Reading novel can be a study on certain society in certain time and place. It is because a novel is not born from inanition, it has some phenomena, worldviews and reasons that become the background of its present. This idea is the main supporter of studying the extrinsic elements of the novel. And one of the ways for doing it, is by applying the sociological approach in analyzing the novel.
Arundhaty Roy’s The God of Small Things is the novel that captures many social values of Indian society. This novel that is set in Kerala (India) after the colonial era describes clearly the culture of Indian society and how it influences many aspects of the society life, including the family life, the neighborhood relationship, political condition and so on. At least, there are three cultural values can be reached after reading this novel, they are about the caste, gender, and cultural transformation in post-colonial era.
The analysis in this paper is extrinsic study of Arundhaty Roy’s The God of Small Things. So, the discussion will be sourced from both novel and some literatures outside the novel. The discussion hopefully can serve the cultural values of India at the time of post-colonial India so that we can examine the influence of the caste system in postcolonial India and investigate the cultural conflicts or differences caused by this system, to re-think Roy’s appreciation of the imperial language, and also to explore how the dominated/colonized culture uses the tools of the dominant/colonizer to resist cultural hegemony.
1. Caste in India
Sometimes, people assume that caste is similar to the class. But, according to Dirks (1997 in__________), they are actually different. Class related to the social economic of the people, while caste is the sign ofIndia’s fundamental religiosity, a marker ofIndia’s essential difference from the West and from modernity at large. Caste is one of the traditions that distinguishesIndiafrom other nations, just like racism inAmericaand apartheid inSouth Africa. The caste ofIndiaincludes four varnas, they are Brahmins for the priests, Kshatryas for the warriors, Vaishyas for the traders, and Shudras for the laborers. Outside the caste system are the Untouchables. They are considered polluted and not to be touched.
Because the mobility of the society in the caste system is hard, most people remain in the same caste for their whole life. They interact mostly with only the people in the same caste and they are only allowed to marry the people in the same caste too. Especially the untouchables who are regarded as the people with no caste, they live regardless as their names, untouchable. The character Velutha in the novel is then an exception of caste norms since he works in the factory owned by the Touchable and he can talk with people higher than his rank.
However, the division between the Touchables and the Untouchables is deeply rooted
in Kerala so that Velutha is regarded as a nonhuman asRoywrote in her novel:
“If they hurt Velutha more than they intended to, it was only because any kinship, any connection between themselves and him, any implication that if nothing else, at least biologically he was a fellow creature–had been severed long ago (Roy: 293).
In fact, many untouchable people have the equal “quality” compared to touchable once. Many of them are talented and brilliant. They can do some works as good as the touchable do. But because the identity of “untouchable” labeled them, they can develop or actualize their selves. Take Velutha’s case for example. Despite his untouchability and poor background, Velthutha is a great help to Ammu’s family. Among Valuta’s contribution to Ammu’s family are, he is the best operator of machine in their factory beside he also has great carpentry skills. But, like Mammachi said, if Velutha hasn’t been a Paravan, he might have become an engineer. Unlike the scholarly Oxford-training Chacko, it is Velutha who...
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