Reading guide for The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things

by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things
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  • First Published:
    May 1997, 321 pages
    May 1998, 321 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Plot Summary:

"May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month."

Between this remarkable novel's first and last sentences, between May 1992 and December 1969, between the freighted present and past elusive hope, Arundhati Roy constructs a tale as far reaching and sensuous as myth, as inescapable as history, as passionate as the loves that impel the members of the Kochamma family to their fates. Told mainly from the perspective of 7-year-old Rahel and Estha, "two-egg twins," and from that of Rahel 23 years later, Roy's story focuses on two tragic events in 1969-the drowning of the twins' 9-year-old Anglo-English cousin, Sophie Mol, and the murder of Velutha, the Untouchable carpenter beloved by the twins and their divorced mother, Ammu. Moving back and forth through time, guiding us through the many-splendored mansion of her tale, Roy ingeniously reveals-chamber by chamber, heartbeat by heartbeat-the details, the "small things" that fill her characters' lives and furnish the dwellings that cannot protect them.

Topics for Discussion:

  1. Who-or what-is the God of Small Things? What other names and what divine and earthly attributes are associated with this god? What-or who-are the Small Things over which this god has dominion, and why do they merit their own god?

  2. What are the various laws, rules, and regulations-familial, social, cultural, political, and religious-including "the Love Laws," to which Roy makes repeated references?

  3. Various dwellings are important to the unfolding of Roy's story. How is each described? To what extent does each embody or reflect the forces and burdens of history, social order, and custom?

  4. How does the river that flows through Ayemenem in 1969 differ from the river in 1992? What is its importance in the lives and histories of the two families and in the twins' childhood?

  5. To what extent are race, social class, and religion important? What specific elements of each take on predominant importance, and with what consequences? How do the concept and the reality of "the Untouchable" function in the novel?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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