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"The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy (Book Quotes)

  • Mar 29, 2011
The following are a list of quotes from The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. They are from the edition with ISBN number 0-679-45731-3. They are listed chronologically and adhere to the Modern Language Association's (MLA) guidelines for quotes to the best of my ability minus the author's last name in the actual parenthetical citation. I have cataloged them under thematic concept and included an introduction sentence to the quote.
Read the book review: TBA!
Estha and Rahel, the protagonists of The God of Small Things, are twins with an unique bond that allows them to view the world differently from anyone else they know: 

In those early amorphous years when memory had only just begun, when life was full of Beginnings and no Ends, and Everything was Forever, 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. (4-5)

Death Sits Atop the World
Death is a prevalent theme in The God of Small Things. It is also used as a way to characterize some of the people in the novel, in this case Sophie Mol and Rahel who are cousins:

When they lowered Sophie Mol's coffin into the ground in the little cemetery behind the church, Rahel knew that she still wasn't dead. She heard (on Sophie Mol's behalf) the softsounds of the red mud and the hardsounds of the orange laterite that spoiled the shining coffin polish. She heard the dullthudding through the polished coffin wood, through the satin coffin lining. The sad priests' voices muffled by mud and wood.

We entrust into thy hands, most merciful Father,
The soul of this our child departed.
And we commit her body to the ground,
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Inside the earth Sophie Mol screamed, and shredded satin with her teeth. But you can't hear screams through earth and stone.

Sophie Mol died because she couldn't breathe.

Her funeral killed her. Dus to dus to dus to dus to dus.On her tombstone it said A SUNBEAM LENT TO US TOO BRIEFLY" (8-9).

The effects of postcolonialism are often physically, socially, mentally, and spiritually harmful to the colonized peoples, even after independence is gained. Roy illustrates this belief throughout her novel:

"We're Prisoners of War," Chacko said. "Our dreams have been doctored. We belong nowhere. We sail unachored 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." (52)

Creation Myth
The twins' Uncle Chacko often imparts wisdom on them; in this case, it was information about a creation myth which foreshadows an immanent truth of the novel:

It was an awe-inspiring and humbling thought, Chacko said (Humbling was a nice word, Rahel thought. Humbling along without a care in the world), that the whole of contemporary history, the World Wars, the War of Dreams, the Man on the Moon, science, literature, philosophy, the pursuit of knowledge--was no more than a blink of the Earth Woman's eye.

"And we, my dears, everything we are and ever will be are just a twinkle in her eye," Chacko said grandly, lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling...

Later, in the light of all that happened, twinkle seemed completely the wrong word to describe an expression in the Earth Woman's eye. Twinkle was a word with crinkled, happy edges. (53)

When countries were colonized by Western nations, their educational value system changed to match what the colonizers thought was appropriate. Thus, an Oxford education would be valued over a traditional and cultural one, as expressed in this exchange between Ammu and Chacko:

To this, Ammu said "Ha! Ha! Ha!" like people in the comics. She said:

(a) Going to Oxford didn't necessarily make a person clever.
(b) Cleverness didn't necessarily make a good prime minister.
(c) If a person couldn't even run a pickle factory profitably, how was that person going to run a whole country?

And, most important of all:

(d) All Indian mothers are obsessed with their sons and are therefore poor judges of their abilities.

Chacko said:

(a) You don't go to Oxford. You read at Oxford.


(b) After reading at Oxford you come down. (54-55)

It's a great family activity!
The superiority a British education instilled in some of those "lucky" enough to receive it created rifts and strives in the family dynamics, as apparent with this sister and brother (Ammu and Chacko) from The God of Small Things:

"Ammu," Chacko said, his voice steady and deliberately casual, 'is it at all possible for you to prevent your washed-up cynicism from completely coloring everything?' New paragraph: Silence filled the car like a saturated sponge. 'Washed-up' cut like a knife through a soft thing. The sun shone with a shuddering sigh. This was the trouble with families. Like invidious doctors, they knew just where it hurt" (68).

