Contemporary Literature

Topics: Marriage, Amitav Ghosh, The Shadow Lines Pages: 11 (4280 words) Published: March 11, 2013
Ever since the tragic events linked to India's accession to independence, Indian literature has been obsessed with the horror of Partition, and haunted by images of division and demarcation, materialised by clearly drawn separating lines. Rohinton Mistry notes that Indian authors keep "repeating the same catalogue of horrors", adding nevertheless: "What choice was there, except to speak about [the Partition], again and again, and yet again?" (Mistry 151). The horrors of Partition and the trauma of deliberately arbitrary dividing lines survive bitterly in Kashmir, which Salman Rushdie sees as a place that used to be a Paradise of tolerance and fusion before the British whipped up the antagonisms between Muslims and Hindus. Although Arundhati Roy chose to situate her only novel in Kerala, in the south of India, far away from the line of Partition, her book is also deeply informed by rhetoric of separation and demarcation, where boundaries are "patrolled", policed, and piously preserved, and where transgression is efficiently repressed. Indeed transgression is one of the most important elements in The God of Small Things, in theme as well as in method and style. Just as public school pupils deliberately choose to go to places that are "out of bounds", just as soldiers "break bounds", refusing to obey the limitations on their freedom ordered as a punishment, some of Roy's characters refuse to let themselves be imprisoned within the laws and rules established by a deeply conservative society.

In order to focus on the theme of crossing boundaries, I am going to focus on two characters Ammu and Velutha who cross boundaries in their lives. The issue that first comes to mind is maybe the fact that they are lovers: an untouchable, cast-less man has a sexual relationship with an upper middle-class, Syrian Christian woman. But this is not the first time this couple has crossed social boundaries. Before they even think about becoming a couple, they break social codes on their own.

The women in the God of Small Things belong to men throughout their whole lives. From the day they are born until the day they get married, they are the property of their fathers. The fathers decide how their daughters should live and act; they are supposed to make sure that their daughters act according to the social norms in their community. One way to see the oppression of the female characters in the novel is by looking at how the get married. In order to marry off their daughters, the fathers have to pay a dowry to the prospective husband. To have a woman in the family is therefore such a burden that the fathers even have to pay to get rid of them, to .burden another poor soul with them. Therefore, to in any way invest in women is worthless. One example of this is when Ammu wants to go to study in college, but Pappachi refuses to send her. He does not want to waste any money on a woman’s education.

According to him, it is much better that she stays at home, with her mother, and learns household chores. Pappachi does not think that sending her to college will pay off; staying home, on the other hand, is something she will get use of, since when married she is going to stay at home anyway.

As a young, unmarried woman, Ammu spends a summer in Calcutta with a distant relative. This seems to be when she starts to get into trouble, and when she starts to cross social boundaries. During this summer, she meets her future husband, the father of her future children. This man is not the kind of man her parents want her to marry; he is a stranger to the family, and, worst of all, he is a Hindu. And for a young Christian woman from the upper middle-class, a Bengali Hindu is not the right kind of man to marry. Therefore, by marrying this man, she brings shame to not only herself, but to her whole family, something that the rest of the family of course is not so pleased about.

Because the women are owned by men...
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