The God of Small Things

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Themes and Colors
Family and Social Obligation Theme Icon
Indian Politics, Society, and Class Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Change vs. Preservation Theme Icon
Small Things Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The God of Small Things, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The God of Small Things basically deals with the complicated relationships between members of the Ipe family in Ayemenem, India. Each family member has different factors weighing on their relationships, like social obligation, familial duty, and personal dislike. Baby Kochamma, one of the book’s most negative characters, allows her personal grudges and preoccupation with society’s approval to lead her to betray her own family. Outside of the Ipes, Vellya Paapen also chooses his duty…

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The members of the Ipe family deal with a variety of social and political influences that cause much internal and external struggle in the novel. In the larger society of Kerala, India (in the 1969 portion of the novel), Marxist ideas have taken root and begin to upset the class system of landlords and laborers. This directly affects Paradise Pickles and the characters of Velutha, Chacko, and Comrade Pillai. The ancient Hindu…

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Love comes in many forms in The God of Small Things, but it is most important when it crosses divides of society and duty. The relationship between Estha and Rahel is the strongest of the book, as the two are so close as to almost consider themselves one person. Yet when the young Rahel lists the people she loves she does not include Estha, but instead those she is “supposed” to love according to…

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Many characters try to preserve old memories and traditions in the novel, but Roy also portrays the inevitable march of change through small shifts in the status quo. Paradise Pickles & Preserves is the most obvious symbol of preservation (pickling things to preserve them), as Mammachi and the people of Ayemenem cling to the old caste system and the gender double standard. In places like Mammachi’s house and the “History House” things linger from the…

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In both the novel’s title and in her writing style, Roy emphasizes the small moments, objects, and changes that symbolize and lead to the “Big Things” in life, like death, love, and political upheaval. Much of The God of Small Things is written in a kind of free indirect discourse, a style where the third-person narrator partly perceives the world in the childlike way that young Estha and Rahel do. This leads to many words…

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