Again we are faced with twins that do not look the same (Olanna and Kainene). But the narrator describes them as being connected through their identities: “Esthappen and Rahel thought of themselves together as Me, and separately, individually, as We or Us. As though they were a rare breed of Siamese twins, physically separate, but with joint identities”(2). In the first three chapters, this connection is very apparent and yet the narrator has yet to tell us what will come of this strange connection. Throughout the reading though, I feel like we are supposed to feel uneasy about this connection. Further on down the page from that first quote, Rahel explains she sees and remembers parts of Estha’s life, “She has other memories too that she has no right to have” (2). And then the narrator comments that “these are only the small things” (3) referring to the joint memories like how Estha’s sandwiches tasted. This quote from the narrator makes me wonder, what are the big things? What secret’s do these two twins share between each other?
Just a paragraph later we are told that they have been separated and have come to live different lives. After all that explanation about how close the two are and how there is some unnatural connection between them it is logical to then wonder what the consequences of this separation are? And also why were they separated in the first place.
Also in chapter 3 we get this weird scene of Estha coming back from his walk and undressing in front of Rahel where she describes his naked body and thinks about how old the two of them are. Why is this section a chapter of its own? Does this add to the uneasy of the readers about the twin’s closeness and their strange quality of being one person?
Not only are the twins strange in that way, but later we learn that they are also a people in the middle with no place to exist (like Nyasha). At one point Baby Kochamma thinks of the twins as, “Half-Hindu Hybrids whom no self-respecting Syrian Christian would ever marry,” (45) and on page 31 Rahel notices that their family had a hard time classifying themselves, “Perhaps, Ammu, Estha and she were the worst transgressors. But it wasn’t just them. It was the others too. They all broke the rules. They all crossed forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loves and how. And how much. The laws that made grandmothers grandmothers, uncles uncles, mothers mothers, cousins cousins, jam jam and jelly jelly.” Then there is an interesting conversation with Chacko about Anglophiles. “They were a family of Anglophiles. Pointed in the wrong direction, trapped outside their own history, and unable to retrace their steps because their footprints had been swept away” (52). Chacko explains how this existence of being lovers of the Western world put them in the middle, “We’re Prisoners of War… Our dreams have been doctored. We belong nowhere. We sail unanchored on troubled seas. We may never be allowed ashore. Our sorrows will never be sad enough. Our joys never happy enough. Our dreams never big enough. Our lives never important enough. To matter (53). The twins and their family are in this weird existence between natives of their home and lovers of England. It seems like this stems from the family’s business and the many members who have received an English education.
Focusing on the education aspect, we can see how Chacko is acknowledging that he has had an English education and that sets him apart but also opens his eyes to the way he is regarded as a person with no home. He is not fully Indian but he is not an Englishman either. I think one way we see this working in him is when he when he goes into his “Oxford Moods” where “he didn’t care if they were listening to him or not. And if they were, he didn’t care whether or not they had understood what he was saying”(54) and when he randomly quotes from his book collection. But this also works within the twins also when we get their little story about how they liked to read backward and their teacher scolded them but then came to an appropriate fate by being backed over by a van. They also seem to not quite fit into anything. Rahel and Estha also tend to quote English texts like Chacko. I believe the frequent allusions used in the novel are there to throw the audience off balance as far as what they expect to be reading. Instead of Indian texts the audience is hearing these children quote books from the English literary cannon. Among all the descriptions about the landscape of the twin’s home and the many pieces and parts of their lives that are fully wrapped in Indian culture the abrupt English allusions seem out of place.
Finally I looked at the focus on the description of “small” or “little” in the text. Roy heavily relies on describing the little things and also having the narrator describe things as little or small. We have the first quote on page 3 , the Two Things that Sophie Mol shows Rahel on pages 5 and 6, Estha is described as occupying “very little space in the world” on page 11 and the quote, “little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with meaning. Suddenly become the bleached bones of a story” on page 33. I think we are meant to understand that all these seemingly big life events that we are hearing about are really actually small in the perspective of the overall story and in the perspective of life in general. This is reinforced by the story of the Earth Woman that Chacko tells the twins about how humans are only a blink of an eye for the Earth. This story equalizes every action in the book, the story about the moth is as important as the story about how Estha stops talking and as important as the explanation of Murlidharan and is as important as the communist political background all this is existing on top of. Everything is equal and minuscule when it comes to the perspective of the Earth Woman.
What do you think is the reasoning for all the allusions to English literature in the novel is?
Do you think my idea of the emphasis of the small things in the novel compared to the large events is valid?
What do you think is the significance of Rahel and Estha being twins?
(ps. Sorry this is so jumbled… there is just so much to talk about and my mind kinda just spit it out on the page. Hopefully I can explain this better tomorrow.)