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The God of Small Things > The God of Small Things: Chapters 1-7

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message 1: by Satia (new)

Satia This novel is divided into 21 chapters so, for the sake of this discussion, I'm dividing it into three parts. This is not, however, indicative of how the book should be read and/or discussed. Please feel free to leave your thoughts wherever you feel they are most appropriate. Also, it is probably a very good idea to be familiar with how to use the "spoiler" tag as there is an event which occurs that both climactic and pivotal. (Is it redundant to say that it is both "climactic" and "pivotal"?)

A word of caution: try to avoid reader's guides and/or summaries for this novel because the plot twist loses its impact. I'll be sharing questions for discussion from the reader's guide with that precaution in mind.

message 2: by Satia (new)

Satia I found a wonderful resource to help appreciate the many cultural, historical, and other allusions. The first chapters are especially long so there are many things to note. Due to the length, I've decided to tuck these behind a spoiler tag. Also notice that there are some questions interspersed within so I've put those in bold to make them easier to find. Enjoy!

Chapter 1
The story begins twenty-three years after the main events which will be covered by the novel, with flashbacks to that earlier period which culminated in the funeral of Sophie Mol. References to the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man and the death of Sophie Mol will be explained later in the novel.

(view spoiler)

message 3: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments Satia wrote: "I found a wonderful resource to help appreciate the many cultural, historical, and other allusions. The first chapters are especially long so there are many things to note. Due to the length, I'v..."

Thank you Satia!! This info is extremely helpful. I'm only halfway through the second chapter because although I love her writing, I'm finding that she tends to go off on tangents about things that I'm not sure whether or not I'll need to know (I just tried to post some examples in a spoiler, but I did something wrong and lost the entire post.) Anyway, I have a feeling that I have a "rough idea" of where the story is going, so I'm just getting impatient because I'm not sure how much some of these "tangents" have anything to do with the story.

Here's one example which I don't think will be a spoiler (I hope not!!!) I have no idea why we need so much information on the naked man who sits by the railroad tracks!!! (In chapter 2).

I'm also finding that it's taking me longer to read because I have to go back to refer to certain people and/or events because even only in the middle of the 2nd chapter, SO MANY characters have been introduced and there's so much description on each of them!!!

Other than that, I agree with you that the writing is absolutely exquisite. I can't wait to get further along in the book!!!

message 4: by Satia (new)

Satia Rest assured, every "tangent" is necessary. One of the things I remember from reading this before is how surprised I was that a novel that seemed so loose, just floating along, is actually so tightly woven that no loose threads are left. In fact, this time I'm looking to see if I may have overlooked something last time but so far I haven't noticed anything.

message 5: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments Thanks Satia! I have a feeling that reading this book will be one wild ride!!!

message 6: by Satia (last edited Jul 08, 2011 11:34AM) (new)

Satia Chapter 2
Epigraph: "however, for practical purposes, in a hopelessly practical world . . .
In the previous paragraph, Roy has been ruminating over when her story can be said to have really begun. This phrase introduces the sentence which continues at the beginning of Chapter 2, so she is saying that, for practical purposes, it all began on "a skyblue day in December sixty-nine."

(view spoiler)

I must say that I already think this book, The God of Small Things, is proving to be the perfect choice of book to read after Wide Sargasso Sea which itself was a great choice to read after reading Gone With the Wind.

message 7: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments Thank you Satia!!! I just finished chapter 2 last night -- I can't believe how long it took me to get through the first two chapters!!!

All of these explanations that you've posted are amazing. THANK YOU!!!

I just need to figure out how to do a "spoiler" so that I can post some thoughts on the first two chapters. I'm going to go back to a message you sent me a few weeks ago about spoilers and I'll try to do it here. (I did use the "some html is ok" link, but I wasn't able to create a spoiler when I tried using the < and > symbols!!!!

message 8: by Satia (new)

Satia Well, it's something I found that I think a teacher is using and I'm just glad I found it because there are so many terms and allusions that I simply wouldn't fully understand without some help.

message 9: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments All of the talk on communism in chapter 2 really threw me. And talk about tangents -- that was ONE LONG tangent!!! (And I enjoy discussions on communism/Marxism, etc. I find it all to be extremely interesting, but in this particular case I just wanted to get on with the story!!!) I have a feeling I'm going to want to reread this book shortly after finishing it, so that all of these references (and tangents) make sense.

