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2010 Book of the Month Reads > August: "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy

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message 1: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
For discussions concerning August's book of the month The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

message 2: by Cari (new)

Cari (carikinney) Below are some book discussion questions taken from They apply to this month's selection, The God of Small Things. Feel free to answer any, all or some. Or you can use any of these questions to spark some dialogue about the book. Keep in mind that there may be spoilers in the questions, so if you haven't read very far in the book yet, feel free to come back to this email later.



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?

6. Why does Roy switch back and forth among time present and various times past?

7. Is Time as destroyer the novel's most insistent theme? How are the blue Plymouth, the pickle factory, Rahel's toy wristwatch (which always reads "ten to two"), the children's boat, and other objects related to this theme?

8. "He was called Velutha-which means White in Malayalam-because he was so black;" and at age 11 he "was like a little magician." What is the full extent of Velutha the Untouchable's role in the story?

9. To what extent do even the most fantastical events result from everyday passions? What feelings and passions are predominant, and how do they determine key events? Which emotions are strongest among the children, the adults?

10. How does Roy portray the twins' extraordinary spiritual connection, their "single Siamese soul," the fragile, wonder-filled world of their childhood, their often magical vision, and their differences? Is her re-creation of the child's world convincing?

11. What importance does Roy ascribe to story, storytelling, and playacting, including the Kathakali dances and stories? To what extent is the telling of a story more important than the story itself?

12. In what ways are the Kochamma women subjected to male dominance, indifference, and even cruelty, and in what ways are they decisive in their own lives, the life of their family, and the affairs of their community?

13. Baby Kochamma's harbors an "age-old fear of being dispossessed." What kinds of dispossession occur in the novel, and in association with which characters and which events? With what consequences?

14. "Some things come with their own punishments," Roy writes. "They would all learn more about punishments soon. That they came in different sizes." What "sizes" of punishment are specified, and who decides those "sizes"?

15. Rahel reveals to Sophie Mol a list of those she loves; and we learn that this list was an attempt to order chaos. She revised it constantly, torn forever between love and duty." What other attempts are there "to order chaos"?

16. Roy writes that Inspector Mathew and Comrade Pillai "were both men whom childhood had abandoned without a trace. Men without curiosity. Without doubt. Both in their own way truly, terrifyingly adult." Can this be said of others?

17. Is there anything truly shocking about Estha and Rahel's lovemaking in the next-to-final chapter? What does Roy mean when she writes, "There is very little that anyone could say to clarify what happened next. Nothing that (in Mammachi's book) would separate Sex from Love. Or Needs from Feelings"?

18. Roy has said that her architectural studies determined her novel's structure. In what ways can we view the novel's plan and construction as architectural? In what ways is the novel's "architecture" related to actual buildings in the novel?

19. Does a single moment of true, intense love compensate for centuries of oppression, cruelty, and madness?

20. Why does Roy end the novel with a detailed depiction of Ammu and Velutha's first night of lovemaking and the promise of "Tomorrow"?

message 3: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (last edited Aug 18, 2010 02:41PM) (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
CK wrote: "Below are some book discussion questions taken from They apply to this month's selection, The God of Small Things. Feel free t..."

Thanks for posting the questions here, CK! Hopefully I can tackle some of them once I'm done with the book.

message 4: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
I've been meaning to research India, and post some thoughts about the country in relation to the book "The God of Small Things." I had momentarily stopped reading because I was not understanding some of the historical events that Roy had mentioned.

Some pages where certain things were mentioned include:

When Ammu met her future husband: "He was on vacation from his job in Assam, where he worked as an assistant manager of a tea estate. His family were once-wealthy zamindars who had migrated to Calcutta from East Bengal after Partition" (39).

My question was: What was Partition?

Second, was when Roy mentioned Ammu's pregnancy: "Ammu was eight months pregnant when was broke out with China. It was October of 1962" (40).

I never knew India had a war with China! I immediately wanted to know more details about this incident that Roy alluded to.

