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 home.
In Pappachi’s study, mounted butterflies and moths had disintegrated into small heaps of
iridescent dust that powdered the bottom of their glass display cases, leaving the pins that had impaled them naked.
uncontrolled motion that is irregular or unpredictable
"Errant" also means "straying from the right course or from accepted standards"--while this adjective is used here to describe the pencil, it can describe many members of Estha's family. Young Estha's pencil mistakes might lead to some red pen comments from Ammu, but other mistakes lead to more permanent and disastrous consequences that cannot be erased.
The labored form of each letter and the irregular space between words was full of the struggle for control over the
errant, self-willed pencil.
It was a grand old house, the Ayemenem House, but aloof-looking. As though it had little to do with the people who lived in it. Like an old man with rheumy eyes watching children play, seeing only
transience in their shrill elation and their wholehearted commitment to life.
a facility where things can be deposited for storage or safekeeping
"Repository" also means "a person to whom a secret is entrusted"--this definition would not fit the example sentence because Mammachi's feelings, although inappropriate, are not a secret, since she makes them clear through her actions and praise. Chacko both demands and hates this attention, while Ammu sees this as another unfair part of life since "all Indian mothers are obsessed with their sons and are therefore poor judges of their abilities."
The day that Chacko prevented Pappachi from beating her (and Pappachi had murdered his chair instead), Mammachi packed her wifely luggage and committed it to Chacko’s care. From then onwards he became the
repository of all her womanly feelings. Her Man. Her only Love.
"Men's Needs" are enigmatic to Baby Kochamma since she has never fulfilled them. The idea that men's needs would be different from women's needs is meant to be enigmatic to the readers. The author Roy also mocks the idea by using the adjective "implicit" ("being without doubt or reserve") to describe the sanction ("official permission or approval") that is given to something that's not fully understood.
Surprisingly, Baby Kochamma accepted this explanation, and the
enigmatic, secretly thrilling notion of Men’s Needs gained implicit sanction in the Ayemenem House.
"Annihilate" means "destroy completely" in this example sentence. But the given definition and the words "missile," "fire," and "quarter" suggest a level of destruction that comes with war. This exaggeration of what could happen to a family's "Good Name" both mocks the characters who think it's that important and emphasizes the physical destruction caused by the focus on preserving an untouchable idea.
Of course they did not even remotely suspect that the missile, when it was fired, the one that would
annihilate the family’s Good Name forever, would come from a completely unexpected quarter.
Margaret Kochamma never returned the money simply because she never found it. Her pockets were emptied as a matter of routine by Aniyan the dhobi. Mammachi knew this, but preferred to construe Margaret Kochamma’s silence as a
tacit acceptance of payment for the favors Mammachi imagined she bestowed on her son.
of or relating to or proceeding from the sense of touch
"Tactile" takes on an extra meaning here because Rahel is laughing at being tossed and caught by a man who is considered Untouchable. Although not a part of the caste, Ammu, being divorced, is also seen as untouchable. But seven-year-old Rahel is not concerned with labels of untouchability, because to her, Velutha and Ammu are her beloved friend and mother. Throughout the novel, the author Roy supports this childlike embrace of the world.
She was surprised at the extent of her daughter’s physical ease with him. Surprised that her child seemed to have a sub-world that excluded her entirely. A
tactile world of smiles and laughter that she, her mother, had no part in.
Ammu saw that he saw. She looked away. He did too. History’s fiends returned to claim them. To re-wrap them in its old, scarred
pelt and drag them back to where they really lived. Where the Love Laws lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.
audacious (even arrogant) behavior that you have no right to
In the angry quietness of the Play (the Blue Army in the green heat still watching), Ammu walked back to the Plymouth, took out her suitcase, slammed the door, and walked away to her room, her shoulders shining. Leaving everybody to wonder where she had learned her
An hour after the lights went out,
disdaining Mammachi’s frightened pleading, little Ammu crept back into the house through a ventilator to rescue her new gumboots that she loved more than anything else.
The twins' perspicacious scrutiny appreciated their cousin's perspicacity: Sophie Mol was astute ("keen in judgment") in gauging the prevailing ("most frequent or common") temper, which led her to rudely reject Baby Kochamma. Also quick to figure out that she'd rather play with the twins, Sophie Mol turned down Mammachi's offer that she replace the twins in braiding a rat's tail and counting moles.
By then she had performed unfalteringly under the twins’
perspicacious scrutiny and had confounded all their expectations.
The low status of Velutha's family is shown in the description of their home--even the roof is nestled close to the ground. But the walls are made of "orange laterite"--laterite should be "a red soil produced by rock decay" and it was once a source of aluminum, nickel, and iron. This, and the theory that the Garden of Eden was made of red soil (which makes Adam and all his descendants made of red soil) suggest that this hut's inhabitants are worth a lot more than their status.
On the edge of the clearing, with its back to the river, a low hut with walls of orange laterite plastered with mud and a thatched roof
nestled close to the ground, as though it was listening to a whispered subterranean secret.
The low walls of the hut were the same color as the earth they stood on, and seemed to have
germinated from a house-seed planted in the ground, from which right-angled ribs of earth had risen and enclosed space.
There were other things from the Ayemenem House that had either been given to them or
salvaged from the rubbish bin. Rich things in a poor house. A clock that didn’t work, a flowered tin wastepaper basket. Pappachi’s old riding boots (brown, with green mold) with the cobbler’s trees still in them. Biscuit tins with sumptuous pictures of English castles and ladies with bustles and ringlets.