By the way, are we the only two in the group reading this? I looked at the poll, and we're the only ones who voted for it.

message 10: by Satia (new)

Satia We may be the only two reading it but that seems to be one more than read Wide Sargasso Sea so that's something.

message 11: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments I feel badly about Wide Sargasso Sea because I voted for it in the poll, and then I didn't participate. I was just going through some tough situations at the time and thought the book would be too depressing for me (but this was after I had already voted for it.) I thought at least two of you were discussing Wide Sargasso Sea???

Well, I am really enjoying The God of Small Things and I really appreciate all of the work you've put into this discussion. All of the info you've shared is so incredibly helpful!!!

I still can't figure out the answer to some of the questions you've brought up -- 1) Vietnam reference, 2) Bridal party in ambulance, 3) The twins reading backward.

There is so much symbolism in this book, but I am lost on the symbolism of the three situations above. (I do have some ideas about the bridal party, but that was such an incredibly bizarre little piece in this story and it really did leave me feeling quite baffled. I also felt very disturbed by it.)

This is why I think this is a book that must be read twice. I have to find this quote that I read somewhere -- it was a quote by a well-known author (don't remember who) and the gist of it was something like "You never read a book until you reread it" -- something like that. I'll look it up and post if within the next few days. Well, I definitely feel that way about The God of Small Things.

I finished chapter 3 last night. It was a short chapter, and I wanted to start chapter 4 but I was too tired and had to go to sleep.

message 12: by Satia (new)

Satia Barbara, No need to worry yourself with answering the questions. As I said, I found this resource online and, although I considered editing it because I thought some things were obvious, I realized that maybe my knowing something didn't mean it was obvious. (What? You mean not everyone has read Heart of Darkness?)

The questions are for some class that, thankfully, none of us is taking so, as far as I know, we won't be tested on anything. Unless of course Will or Serena have something up their respective sleeves . . .

In the meantime, here are the notes for chapters 4 and 5.

(view spoiler)

message 13: by Satia (new)

Satia And now chapters 6 and 7. Obviously, as the chapters become shorter and terms become repeated, there are fewer explanations/definitions.

(view spoiler)

message 14: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments I'm just starting chapter 5 tonight, and it would be great if I can get through 5, 6, and 7 by the end of the evening.

Actually, I like the idea of trying to figure out the answers to the questions you brought up. I reread the scene with the bridal party in the ambulance last night, and I have to tell you that it is incredibly disturbing to me. I'm not a genius when it comes to symbolism, and these ideas may be too simplified, but here are some things I came up with for that scene:

1) Getting married is equivalent to dying, or, even more possibly, equivalent to getting hurt. (This could mean "hurt" in the emotional sense, or in the physical way -- both Ammu and Mammachi were physically beaten by their husbands.) I think we saw the ambulance from Rahel's point of view, so my guess is that Rahel thinks that getting married is equivalent to being physically beaten so badly that you need to be taken away in an ambulance.

2) There's nothing merry or happy about getting married. It's more of a "scary" thing, and being in an ambulance is very scary. And you don't know what's going to happen to you once you get there (to the hospital / to your new married life) but either way, it won't be good.

I don't know -- just some thoughts. What do you think???

message 15: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments Satia, if you had to put the writing style Roy uses in this book into specific styles, would you say magical realism, symbolism, surrealism, all three, or something else completely?

This book has been compared to Salmon Rushdie, who is clearly a magical realist.

I'm also wondering if you're finding any stream of consciousness in here.

message 16: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments OK -- I've finished chapters 1-7. I have so many thoughts on this book so far, and I'm very curious about what happened to Sophie Mol because according to the "hints' within these first 7 chapters, it seems almost a bit too simple -- here's my guess -- Sophie Mol, Estha, Rahel and Velutha are in that "History House" and (again, this is just a guess) Velutha sexually assaults and then kills (either on purpose or by accident) Sophie, and they throw her into the river. I know, I know -- way too simplified. There HAS to be more to it -- a LOT more. But that's where it seems to be leading, based on the hints that have been thrown around here and there. (Oh, and Velutha is the man who the children love by day and Ammu loves by night -- this has not been mentioned in the first 7 chapters (that it's Velutha) but it has been mentioned that there's a man the children love by day and Ammu loves by night.

