Arundhati Roy’s book, “The God of Small Things” is a very insightful book. In this book, one can see various themes arising from each character, especially on “Two-egged twins” Rahel and Esthappen (Estha) Yako. Roy portrays the children in this book in a very original way; she expresses throughout the book how the innocence of children is eventually corrupted by society, which leads to various problems when they grow older. By examining the tragic lives of Estha and Rahel, how those whom they trust the most corrupt them, one can perceive Roy’s views on the corruption of the innocence of children.
When we are introduced to the twins, they are grown up, and have not seen each other for 23 years. Estha has stopped talking and Rahel has lost touch with the world. We then go back to the summer of 1969 where we learn what happens to the children, how the lives of Estha, Rahel and Sophie Mol (their cousin) has been changed drastically over two weeks. We are first introduced to the innocence of children when we are told about Rahel’s experience of Sophie Mol’s funeral. How during the mass she notices many minor details such as the paintings on the wall, and the bat on Baby Kochamma’s sari. Here Roy is examining how children deal with traumas, by thinking of something else to help them along, which is how innocent children react to unpleasant situations. We see in the later chapters how Estha does the exact same thing as Rahel.
In a later chapter (when we jump back to the past), we learn that Ammu, Baby Kochamma, Chacko and the twins are going to Cochin, to pick up Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol. They are planning to the take Estha and Rahel to see “The Sound of Music” the twins’ favorite movie. The excitement they show on the way there emphasizes on how children can only think of one thing and nothing else when they are about the do something very exciting for them. It is then that both Estha and Rahel experience their first taste of reality.
The “Orangedrink Lemondrink man” sexually abuses Estha and we also see how Estha reacts to this abuse, he does not show any emotions while it occurs but thinks of something else altogether being his grandmother’s produce. This is a very clear way of seeing how innocent children are slowly being corrupted, as this is the same thing Rahel did at her cousin’s funeral. Estha also shows his innocence by telling the drink vendor where he lives and his grandmother’s occupation.
‘ “Ayemenem”, Estha said. ” I live in Ayemenem. My
grandmother owns Paradise Pickles & Preserves.”‘ (Roy, pg. 102)
Meanwhile, Ammu tells Rahel that she (Ammu) loves her less because of the hurtful words Rahel used. Both these incidents stay in their minds and haunt them for a long time after it happens. Since we know that Estha stops talking when he is older (and does not even tell Rahel what happened) we can conclude that it might have been the affair at “Abhilash Talkies” (the theatre) that triggered off his problem. It is the same for Rahel, whom we know, is unable to love people. It might have been the incident with Ammu that triggered off her problem, leading to the corruption of their minds’ at the tender age of seven, which will continue to haunt her in the days to come.
Much later in the book, we hear about the innocence of children again. This is after Ammu has been accused of sleeping with a “Paravan Untouchable” and is locked in her room. The twins come to her door and try to talk to her but out of anger she tells them to go away, and that she wishes she had never had them and because of them, she is suffering. Therefore, they decided to do what was obvious to them at the time, run away- a typical childlike decision that reveals their innocence. Sophie Mol’s innocence is seen here, because she insisted that she join her cousins in running away, her rationale was:
‘That the absence of children, all children, would heighten the adults’ remorse. It would make them truly sorry, like the grown-ups in Hamelin after the Pied Piper took away all the children. They would search everywhere and just when they were sure that all three of them were dead, they would return home in triumph. Valued, loved and needed more than ever. Her clinching argument was that if she were left behind she might be tortured and forced to reveal their hiding place.’ (Roy, pg. 292)
The fact that Roy uses reference to the “Pied Piper” shows innocence again. How, the innocent children were drawn to this man’s music and followed him wherever he went, she uses this reference as an indiscreet way of accentuates children’s innocence. Therefore, on this account, Sophie Mol did accompany the twins across the river, where she was swept off the boat and drowned. This led to further discomfort for Estha and Rahel because people blamed them for their cousin’s death and it was partly because of this that they were separated. However, it was, in fact the words that Ammu used that hurt the twins that forced them to run away, and in the process have their cousin killed, solely because of something that had nothing to do with them.
