In The God of Small Things, various "Big Things" and "Small Things" are constantly at odds. Define "Big Things" and "Small Things" in your own terms, and then determine whether one class of things or the other becomes ascendant by the end. Or are they always equal and opposite sets of things?
Roy refers to Velutha as both "The God of Small Things" and "The God of Loss." Using specific examples from the text, explain what about Velutha makes these titles appropriate or inappropriate.
Compare Ammu's and Velutha's secret sexual relationship to Rahel's and Estha's incestuous tryst. Is one or the other more forbidden? How do they express the psychology of the various characters involved?
Examine Roy's use of "Small Things" and the 'small perspective' throughout the novel. Why does she insist on focusing on what is small? Are things small by nature or by convention? Consider the novel's epigraph in this context.
Explore Paradise Pickles & Preserves as a symbol for the forbidden and hidden in The God of Small Things. How does the process of pickling serve as a metaphor for the way the family handles its 'skeletons in the closet'?
How does Roy use the idea of loyalty in the novel? Which characters are loyal and which are disloyal? Some characters to consider: Comrade Pillai, Baby Kochamma, Velutha, Ammu, Estha.
Explain how violence and sex are connected throughout the novel. In Roy's world, can one exist without the other, or are they necessarily connected? What sort of outlook does this create?
Examine Roy's use of the grotesque in the story's events as well as the characters' fantasies. Is any of the violence Roy uses gratuitous? If so, how? If not, why is so much violence necessary in the novel?
Consider Roy's literary style. How does her use of perspective, time, fantasy, refrain, and any other element you wish to discuss affect the way we perceive the story?
Examine Roy's use of setting in the novel. How do her choices serve to highlight a connection or disconnection between the worlds of "Big Things" and "Small Things"? Some locations to consider: The river and riverbank, Ayemenem as a whole, Cochin, the History House, the Ayemenem House, the hotel, the movie theater, Ammu's room, the police station.
Does The God of Small Things have one definite protagonist? If so, who is it and why? If not, why does the novel need no single protagonist?
Contrast one of the following sets of characters, using specific examples from the text: Velutha and Estha, Ammu and Rahel, Sophie and Rahel, Baby Kochamma and Mammachi, Chacko and Comrade Pillai. What makes the comparison worth noting? Do not compare characters unless you can argue why the comparison is worthwhile.
Which affects Estha's and Rahel's relationship more, their shared experience, or their instinctive, biological connection from birth? Make sure you can substantiate your claim with regard to episodes such as their incest, the incident with the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, Sophie Mol's death, and the scene at the police station with Baby Kochamma.
Example Questions for The God of Small Things
Please answer two of the following questions. In your answers, you must refer to TWO specific scenes from the reading to support your answer.
1. What role do postmodern themes play in the text? (Which do you see as being most significant? How are they used?)
2. What significant role does Paradise Pickles and Preserves play in the story? (Not just in terms of plot, but in terms of theme or symbol.)
3. To what extent are race, social class, and religion important in this text? 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?
4. Why does Roy switch back and forth among time present and various times past? What effect does she intend this to have on the reader? (Does it work?)
5. 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"), and other objects related to this theme?
6. What is the significance of Velutha’s role in the story?
7. 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? What might be her purpose for creating such a strong connection between the twins? (Is this simply a character trait, or does this connection function thematically?)
8. What importance does Roy ascribe to story, storytelling, and playacting? Why?
9. 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?
10. 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 the significance of actual buildings in the novel?
11. So far, what would you identify as the most significant key motifs or theme in the story? Which scenes or characters illustrate this theme most clearly?
12. How is the idea of boundaries explored? Who enforces boundaries? Who breaks them? What moral judgments are made? (By the author or by the characters.)
13. What is the significance of the title, The God of Small Things? (Who or what is the God of Small Things?)
14. What function does Pappachi's moth serve in the book?
15. What does the book have to say about the changes to the world brought about by modernity, development and globalization, etc.?
16. What does the author seem to be saying about the nature of history and of memories in The God of Small Things?
17. The God of Small Things is filled with strong images. From variously shaped "Holes in the Universe" to bursting jackfruits to Pappachi's moth, Roy weaves a very sense-ridden story. Identify two strong similes or images used in the book, and discuss *why* they worked so well.
18. Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times praised Roy's "marvelous job of conjuring the anomalous world of childhood, its sense of privilege and frustration, its fragility, innocence and unsentimental wisdom." Do you agree with this? Why/why not?
19. In what way is this a fundamentally political text? What does Roy seem to be criticizing or advocating?
20. Create a detailed character sketch of Ammu, Baby Kochamma, Velutha, Chako, Mammachi, Pappachi, or Margaret. (Be sure to include your thoughts and opinions on the character, not just a literal description.)
21. How do you think Caste affects Rahel and Estha’s outlook on life and people? (If you’d rather, you may discuss Ammu, Chacko, or Baby Kochamma instead of the twins.)
22. What is the significance of the name “Baby” Kochamma? (Why ‘baby’?)
23. In what way do characters in the text illustrate a crisis of identity? What point do you think Roy is using this pattern to make?