Satia, you've already read the whole book, so you're probably laughing at my wild guesses here. I hope I'm wrong, because I would rather be shocked and surprised when I get to the part of what has actually happened. (So please don't give me any hints as far as whether my guess is close to what actually happens.)

I didn't mark this as a spoiler because it's just my own personal guess, which really means nothing, and also because I know that you (Satia) have already read the book, and we're already halfway into the month and no one else seems to be reading it with us. (Maybe everyone else has already read it???)

message 17: by Satia (new)

Satia I did the same thing. So many guesses and hints, the way the story gradually weaves together. Like putting together a very complex puzzle without the box top to tell you what the final image will be.

I haven't really thought about the imagery of the wedding although I thought the question interesting. Mostly I wondered about how everyone in the Ipe family seems to not be happily married. Chacko is divorced from Margaret. Pappachi beats Mammachi. Baby Kochamma never marries, although she was a nun which means she was married to God and is now no longer a nun.

It seems that for this family, marriage if fraught with complications.

I would say it is magical realism, if anything. Then again, I don't know. Seems that the "magic" mostly occurs when they are children. (Like Sophie Mol cartwheeling in her coffin--which happens in chapter 1 so I'm not giving anything away here.) I never really tried to categorize it except through description and then "poetic," "lyric," and "bordering on mythic" come to mind. Not that the story itself is mythic or epic so much as it reads like a family myth, just slightly removed from reality but telling something more real for all that. Which I suppose brings us back to magical realism. Hmmmmm . . .

message 18: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments one of the questions from Satia's link......

What do you think is the twins reaction to Ammu threatening to send them away?

This is a good question. There's so much humor (I think) in this book. Right after Ammu threatens: "... I will see to it that you are sent away to somewhere where you will jolly well learn to behave" in the next paragraph, we get "When Ammu was really angry, she said Jolly Well. Jolly Well was a deeply well with larfing dead people in it." (Chap. 6, pg. 141 in paperback version.) (which I guess is translated to a deep well -- like a water well -- with dead laughing people in it -- a pretty scary thought.) I see this reaction as being the reaction from Rahel's point of view (I find that a lot of the funny "play on words" are coming from Rahel.)

On the following page, Estha asks Rahel "Where d'you think people are send to Jolly Well Behave?" and Rahel's answer is "To the government." So one minute it's a "deeply well with laughing dead people" and the next minute it's "the government." My guess is that either place (a well with laughing dead people) and the government seem to be about the same in terms of "bad places to go" to Rahel, but Estha only seems to get "the government" part of it (I don't think Estha is nearly as smart as his sister) and being sent to the government is so terrifying to Estha that he goes out of his way to say "How do you do?" to Sophie Mol loud enough for Ammu to hear (Chap. 6, page 143.)

I know that my answer may not be very clear, and isn't very deep, but I think a similar theme runs through the book -- Rahel seems to have a tremendous imagination, which adds so much humor to even things that wouldn't normally be funny. Estha is kind of a shy, fragile, scared kid. Rahel wants excitement and adventure, Estha wants to feel safe.

message 19: by Serena (new)

Serena Huang (marrykatebush) | 259 comments I am finally on chapter 9, so.... what?! What's this about Sophie Mol sexually assaulted by Velutha and killed? I must have read too fast to try to catch up, but I'd like to know what hints I've missed! :)

Second time around reading this book, it's definitely more enjoyable. I love how it's mainly from children's point of view, it's a mind frame we adults are alienated although we've once had it. (The irony here is this point of view was written by an adult imitating children's frame of mind, so was she successful?) Barbara mentioned the twin's reaction to Ammu's threat of sending them away, I enjoyed it a lot. The government is the grand authority, the ultimate power, the punisher of all. Estha, the practical one, assumes the government is the final destination for final judgement. LOL! Rahel's play on words is definitely funny and cute.

I really like Ammu the strong yet tragic figure. Yes, what's up with all marriages in this household all ending in tragic? It's also very sad Pappachi's beatings of Mammachi and Baby Kochamma's broken heart seem to twist both women and left them extremely selfish totally devoid of sympathy. The fact that none of them wants to have anything to do with the raising and providing of the twin was ice cold!

message 20: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 168 comments OMG!!! Serena, I am SO SORRY!!! I didn't know you were reading the book, because the only posts on The God of Small Things have been from either me or Satia!! (I even asked in one of the posts if Satia and I were the only two reading this book, and I think that's what we both thought!!!)

