The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is a depiction of the suppressed gender of the society. Though Ammu and Rahel did not sway in the stereotypical women, Baby Kochamma presented the typical woman who had willing submission due to the suppression of the opposite gender in order to merely survive in the family. Baby Kochamma had a large contribution in the separation of the twins and the trauma that wounded Ammu, Estha and Rahel. She is the conventional villain needlessly interfering with innocent lives. However what incidents shaped her as the villain, what were her insecurities, why she had to adapt such means to place herself as superior than others can bring out the actual reason of her villainry. In the patriarchal society women and children are categorized in the same level. Lord of the Flies by William Golding portrays the savagery of some decent little boys far from civilization in their disastrous attempt to govern themselves in a stranded island. Jack who later causes a ghastly, unthinkable turmoil in the group leads to the death of Simon and Piggy. Freudian repression theory can investigate the cruelty present in both Baby Kochamma and Ralph. What were their concealed, repressed desires that turned them into such phantoms can be found out through Freudian analysis. Feminist social theory about Feminism and Marxism, post-colonial feminist theory will help to comprehend both the adult and child’s psychology regarding their own initiated action to control their surroundings.
Keywords: villainry, savagery, brute, repression, suppressed, desires, feminism, Marxism, denial, civilization, post-colonial, British Empire, gender, caste.
“Human brutes, like other beasts, find snares and poison in the provision of life, and are allured by their appetites to their destruction.” Jonathon Swift.
Human beings are inherently fallen creatures who are in need of redemption to lift the burden of sin from their shoulder. Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small things at first glance appears to be a novel focused on the lives of the women belonging to three generations and how each generation was different from each other, however it is more than that. This novel concentrates on small things like children and youth, untouchables and even for a brief period their attempt of liberating themselves from the clutches of big things ruling over for centuries. Baby Kochamma is a part of the minority but she is the villain filled with cruelty. If she belonged to the period of early Roman Catholics, her punishment for the scheme of murdering Velutha would be death. She felt fear of being discovered for the murder of Velutha but she did not feel any remorse for ruining the lives of these many people. She had ideals which did not belong to her but was decided formerly by her father, then her brother.
If she is seen from the Old Testament’s perspective she is a grave sinner, but that is not all who she is. Was she like this all the time, even if she was could she not be changed- these questions arise if her actions are scrutinized carefully. Again question arises if Ammu and Rahel could make change why could not Baby kochamma, why did she try so hard to survive in such mean manner she is also a woman after all, but more than that she is a human. Should not she have compassion toward her fellow human beings who were her family?
In the novel we first see her through the line, “Baby Kochamma was still alive”(4). This line tells a lot about her. A few lines later it was said,” Rahel hadn’t come to see her”(4). Before the readers are introduced to her character fully, an unwelcomed picture of her is drawn. Baby Kochamma had a real name “ Navomi Ipe” (4). Abraham points out that, even her pet name “Baby” is laughed at (154). Even when she was a full grown woman she was addressed as baby by everyone. Her existence as a mature adult was denied and she was merely of any importance and interest to her existing family. She was not recognized.
Baby Kochamma fell in love when she was eighteen with an Irish monk named Father Mulligan who was studying Hindu scriptures “to denounce it intelligently” (24). Blinded by the thirst for freedom she tried to find an escape route from the father’s house through falling in love which could lead to potential marriage and placing the present male figure other than the family on the seat of a savior. She was only allowed to study ornamental gardening in the United States because her possibility of finding a suitable husband for herself was improbable and her willing conversion to Catholicism after her eternal “sad, Father Mulligan-less” life took over (45). Her father had a sigh of relief in educating her because she was no longer in the danger of damaging herself as a potential bride. Education was considered as a trap for destroying the traits of a perfect bride. Gradually Baby Kochamma felt the insecurity, like Ammu she did not have any “Locus Stand I.” The anger that infuriated her that both Ammu and she had the same fate and same position in the family but Ammu fighting it back and her inability to change her luck. Like Pappachi’s Moth the fear crawled in her mind that if Ammu as a divorcee woman could survive in the family then in future she could actually become a part of this family. This possible threat led her to taunt Ammu, Rahel and Estha.
The God of Small Things separates small things like women, children and untouchables in a group of minority who are deprived have their own world. In the society ruled by patriarchy women and children are placed in same intellectual level and have minimal importance. They are considered as creatures which could not possibly have the heart to witness any violence and being a part of it is out of question. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies delineates a different picture. The delicacy that should be present in twelve years old boy is absent from the very beginning in Jack. The very first moment that he encounters Ralph he displays his competitive and condescending attitude. Even after Ralph is selected as the leader he tries to assuage Jack’s anger by making him and the choir the soldier and hunter for the group. Jack never paid any heed to this kind act of Ralph and vents his frustration on Piggy by teasing him. Jack is the one who emphasizes on making rules and punish those whoever breaks them will be punished; ironically he is the first one who defies Ralph the leader openly, hammering a crack on the attempted disciplinary system.
