Love Laws in “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy
This essay will focus on gender to show the gender roles in a gender-biased society and what the love laws reveal about the women both within the novel and within contemporary India.
Throughout the novel, The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, the women are seen but not heard. They are completely disregarded with what they have to say, their opinions, their beliefs, and even their love. Though these women are the ones addressed it is important to note that, “it wasn’t just them. It was the others too. They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much” (Roy 31). Though there are many topics that are addressed in this novel, this essay is going to focus on gender, through a counterhegemonic reading of the text, to showcase examples of how the female characters of Aleyooty Ammachi, Mammachi, Baby Kochamma, Ammu, and Rahel demonstrate their traditional and untraditional gender roles, what the “love laws” reveal about the lives of women in India today, and how it relates to this gender-biased society. There was even the case of, “an old lady masquerading as a distant relative (whom nobody recognized)…”(Roy 6). Maybe this woman was distanced from her family because she had loved who she shouldn’t. Maybe she had broken the “love laws”.
The role a woman in this society is that women are viewed as frail and unable to take care of themselves and therefore subservient to the men in society but if educated they become unmanageable, un-marriageable. For a woman to fit into the traditional societal role, they have to be under tight control of the male. She stays silent through her hardships and never speaks up. If she works, he takes the credit. If he beats her, she takes it. If a woman speaks out against a man or leaves in the face of violence she is treated almost like an outcast of society, like a “veshya” or an “untouchable”.
Rahel’s great grandmother Aleyooty Ammachi is referenced as a picture only but in that picture she shows defiance against the traditional role she was placed in. She is described physically when recalling her ears, “her… earrings (tokens of the Little Blessed One’s Goodness) had stretched her earlobes and hung all the way to her shoulders” (Roy 30). Her husbands “goodness” had literally disfigured her. Comparing the aspect of society that believes a man’s needs are more important to a woman’s needs to this actual physical deformity makes this fascinating because the ‘deformation of character’ seen as rebelling against accepted roles of society is seen as a physical deformity yet the actual physical deformity of her “earlobes” is associated with conforming to society.