Well, I'm so happy that you're reading it too!!! There's so much to discuss about this book.

OK -- please ignore what I wrote about Sophie Mol being sexually assaulted and killed by Velutha!!! I promise -- this was NOT a spoiler, and you have not missed anything in the chapters you've already read.

I just finished chapter 10, and I still have no idea how Sophie Mol dies. (We do find out very early on that Sophie Mol somehow dies, because her funeral is in one of the early chapters.) As far as Velutha, I have absolutely no idea if he had anything to do with Sophie's death. I was just trying to guess what happened to Sophie Mol (because, even at chapter 10, I still have no idea how or why she died.) Velutha may have absolutely nothing to do with it -- again, it was just a "very wild guess."

I do have a lot of points to make and questions to raise about some things that happen in chapter 10, and I just have not had a chance to post any of it yet. But from now on I'll put everything into a spoiler post (if I can figure out how to do it -- Satia explained to me how to do spoilers and I tried, but it still hasn't worked.)

If I can't figure out how to create my posts as a spoiler, I'll just label my posts "Chapter 10" or whichever chapter I'm referring to, so that no one reads my posts unless they've already read that chapter.

Serena, is this the second time you're reading this book?? How do you like it so far???

message 21: by Satia (last edited Jul 18, 2011 05:18PM) (new)

Satia Serena, I'm glad you're enjoying it more this second time around. It is not an easy book to read by any means. It reminds me of a spiral staircase where no matter how high you climb, you still end up at the same point of the circumference. Because of the way Roy writes the story, the way it gradually peels layer upon layer can be frustrating. However, I don't think it is incredibly effective. I can't imagine this story told in a strictly chronological order being nearly as evocative.

I also admire any writer who can put out the climax of a story (Sophie Mol's death) and still make the story a compelling read. In that respect it reminds me of a few others, like The Bluest Eye and . . . and . . . well, I know there have been others but I am not immediately thinking of any others. I probably need to take a nap or something but it's almost bedtime so maybe I can stay up long enough to not think of something else altogether.

Barbara, Too funny! I was writing my comment as you were writing yours but you were quicker to post than I was. I've renewed the copy I borrowed from the library so I can read and discuss it for three more weeks. After that we have to rely on my none-too-great memory.

message 22: by Serena (new)

Serena Huang (marrykatebush) | 259 comments Barbara, no need for apologies. I was behind so did not want to say anything till I'm nearly caught up. :)

Ah. I see, it was a guess on your part. lol! I thought Roy mentioned at the beginning of the book that she died of car accident. And there were few instances they talk about bad traffic, zebra crossings, car accidents...

Second time around I realize why I dislike it the first time. It's the Anglophiles and the caste system which I despise in real life that contaminated the book. They still bother me this time reading it, but I'm able to distant myself from it since I am a lot older now. The Anglophiles: I did not live during the time, but it painfully reminds me of the Opium Wars, The Eight-Nation Alliance during late Qing Dynasty in China. And how it was such a cultural shock for China that it spilt with half of the population turning straight into Anglophiles and deemed anything Chinese wrong and bad and backward. Look at Hong Kong decades after the wars. There were Chinese in Hong Kong who didn't speak a word of Cantonese or Mandarin, who went to church instead of temples, who walked around with chips on their shoulder like Baby Kochamma (how I despise her!). As far as the caste system goes, it represents the pure ugly side of human race and nothing more.

What happened to Estha with the orangedrink lemondrink man was horrifying. I was molested few times by different people before age 10, so I guess this is another reason I disliked this book. Lol!

message 23: by Satia (new)

Satia It is this post-colonial context that really makes this book the perfect choice to read after reading Wide Sargasso Sea since both of them address with the change in society that followed. In some ways, Gone With the Wind likewise deals with what happens after those in power no longer have control of things.

I remember finding the molestation a shocking moment. Most books that have this sort of thing occur don't include them so early in the novel and it is one of the things I found remarkable because even though that moment didn't define Estha it did leave deep fissures of emotional pain. No doubt, later events felt like ripples resulting from this one event in a small child's mind. But I'll be quiet because those later events come out later in the novel.

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