Indian History and Politics
Indian history and politics shape the plot and meaning of The God of Small Things in a variety of ways. Some of Roy’s commentary is on the surface, with jokes and snippets of wisdom about political realities in India. However, the novel also examines the historical roots of these realities and develops profound insights into the ways in which humandesperation and desire emerge from the confines of a firmly entrenched caste society. Roy reveals a complex and longstanding class conflict in the state of Kerala, India, and she comments on its various competing forces.
For example, Roy’s novel attacks the brutal, entrenched, and systematic oppression at work in Kerala, exemplified by figures of power such as Inspector Thomas Mathew. Roy is also highlycritical of the hypocrisy and ruthlessness of the conventional, traditional moral code of Pappachi and Mammachi. On the opposite side of the political fence, the Kerala Communist Party, at least the faction represented by Comrade Pillai, is revealed to be much more concerned with personal ambition than with any notions of social justice.
Class Relations and Cultural Tensions
In addition toher commentary on Indian history and politics, Roy evaluates the Indian postcolonial complex, or the cultural attitudes of many Indians towards their former British rulers. After Ammu calls her father a “[sh——t]-wiper” in Hindi for his blind devotion to the British, Chacko explains to the twins that they come from a family of Anglophiles, or lovers of British culture, “trapped outside their ownhistory and unable to retrace their steps,” and he goes on to say that they despise themselves because of this.
Because of the efforts of the political and religious leader Mohandas Gandhi, India became independent on August 15, 1947 at the stroke of midnight, after more than three hundred years of a British colonial presence. The British partitioned the former colony intothe nations of India and Pakistan (comprised of East and West regions), but this was unsuccessful in quelling agitations between Hindus and Muslims. The borders were only rough designations of religious majorities, and millions died as Hindus in Pakistan moved to majority-Hindu India, and Muslims in India moved to majority-Muslim Pakistan. Ammu was five years old in 1947, living with her family inthe Indian capital of New Delhi.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India from Independence until his death in 1964, struggled to foster economic growth and became involved in various territorial disputes. In Kerala, the Communist Party of India (CPI) was elected to power in a state government led by E. M. S. Namboodiripad in 1957, but Nehru dissolved it in 1959. In 1962, the year Rahel andEstha were born, India fought a limited war over a border dispute with China. As a result of the Chinese conflict, the CPI split between a pro-Russian faction, still called the CPI, and a faction that grew to be less influenced by foreign governments, called the Communist Party of India (Marxist). In the mid- 1960s, a further split in the Indian communist parties formed the Naxalites, whoadvocated an immediate communist revolution, while tensions between Pakistan and India flared into war in 1965.
After Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died of a heart attack in 1966, Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mohandas Gandhi) assumed the post amidst a severe draught and growing unemployment. These conditions contributed to the major losses that Gandhi’s Indian National CongressParty suffered in the 1967 elections. As Gandhi’s intentions for the Congress Party became clear, tensions arose between liberal and conservative members of the party, and in 1969, the year of Sophie Mol’s visit to Ayemenem, the Congress Party split. Although Indira Gandhi remained in control of the larger, liberal faction, she was forced to forge alliances with left-wing parties in order to...