This was as far as I got before I decided to do a little research on India. I checked out the Wikipedia page about the country, located here:

I've copied over some of the pertinent parts. I hope everyone finds the information useful!


Here's what it said about Partition: "On 15 August 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but at the same time the Muslim-majority areas were partitioned to form a separate state of Pakistan.[45:] On 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect."

There's a specific Wikipedia page for Partition as well:


Here's what is said about the War with China: "India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People's Republic of China, which, in 1962, escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. India is a founding member of the United Nations (as British India) and the Non-Aligned Movement."

There's a specific Wikipedia page for the Sino-Indian War too:


Any thoughts or ideas about the implications of these events, and how they must have affected the people of India? I'm sure these major political, religious, and territorial fights impacted the manner in which Roy developed her characters.

message 5: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Potential spoilers...

I'm not all the way through with this chapter ("Pappachi's Moth"), but I am disturbed by the abuse the twins' grandmother had to endure from Pappachi. It's surprising that he didn't take that same abuse out on his daughter Ammu, or maybe he did, and we haven't discovered that fact. It seems that Ammu married a man very similar to her father because she was also getting beat by her husband before she left. Both men beat the women to feel better about themselves. It's really sad.

A quote that stood out to me about the relationship of Pappachi and Mammachi is as follows: "Ammu said that human beings were creatures of habit, and it was amazing the kind of things they could get used to. You only had to look around you, Ammu said, to see that beatings with brass vases were the least of them" (49).

message 6: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Wow...this book has taken a lot of twists, some I predicted and some I didn't.


So, I can understand why some readers would not enjoy this book or might think it's difficult/confusing to follow. I picked up on the random time shifts mid-chapter, most noticeable during the trip to go see "The Sound of Music."

I was saddened to learn what happened to Estha during this section. It was a very well-written chapter. Here is this small boy trying to act like a grown-up, using the men's bathroom all by himself, and he is so enthralled by the music that he can't help but sing. Everyone is yelling at him, including his mother who should have been supporting him, and he leaves the theater to be alone and sing. I can't believe Ammu didn't go with him. What kind of a mother is she!??!

I knew something bad was going to happen. The whole show was leading up to that interaction with the creepy candy salesman. The children want love and want to be accepted. It's one of the main reasons they liked "The Sound of Music." They want to be clean and "peppermint" like the Baron von-Trapp. But he won't love them. They aren't white. I was really sad when they went through the list of everything they did that he wouldn't approve of, but that he could love someone like Sophie Mol, who is better than them. The list of how they fail to live up to Von-Trapp's standards is on page 101. It really made me sad to read this list.

The feelings of both Estha and Rahel during the show emphasized the point that Chacko made about them all being Anglophile (a person who is friendly to or admires England or English customs, institutions, etc.). Being a colonized people and country, they are expected to mimic the standards of the British. That is valued over their own customs and traditions; again, this is emphasized by the idea of being a Touchable or Untouchable, in relation to Velutha and his family. I don't know a lot about India's caste system, or when it originated, but it poses an interesting comparison between the peoples of India with the British who colonized them. I have additional information with the following links:

Another reason part of the book is difficult to follow because I don't understand a lot of the political things happening during the time period (1969). The communist party is mentioned and the parade of the students when the twins are in the car on their way to the show. Was communism a bad thing for India? Did it last?

What a compelling book! It has many layers and depths. There is a lot going on with the characters, in relation to each other and their country. I can't wait to see what happens when Sophie Mol shows up.

message 7: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (last edited Mar 28, 2011 08:33PM) (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
I'm just getting to my review of this book. I'm not done, but I did gather a list of favorite quotes if members are interested in reading them:

message 8: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
I finally finished my review for "The God of Small Things." Here are the places where I posted the review:

1. Lunch:

2. Epinions:

3. Goodreads:

4. Shelfari:

5. Amazon: (will take 48 hours before it's viewable)


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