Jack is frustrated and angry because he is given the responsibility for hunting but he fails to hunt a pig. As the failure of guarding the fire signal occurs Jack tries this opportunity to get back at Ralph. Jack repeatedly tries to win against Ralph, for example trying to take the conch away from Ralph and wants to lead the pack. When the whim of beast appears he tries to show his bravery by calling the littleluns cry baby. The eternal hunter’s drunken savagery leads to the death of Simon, the first one to realize that the beast is within the boys, it is not an external force. Jack’s aggressive nature lures out the mysterious, sadistic Roger who almost killed Henry at the beginning but the power of education holds him back. Later Roger slowly unwraps his barbarity as he pushes a huge boulder at Piggy which crushes him to death and at the same time Jack throws a spear at Ralph who grazes past his shoulder tearing his skin. The last part where all the boys except Samneric go to hunt Ralph with the intention of killing him surpasses all the brutality. Jack the instigator leading the herd to a bloody path not for once lets his conscience to awake rather at a tender age putting it to a deep sleep to falsely justify his actions leaves the readers awestruck.
Baby Kochamma and Jack epitomizes villainry to the extent where there can be no room to support them for their horrifying actions. However the reasons behind such obnoxious deeds can be investigated. Sigmund Freud saw psychoanalysis as a form of therapy which looks for repressed fears and conflicts which hide itself in the unconscious, Freud let the patients talk freely to go beyond the conscious. The idea of repression is connected with forgetting or ignoring of unresolved conflicts, unadmitted desires or traumatic past events. “Repression proper” second stage of repression affects mental derivatives of the repressed subject, or such trains of thought as, originating elsewhere, have come into associative connection with it (A. Freud 525) This repression can find an outlet from the unconscious to conscious through “Freudian slip” in everyday phenomena such as slips of the tongue, slips of pen or unintended actions, it is a defence mechanism which Freud himself named as “parapraxis” (Berry 94).
Dreams are also expression of repressed desires. For example, a patient dreamt his brother and sister playing in a field suddenly grew wings and flew away. According to Freud the manifest content- what the patient remembered of the dream after waking- masked the hidden, latent content, namely the patient’s unconscious desire for the death of his siblings ( in the dream they became angel and went to heaven) so that he could have exclusive possession of his parents’ love (Lapsley 68). Freud’s personal story can be viewed as an example of repression which can be related to pleasure principle. One day he noticed his grandson Ernst playing with a bobbin attached to a piece of string. As he threw it behind a curtain he said ‘Oooh’ and when he retrieved it by pulling the string he said ‘Aaaah’. Freud interpreted this activity- now termed the Fort Da game- as a symbolic re-enactment of the coming and going of the mother. Why, if subjects seek pleasure, should the child choose to recall a painful experience, namely the mother’s departure. Ernst was seeking to regain the initiative by taking control of a situation where previously he had none (Lapsley 71-72).
Feminism and repression theory has close connection in a sense that women underwent suppression the most and they had to fight to get their rights as human and had to suppress lot of tantrum. Feminist social theory has been concerned with the comprehension of fundamental inequalities between women and men and with analyses of male power over women. Marxism is a theory of social change, one which held out the promise of a more equalitarian society in future. Marxism was developed to explain capitalist class relations- the exploitation of the proletariat- and required considerable modification to accommodate gender relations. Feminists were generally familiar with, often sympathetic to Marxist ideas. Marxism offered an analysis of oppression which was rooted in the system of society. Women’s subordination in the society can be seen as social in origin, nothing natural or accidental. Jackson pointed out “women’s subordination” as a consequence of capitalism, patriarchy, a system of male domination (13).
Post-colonial theory encircles around the way Europe in the nineteenth century represented many of the cultures in their own light after the expansion of imperialism. It has positioned itself as a masculine subject. West produced the concept of the “other” the weaker ones which is the west and the “occident” (Said 512). This concept of stronger and weaker one is presented through the gender. Western world portrays the dominating male and the eastern world depicts the irrational, emotional, weak otherwise women and also it presented the seemingly weaker forms of ‘native’ masculinity (Mills 99). The concept of “othering” throws the women into a lower position. Beauvoir illustrates it as, a girl will always be a girl because “the sphere that she belongs to is enclosed, limited, dominated by the male universe: high as she may raise herself, far as she may venture, there will always be a ceiling over her head, walls that block her way” (Prologue). The post-colonial feminists were concerned to foreground the “particularly gendered nature of masculinity” which developed as appropriate for British males in colonial/imperial context (Mills 100).
