C LIT 300
Paper #3 - The God of Small Things Each reader interprets and analyzes a literary work based upon personal values and an association to a specific critical approach. I personally associate myself closely to Marxist criticism but also place importance on the function of individual words in a literary text. The incorporation of the caste system and love laws within The God of Small Thing and incestuous and murderous action of Oedipus are easily critiqued by Marxist criticism as they reflect social and cultural stress.
I find myself close to the Marxist school of criticism in relation to my personal value system and the importance I place on social forces within a literary text. As stated by Marxist scholar Michael D. Bristol, “Marxism retains its values as a type of social and cultural criticism that focus on social conflict, social creativity, and the struggle for positive change” (Wofford 349). I however exclude social creativity and struggle for positive change from my analysis, as it does not, in my opinion, consistently work within every piece of literary text. I hold social and cultural criticism as highly important because the actions and characteristics of the main protagonists are deeply influenced by the social construct of their surroundings. The practical method of analyzing the repetition of words within the text is also an important facet of my personal mode of critique. The repetition of individual words is important because it draws attention to areas relating to Marxist criticism and the elements of social and cultural tension. The historical and cultural nature of the caste system plays a large role in The God of Small Things. Chacko discusses with Comrade K.N.M. Pillai the untouchable caste level of Velutha and states, “It is a conditioning they have from birth. This I myself have told them is wrong. But frankly speaking, comrade, Change is one thing. Acceptance is another” (264). This statement reflects on a broad scale the mentality of society and their apprehension to give rights and liberties to the paravans. It is also stated in the text that “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” (71). The caste system is a cultural attribute of India and although it can be constructed as outrageous and excessive in relation to the ideals of western culture, it is commonplace in the structural make up of Indian society. Velutha’s caste level plays into the social conflict of the text as he provides Chako’s workers means to complain about their working situation. The workers refuse to work with a paravan who although is of low class holds monumental importance in the function and operation of the Paradise Pickles and Preserves factory. This conflict also functions on another social level as the communist party becomes involved in the workers strife and instigates the closure of the factory. This imposition of political influence is commonplace within the text and relates the fact that India is shaped by exterior forces, both from the west and European nations.
The love laws found within Indian culture is also a component to the social tension within the text. Rahel states that the Ipe family’s problems “really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much” (33). The love laws are connected to the caste system as Ammu, being a touchable is forbidden to love a member of the untouchable caste. If Velutha, Ammu’s lover, was a touchable then his love for Ammu would be condoned, but due to his caste and the culture of India, he places social stress upon the family. By her affair, Ammu placed the family in exile from the touchable class as she “defiled generations of breeding (The Little Blessed One, blessed personally by the Patriarch of