Ammu teaches the twins the value of carefully chosen words in defining familial relationships. Unfortunately, it is a hard-learned lesson that changes the course of their lives forever: "'D'you know what happens when you hurt people?' Ammu said. 'When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less'" (107).
Because of what happens in Ammu's life, she loses a precious gift: time with her children. Unfortunately, lost time cannot be recaptured:

It was as though Ammu believed that if she refused to acknowledge the passage of time, if she willed it to stand still in the lives of her twins, it would. As though sheer willpower was enough to suspend her children's childhoods until she could afford to have them living with her. Then they could take up from where they left off. Start again from seven.(152)

Ammu's, Estha's, and Rahel's lives shatter when their story fragments, a beautiful dream transformed into a nightmare: "It is after all so easy to shatter a story. To break a chain of thought. To ruin a fragment of a dream being carried around carefully like a piece of porcelain" (181).
A simple kiss can express a lot of love and affection between two beings, in this case Ammu and her daughter Rahel. The wonder and beauty of a kiss never ceases to amaze those who are lucky to receive that blessed gift: "Ammu wondered at the transparency of that kiss. It was a clear-as-glass kiss. Unclouded by passion or desire--that pair of dogs that sleep so soundly inside children, waiting for them to grow up. It was a kiss that demanded no kiss-back" (211).
The God of Small Things is about the history of India as much as the characters' stories. Even the "villains" of the novel cannot be blamed for their actions, which were set in motion by events outside their control: 

To be fair to Comrade Pillai, he did not plan the course of events that followed. He merely slipped his ready fingers into History's waiting glove.

It was not entirely his fault that he lived in a society where a man's death could be more profitable than his life had even been. (265-67)

History is created by people driven by greed, power, and fear, feelings and concepts that young children do not understand until they lose their innocence:

The twins were too young to know that these were only history's henchmen. Sent to square the books and collect the dues from those who broke the laws. Impelled by feelings that were primal yet paradoxically wholly impersonal. Feelings of contempt born of inchoate, unacknowledged fear--civilization's fear of nature, men's fear of women, power's fear of powerlessness.

Man's subliminal urge to destroy what he could neither subdue nor deify.

Men's Needs. (292)

Love splash
Though the book focuses on intense and tragic themes such as loss, social and political injustices, the Indian caste system, and family indifference, there is an overarching hope that love is worth the pain that results from its fulfillment:

Biology designed the dance. Terror timed it. Dictated the rhythm with which their bodies answered each other. As though they knew already that for each tremor of pleasure they would pay with an equal measure of pain. As though they knew that how far they went would be measured against how far they would be taken. So they held back. Tormented each other. Gave of each other slowly. But that only made it worse. It only raised the stakes. It only cost them more. Because it smoothed the wrinkles, the fumble and rush of unfamiliar love and roused them to fever pitch. (317)

What did you think of this list?

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April 22, 2011
I remember reading this novel in college. Great choice of quotes, Adri. :-)
April 26, 2011
Did you like the book, Pard? I'm drafting a review of the book, but it's taking me some time. I hope to finish it by next week. :)
April 27, 2011
I thought it was ok. I read it for an Indian literature course back in 2003 or 2004, somewhere around there. I thought it was pretty good and we had some good class discussions about the novel. I can't remember the details of those discussions though since it was so long ago.
April 28, 2011
Wow, sounds like a fun course! I would have loved to have taken that class. What other titles did you read?
April 05, 2011
This is a great book and you pulled some humbling, but profound quotes from it. Thanks for sharing!
April 08, 2011
Thanks so much for checking out the list of quotes, Debbie! I'm drafting the review of the book still. Can't wait to post it along with these quotes. :)
April 03, 2011
Great idea for a list, Adrianna! I love it! It's been a while since I've read this book, thanks for reminding me of all the gems it possesses ;p
April 08, 2011
Thanks so much for checking out my list of book quotes, Sam. Did you like the book? I'm surprised that most of the reviews I've read on Lunch lean toward the negative side of the rating spectrum.
April 09, 2011
I did read it a while ago and yes, I am a bit shocked to learn that some Lunchers aren't a fan of it but, I do remember it taking some time for me to warm up to it. That may be part of the reason for the negative ratings...How'd you like it?
April 11, 2011
It's definitely a complicated book, and a lot of recreational readers might find it too confusing or disjointed. This is the type of novel I would love to study in a postcolonial literature class. I enjoyed it immensely. I'm still debating, though, on whether it deserves a +4 or +5 rating. As I get further along with my review draft and research, I will make a final decision.
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Adrianna Simone ()
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