When Estha and Rahel had reached the shore on the other side, they stayed there for some time and, unfortunately witnessed something very upsetting to them. They saw their beloved Velutha being beaten up and hurt, right in front of them, they (as innocent children do) refused to believe it was Velutha but his “twin brother. Urumban. From Kochi”. Although they were not directly responsible for corrupting them, the pain they had witnessed hurt them more than anything else. Moreover, this pain carries on in their hearts for many more years to come.
However, it was, in fact the talk that Baby Kochamma had with Estha and Rahel that distressed the twins the most. They were told that they were the ones who, because of their carelessness killed their cousin, but if they said it was Velutha’s fault, they could save themselves, and Ammu. (This was not the case however, the inspector said that if the twins did not acknowledge Velutha and the man who tried to rape Ammu, Baby Kochamma would go to jail for false accusations). Naturally, Estha and Rahel fell for it and decided that they would save Ammu (they were told that their loved one, Velutha would not make it through the night).
The crucial decisive moment is when Estha is asked to go in with the inspector to recognize the “criminal” and answer the inspector’s question. Roy emphasizes this point very well in the book. We know this is straining on their innocence. When Estha goes in with the inspector to see Velutha and is asked the question, Estha affirm that it is true. The next sentence Roy uses shows the change that happens to this young boy, suggesting that ‘Childhood tiptoed out.'(Roy, pg. 320) or that all his innocence has been strained so much, that he has now entered the world of corruption and lies.
Now, they have both been changed, have been pulled out of childhood too soon and are going to suffer the worse way, by being taken away from each other. Estha is now to be taken to Calcutta to live with his father while Rahel stays in Ayemenem. They both reacted in very memorable ways at the train station. Roy again shows how they are all but ripped apart and how upset they are,
‘Little Elvis the Pelvis was a spoiled, special-outing puff. And beige and pointy shoes, He left his voice behind. On the station platform Rahel doubled over and screamed and screamed.’ (Roy, pg. 326)
After this, they only meet again after 23 years, when Estha has been “re-Returned”.
Estha in fact never sees his mother alive again, for Chacko kicks her out after Estha has been Returned. He has been Returned because, it was said that he was the one who was rowing the boat when it capsized and Sophie Mol drowned. Baby Kochamma said it is not a good idea to keep them both together because of the mischief they create. This is why, after coming back to Ayemenem and meeting his sister Roy constantly compares Rahel to Ammu, their beautiful mother whom Estha loved very much.
The loss of Ammu and his sister in his life hurts him tremendously, as he slowly pulls away from society and becomes even quieter, until eventually he stops talking. He becomes a mere shadow in life, hardly ever talking, doing everything by himself. Rahel, after being expelled from three schools because of inappropriate behaviors goes to America. She has the same problem, but her heart is not with her, she is not silent but is simply withdrawn, she floats in and out of her marriage like a dream. She wanders aimlessly around her places of work, not caring about life anymore, until she meets Estha again. Roy describes their closeness and togetherness in a very sentimental way, saying
‘They were strangers who had met in a chance encounter.
They had known each other before life began.’ (Roy, pg. 327)
Their grief and pain led to passion between them, which had been done because of quietness, emptiness and hideous grief. Two people meeting again after such a long time, both been pulled out of childhood before their time, both of them suffering from pain which had been their only luggage from the summer of 1969 until now. It was because of everything that had happened, the death of Sophie Mol, Ammu and Velutha, the passionate secrets between Ammu and Velutha the assault by the drink vendor, the accusations of Baby Kochamma, and the Return of Estha. All of these were what led the twins to comfort one another on that day. Pain, misery and anguish, after 23 years.
In this book, there are many themes introduced. The corruption of the innocence of children is just one of them. Nevertheless, a very significant one. Throughout the book, the innocence of Rahel and Estha is overwhelming, like a little bud waiting to bloom and open to the polluted world. In addition, it was the corruption of their minds, their innocent minds that led them to face life in a negative way and to do things never expected of them. Roy portrays their painful lives in a very meaningful way, opening the eyes of the reader. This book is very meaningful and worthwhile, everything falls into place and we see how the events in the book were like small pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. In the end, we see the consequences of each puzzle piece and what happens when they join to make a work of art.