FEMINIST READING OF ARUNDHATI ROY’S (Part 1)

Posted by Kathryn Schwartz on December 13, 2013
Feminist

ARUNDHATI ROY’S (Part 1)

Indian society is structured around two classes: the powerful and the powerless. One takes decisions and the other is at the receiving end of these decisions. The powerful’s sole purpose is to assert their power in every walk of life. The various rules, laws, norms, code of conduct have been formulated and put in place to preserve this power equation. No transgression is ever forgiven. The untouchables, the people from the lower castes, the down-trodden, the tribal, minorities and women are the powerless of society who are born to serve the interests of the powerful upper class, high caste section of society. Even within the same class, women are the worst affected, the most vulnerable section of relentlessly patriarchal social sensibility and attitudes. Governed by the regulating framework of self-sacrifice, the woman puts up with miseries and abuses within the family as well as outside it. The ways in which a woman is controlled by the different institutions of the society, and the degree of the brutality a woman is subjected to is the central theme in the writings of several writers. They, including feminist critics, challenge the society based on male predominance and female subordination. Arundhati Roy, a spokesperson of the weak and the suppressed, raises her voice for the devoiced. She protests against the treatment of woman as no better than the legal, economic and sexual property of her husband sanctified by socio-legal texts.

Apart from depicting the real picture and situation of Kerala in 1960s such as the misuse of Communism by the government of the day, the suppression and injustice inflicted upon the untouchables and the colonized mentality of the people from upper strata of society, The God of Small Things highlights the true scenario of suppression, oppression, injustice, cruelty and inequality imposed upon women.. Roy in this novel brings women from three generations with a purpose to focus on three types of women characters—submissive; rebellious and transgressive all of whom fail to defy the age-old traditions, though the rebellious try to challenge all sorts of social norms made to suppress women. Pappachi, an Imperial Entomologist and husband of Mammachi, and Chacko, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and the son of Pappachi, are symbols of patriarchy, the eternal suppressors and controllers of women from first and second generation respectively who deliberately try and mostly succeed in making the women from all the three generations puppets in their hands in the novel, and to keep their dominance over them, they cross the limit of humanity. Baby Kochamma, sister-in-law of Mammachi, acts as an agent of patriarchy who, even being a woman, assists Pappachi and Chacko to further the degree of brutality towards Mammachi, Ammu and Rahel.

In every walk of life a woman is governed and controlled by some men. The moment she is born she becomes the property of the males. Before marriage she is governed by her father; after marriage by her husband; and at the old age she comes under the dictatorial supervision of her son. This reality is depicted vividly by Roy in this novel taking characters from a single Syrian Christian family.

Mammachi, the woman of first generation in the novel, is a role model of the traditional Indian women—submissive, compliant, tame and meek. Although nothing is said about the earlier life of Mammachi, it is understood from her married life that she was totally controlled and governed by her parents who had chosen for her a husband who is seventeen year older than her. Marriage appears often to the women to be restrictive and oppressive. Roy compares jeweled bride to the condemned “so painstakingly decorated before being led to the gallows” (God of Small Things 44).The institution of marriage is often futile, absurd, unjust and unfair for women. Mammachi is, not uncommon to the Indian society, subjected to constant ill-treatment and torture by her husband who thinks her his legal, economic and sexual property. She is treated as an object, and not a human being who may have emotions and feelings and who may wish to live in her own way.

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