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Themes

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 human desperation 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 highly critical 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 to her 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 own history and unable to retrace their steps,” and he goes on to say that they despise themselves because of this.

Historical Context

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 into

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