: Routledge, 1998.

Millett, K. 1970 Sexual Politics. New York: Avon. 

Narasimhan, Sakuntala. Empowering  Women: An Alternative Strategy from Rural India. California: Sage Publishers, 1999. 

Ray, Sangeeta.  Engendering India; Women and Nation in Colonial and Post Colonial Narratives. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000. 

Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. New York: Random, 1997. All quotations are from this text and cited parenthetically. 

Stalin. "Marxism and the National Question”. Prosveshcheniye, Nos. 3-5, March-May 1913.