Trauma and the ethical dilemma in Arundhati Roy's The God of small things

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sarah Young Longworth (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
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Lewis Walker

Abstract: Arundhati Roy’s novel, The God of Small Things, is notable for its complex narrative technique, particularly its elaborate narrative structure and its treatment of perspective. The novel contains several layers of narratives, including two dominant narratives and numerous subordinate narratives. Roy deliberately manipulates these narratives so that the two dominant narratives converge at the moments of two sexual transgressions of societal rules regarding appropriate sexual conduct. While the novel explicitly describes the tragic outcome of Ammu and Velutha’s inter-caste affair, it leaves the future of Estha and Rahel’s incest ambiguous. Critics frequently disagree over whether or not the novel’s outlook is pessimistic or optimistic about the future of society’s responses to such violations of social codes, and often do so specifically in terms of the twins’ incest. In light of such interpretations, contemporary trauma theory reveals, how, when viewed as a trauma narrative, the novel may be best read, not merely as either a pessimistic or optimistic commentary, but as a warning that even though societal influences can perpetuate trauma and, thus, create the perception of inevitability, the future is not predetermined. The novel accomplishes this goal, specifically, by assuming the form of a trauma narrative. The narrative style, for instance, replicates the nature of trauma for readers to experience secondhand. Most importantly, the novel presents readers with an ethical dilemma and encourages a response from readers.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University North Carolina Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Roy Arundhati The God of small things--Criticism and interpretation
Roy, Arundhati. The God of small things -- Criticism and interpretation

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