The God of Small Things


Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Arundhati Roy

Roy’s father was a Hindu tea plantation manager and her mother was a Syrian Christian women’s rights activist. Her parents divorced when she was two, and Roy moved with her mother and brother (who was only a few months older than she was) to Kerala, the setting of The God of Small Things. Roy studied architecture in Delhi, India, and then acted in several independent films, and later married filmmaker Pradip Krishen. The God of Small Things is her first and only novel, but it immediately became an international success and Roy was awarded the Booker Prize in 1997. Since then Roy has written many nonfiction essays and has become an outspoken critic of the Indian government, the United States, and global policies of imperialism, capitalism, and nuclear war. She currently lives in Delhi and is working on a second novel.
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Historical Context of The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things takes place mostly in 1969 and 1993, in Ayemenem (Aymanam), in the district of Kerala. Marxist ideas grew popular in Kerala soon after India’s liberation from British colonial rule, and in 1967 the Naxalite party split off as a more radical Communist group than the mainstream. The growing social unrest from these labor movements affects the action of the early novel. The ancient Hindu caste system (dividing Untouchables from Touchables, among other rules) was abolished around 1950, but many Indians still clung to old traditions and the class divide. Some of the characters in the novel are also Syrian Christians, an ancient community in Kerala originating with St. Thomas.

Other Books Related to The God of Small Things

Roy often denies the influence of Salman Rushdie on her work, but he is a famous British Indian contemporary writer (famous for Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses) whose style is similar to Roy’s. In the text of The God of Small Things, Roy references such diverse works as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Key Facts about The God of Small Things
  • Full Title: The God of Small Things
  • When Written: 1992-1996
  • Where Written: Delhi, India
  • When Published: 1997
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Indian Literature
  • Genre: Literary Fiction, Family Drama
  • Setting: Ayemenem, Kerala, India
  • Climax: Sophie Mol dies and Velusha is beaten
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient, free indirect discourse

Extra Credit for The God of Small Things

The Sound of Music. As a child, Roy’s family also made several car journeys to see The Sound of Music, as it was one of the few English films available. Roy says she didn’t like the movie much, but the pilgrimage to see it was “like going to church or something.”

Activism. Since the publication of The God of Small Things and her subsequent fame, Roy has become an outspoken activist on many issues in India and throughout the world. Her opposition to a dam project in India even landed her in jail for a single “symbolic” day.