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The God of Small Things: Summary, Characters, Themes & Analysis

The God of Small Things: Summary, Characters, Themes & Analysis
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  • 0:03 ''The God of Small Things''
  • 0:41 Plot Summary
  • 3:56 Themes & Analysis
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Audrey Farley

Audrey is a doctoral student in English at University of Maryland.

This lesson presents a comprehensive plot summary, as well as an analysis of characters and themes, of Arundhati Roy's Booker prize-winning novel, 'The God of Small Things.'

The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things was written by Indian writer Arundhati Roy in 1997. The novel is about two fraternal twins who reunite as young adults, after family tensions have kept them apart for many years. The novel won the Booker Prize in 1997.

Rahel and Estha are fraternal twins. Rahel is a smart but impulsive young woman. Estha is a very serious and nervous young man. Their mother, Ammu, takes them to Ayemenem to live with her family. Ammu and the twins live with her brother Chacko, his ex-wife Margaret, and their daughter, Sophie, as well as Baby Kochamma, the twins' maternal great aunt.

Plot Summary

The story takes place in Ayemenem, India. The twins' mother, Ammu Ipe, marries a tea estate manager in order to escape her authoritarian father, Pappachi, and her bitter mother, Mammachi. Her husband is an alcoholic who abuses her. After giving birth to the twins, Rahel and Estha, Ammu leaves him and returns to Ayemenem. Her brother Chacko also returns to manage the family's pickle business, after having divorced his English wife in Oxford (their father has died.) They also live with Pappachi's sister, Navomi Ipe, who goes by the name Baby Kochamma.

Bitter about her unrequited love for a priest named Father Mulligan, Baby Kochama rejoices in the misfortune of others. She tries very hard to bring ruin to Ammu and the twins. Chacko invites his ex-wife and his daughter Sophie to spend Christmas with them in Ayemenem when Margaret's new husband perishes in a car accident. One day, they all decide to go see The Sound of Music at a local theater. On their way to the show, the family encounters some Communist protestors who surround the vehicle and compel Baby Kochamma to sing a Communist slogan. Rahel claims to see one of the family's servants, Velutha, among the protestors. At the theater, Estha is molested by a snack vendor.

Baby Kochamma resents Velutha for the humiliation she experienced at the protesters' hands. Velutha is an Untouchable - he is part of the lowest caste in India, but he does not lose his job because he is very skilled. Rahel and Estha grow fond of Velutha, and soon Ammu develops affection for him, too. She and Velutha briefly have an affair. When their relationship is discovered, Ammu is exiled to her bedroom and the servant is banished. Ammu blames her children for this. Rahel and Estha run away with their cousin, Sophie Mol. Their boat capsizes, and Sophie drowns. Margaret beats Estha, enraged that her daughter has died because of the twins' escapade.

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