It might appear out of place to have these three different theories put together, however they are interconnected in the case of Baby Kochamma and Jack. Repression theory suggests that both of the characters had some grudge or unattended desires that they wish were fulfilled. If their social context is observed it can be seen that the one who oppresses are the power holder which brings the feminism social theory on Marxism. So both of them fantasized themselves as the oppressors when in reality they had the position of the “other” in the society. The post-colonial feminist theory exhibits the condition of a third world woman which is different from a native English woman and how it voices the false ideals of masculinity in the British society. In the name of enlightenment how the British world was deceiving everyone and destroying its own youth.
Baby Kochamma did not dream of anything big, she only hoped to “stay near” Father Mulligan and to engage in a theological discussion with him (Abraham 155). Her love was filled with sincerity to the extent even after his death, she continued the ritual of writing “I love you” in the diary (P 298). Ammu had a life which was more scattered than hers but she was not so silent like her. This fueled her anger and naturally she disliked the twins and when she had the opportunity to ruin them she did not miss them. The repressed anger of her unconsummated love and Ammu daring to step out the territory of history house led her far away from her natural self. Feminist social theory and feminist post-colonial theory represent how she was subjugated by her father and brother and developed “Anglophilia” and a sneering attitude toward the weaker ones and feeling no guilt in torturing them. Jack is an embodiment of the masochist British Empire. Though human beings are inherently fallen creature owing to the myth of the “Original Sin” of Adam and Eve, but in their childhood they resemble Adam and Eve before fall. As they grow up gradually they come in touch with the complexities of earthly life. Some people win over the temptations that can ruin them and some cannot. The environment, people, surroundings are largely responsible in shaping their characters. It can be criticized that Baby Kochamma had weaknesses, why could she not be as strong as Ammu and Rahel, the fact that they belonged to the same family, they had similar sort of treatment. It can also be said that she was a pathetic woman unable to express her love, a coward just happy to see the shadow of her admired one. However she was a simple woman is something cannot be denied. Apart from the scheme of Velutha or ruining Ammu’s family she was very ordinary in her ways of life, following the ideals that were inserted into her, never even thought of rebelling. She led a life which was more tragic than Ammu and Rahel’s. Because they dared to cross the threshold of history house and for a brief moment they as individuals accepted their existence outside of how their family and society treated them. Baby Kochamma built a maze of grudge and lost herself in the dark alley of it. She lost her individuality before she could actually discover it. Freudian repression shows this inner pain of hers. Her painfully lonely life is described by Rahel,”Sheis living her life backwards” (22). Her appearance as a young bride wearing make-up and jewellery of Rahel’s dead grandmother can only show the massive emptiness she carries in her heart, a life she could not live and she could have lived.
As for Jack his being a minor committing such deadly crimes not just once and continuing that. Question arises from where he could have possibly learned such means of devastatingly destroying people when he was a part of a highly sophisticated society. The last part says it all, “Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart” (248). The war that was going outside the island, the war of adults, and the war of bloodshed- all these things sketches a picture of heroism in the little boy’s heart. The desire to rule and to suppress always inhabited in their heart, because that is how they saw their heroes in civilization, fighting for the country, civilizing the uncivilized and enlightening the world. The idea of feminist Marxism shows the dominating nature of Jack and Roger. Feminism comes here because these minors cannot become a part of the patriarchy because they were only practicing it then. After all women and children are parts of small things. What makes a hero a hero?- when he runs to the battlefield to slaughter the enemy’s head whether that a person is actually a fighter or a civilian, when he steps on thousand dead bodies and declares his victory, when he is a dictator. This totalitarian attitude appears sparklingly majestic before the weak people. The polished mannered white people drew a deceiving picture of themselves that mocks their own hypocrisy. As Kermode addresses, “The devil would rise out of the complications of three white men” (55). The desire to rule and oppress and being far away from civilization brought out the beast in Jack. Though he was not an adult, he proved one thing right that he was going to become a man. Kermode points out, “the whole paradise is destroyed under the puzzled eyes of an observer. Boys will be boys” (57).
Baby Kochamma and Jack are characters of two worlds, part of different situations. They were similar on the context that they were part of the socially structured small things and they committed crimes that the big things are capable of doing. The repressed desires of positioning themselves as the power symbol, the male they only thought of one way which was dominating the weak ones. There cannot possibly be any plausible reason to justify their deeds. However their surroundings that slowly created those desires have to shoulder over some responsibilities of their becoming like that.
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