The traumatic separation of fraternal twins in India is at the heart of Arundhati Roy's "God of a Small Things" which addresses communism and the Indian caste system while recounting the lives of the twins both together and apart.
Learn this word list that focuses on the ways and days of Ayemenem.
hang over, as of something threatening, dark, or menacing
"Brood" also means "be in a huff; be silent or sullen"--this definition could fit because hot weather can make one less happy and talkative; this is suggested in the description: "the nights are clear, but suffused with sloth and sullen expectation." "Brooding" also means "sitting on eggs to hatch them by the warmth of the body"--this could be suggested by the descriptions of the heat ripening bananas and bursting jackfruits.
Bluebottles are flies, which are not usually described as dissolute ("unrestrained by convention or morality") or vacuous. But these adjectives emphasize the heat's effects: it is so hot that flies are mating so much that their mindless hums can be heard throughout Ayemenem, even when the sun makes many of them fly into clear windowpanes and die.
Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air.
(zoology) cessation or slowing of activity during the summer; especially slowing of metabolism in some animals during a hot or dry period
Estivation is similar to hibernation, except that animals hibernate in the winter. Animals either estivate or hibernate in order to preserve energy, so that they would have a better chance of survival when resources are more plentiful or the weather is less harsh. However, Estha is estivating because he doesn't see much of a reason to live.
It wasn’t an accusing, protesting silence as much as a sort of
estivation, a dormancy, the psychological equivalent of what lungfish do to get themselves through the dry season, except that in Estha’s case the dry season looked as though it would last forever.
state of sorrow over the death or departure of a loved one
She spent her holidays in Ayemenem, largely ignored by Chacko and Mammachi (grown soft with sorrow, slumped in their
bereavement like a pair of drunks in a toddy bar) and largely ignoring Baby Kochamma.
not capable of being carried out or put into practice
He didn’t know that in some places, like the country that Rahel came from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy. And that personal despair could never be desperate enough. That something happened when personal turmoil dropped by at the wayside shrine of the vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane,
unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation.
recovering readily from adversity, depression, or the like
"Resilient" can be a synonym of "inured" ("made tough by habitual exposure"). Both adjectives refer to the Small God, but they could also describe some of the human characters. But like the numb, laughing, and indifferent Small God who is compared to a rich boy who's happy that he's not as miserable as others, the characters who are resilient are not the most likable in this novel.
Inured by the confirmation of his own inconsequence, he became
resilient and truly indifferent.
a disposition to tolerate or accept people or situations
Although Baby Kochamma lives on sufferance (because she should be married with her own family, instead of living with her older brother's family), she is actually quite an insufferable ("extremely unpleasant or annoying") character who wants to see people suffer and who grudges the young twins their moments of happiness.
She was keen for them to realize that they (like herself) lived on
sufferance in the Ayemenem House, their maternal grandmother’s house, where they really had no right to be.
"Stifling" also means "forceful prevention; putting down by power or authority"--this describes Pappachi, who increased the frequency of his wife-beatings when he saw that Mammachi was gaining respect while he was losing it in the larger world. Pappachi's stifling nature is the reason he wears suits in the stifling heat--his need to be impressively oppressive makes the heat seem less oppressive to him.
Until the day he died, even in the
stifling Ayemenem heat, every single day Pappachi wore a well-pressed three-piece suit and his gold pocket watch.
Every morning at breakfast the Imperial Entomologist
derided his argumentative Marxist son by reading out newspaper reports of the riots, strikes and incidents of police brutality that convulsed Kerala.
Mammachi told Estha and Rahel that she could remember a time, in her girlhood, when Paravans were expected to crawl backwards with a broom, sweeping away their footprints so that Brahmins or Syrian Christians would not
defile themselves by accidentally stepping into a Paravan’s footprint.
When the British came to Malabar, a number of Paravans, Pelayas and Pulayas (among them Velutha’s grandfather, Kelan) converted to Christianity and joined the Anglican Church to escape the
scourge of Untouchability.
the trait of being rude and impertinent; inclined to take liberties
While these were qualities that were perfectly acceptable, perhaps even desirable, in Touchables, Vellya Paapen thought that in a Paravan they could (and would, and indeed, should) be construed as
Implied here is the Christian parable of the prodigal son who leaves home, wastes his inheritance, and returns home to seek the forgiveness of his father. Although Velutha did go away for a while and then returned home seeking his former position, he is, unlike the prodigal son, a skilled employee who works hard for his money and deserves more than what he actually gets.
It caused a great deal of resentment among the other Touchable factory workers because, according to them, Paravans were not meant to be carpenters. And certainly,
prodigal Paravans were not meant to be rehired.