Discussion 10/24: A Not So Small Section of The God of Small Things

Summary: Chapters 10-14

Chapter 10 begins with Estha alone in the pickle factory while everyone else celebrates Sophie Mol’s arrival. He has Two Thoughts. Rahel then joins him, and they decide to visit the History House together. They run into problems, and end up in Velutha’s hut, talking to his brother. In Chapter 11, Ammu dreams of a one-armed man. She wants him to make love to her, but the presence of others prevent his from happening. The children wake her up gently, and she tells them that she was happy in her dream. She then allows them to play with her stretch marks, only after she scolds them for visiting Velutha. In chapter 12, the twins watch kathkali dancers act out a play. They sit separately, but are bound by the story. It lasts all night. They then walk home silently. Chapter 13  begins with Sophie Mol waking in the Ayemenem house, not thinking of her deceased father. There is then a flashback to the story of Chacko and Margaret Kochamma. The story of the “Man with Twin Sons” happens, and we learn about the troubled marriage between the two. We finally learn the story of Sophie Mol’s death. We also learn about Ammu and Velutha’s affair, through conversations between Vellya Paapen and Mammachi. Velutha becomes named “The God of Small Things.” The chapter ends with “Sophie Mol became a Memory, while The Loss of Sophie Mol grew robust and alive. Like a fruit in season. Every season.” (p. 253). In chapter 14, Chacko visits Comrade Pillai’s house. He wants Comrade Pillai to approve a new label for the factory’s newest product, Synthetic Cooking Vinegar.

A lot happened in this section of the novel, obviously. It was very dense, and I’m still not certain that I caught everything that occurred. I know for a fact that I did not understand the meaning behind everything that happened in these chapters. There were a few things that I noticed that I would like to further discuss: the theme of innocence, the symbol of eggs, and the reference to the novel’s title.

One theme I would like to look at is that of innocence. There are many examples of this in the novel, most notably two in the section that we read. The first occurs right at the beginning of chapter 10. It is when Estha is thinking to himself in the Pickle Preserve kitchen. “As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts, and the Two Thoughts he thought were these: (a) Anything can happen to Anyone, and (b) It’s best to be prepared.” (p. 185-186)

At first glance, I knew that this was something important, as it is capitalized. Roy seems to capitalize anything that is an important idea, theme, or motif. It also stands out that Estha is completely alone when he has these thoughts. These “Thoughts” come as a response to the fear that he has that the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man will come and find him. This scene shows that he has a loss of innocence, because of his sexual abuse, and that his view of the world has changed. He changes from a naïve child to an individual taking responsibility for his survival. He has these profound thoughts that allow him to plan his own escape from his grim reality, and immediately turn Thoughts into Actions.

Another example of innocence in this section occurs when the twins wake Ammu from her afternoon slumber.

“‘If you’re happy in a dream, Ammu, does that count?’ Estha asked. ‘Does what count?’ ‘The happiness-does it count?’ She knew exactly what he meant, her son with his spoiled puff. Because the truth is, that only what counts counts. The simple, unswerving wisdom of children”(p. 208).

This shows that Estha wishes to prove to Ammu that kids may be simple in many ways, but their simplicity is profound and can teach us a lot. This moment resurfaces later in the novel, proving that this moment of innocence sticks with Ammu. Estha gets at something that Ammu had not thought about, the fact that her happiness in a dream may actually mean nothing to her actual life, and that she needs to look at the things happening around her, and truly focus on her life, in order to be happy. She cannot rely on dreams, and fantasy to please herself.

Aside from the theme of innocence, another recurring idea I found is that of a symbol: eggs. This symbol seems to usually appear when something bad is happening; often a death., or when something is going to go awry. The novel makes mention to eggs when Chacko is at the café, where he first speaks to Margaret Kochamma, “She winced when he put two heaped spoons of sugar into his extremely milky coffee. Then he asked for fried eggs on toast” (p. 228). The symbol appears again after Joe dies, “Finish your homework. Eat your egg. No, we can’t not go to school” (p. 237). Once Sophie Mol dies, the symbol appears once again, “And this time there was no homework to finish or egg to eat” (p. 249). This may mean absolutely nothing, but I thought it was worth mentioning that eggs were brought up in a lot of instances in which things weren’t quite right, people died, or families were disrupted. Another mention of “egg” occurs when speaking of Rahel and Estha, always referred to as “two-egg twins” (p. 248).

Finally, and probably most importantly, this section makes reference to the novel’s title, The God of Small Things. Two individuals are mentioned by this title. The first is the man in Ammu’s dream. This dream is significant to the overall tone of the novel. The first important point in this dream is the fact that the man only has one arm. He is flawed, missing part of himself, and yet he is the one to make Ammu happy. The fact that he is missing one arm, and can only focus on one task at a time is also important. In the real world, the title is given to Velutha. “Of him she had no memory at all. Not even what he looked like. Perhaps this was because she never really knew him, nor ever heard what happened to him. The God of Loss. The God of Small Things.” This draws a parallel between the man of Ammu’s dreams, and the man with whom she has an affair.

I apologize for the length of my elementary understanding of this novel. I think now’s a good time to stop and ask some questions so I can stop making a fool of myself.

Questions:

  1. What is the importance of the capitalization of Estha’s “Two Thoughts”. What do these Thoughts tell us about Estha as a character?
  2. Why are eggs brought up both when Joe dies and when Sophie Mol dies? Why are eggs so prevalent in the novel?
  3. Why is there a connection between the one-armed dream man and Velutha? Why are these men the individuals who are refereneced in the title of the novel?