The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy
Analysis: What's Up With the Epigraph?
Epigraphs are like little appetizers to the great entrée of a story. They illuminate important aspects of the story, and they get us headed in the right direction.
Never again will a single story be told
as though it's the only one.
– John Berger
If someone were to ask you what happens in The God of Small Things, you might stutter and go, "Uh...it's really complicated – just read it." Or you might say [Spoiler Alert!] "OK. There are these twins whose mom loves someone she's not supposed to. Then their cousin comes to visit. The mom gets mad at the twins and they try to run away. Their cousin goes with them and she drowns, and the mom's lover is blamed."
When it all comes down to it, the central events of The God of Small Things are pretty straightforward. What makes the story so rich and complex is the variety of perspectives that feed into it. The epigraph, which comes from John Berger's 1972 novel G., tells us just that. There isn't just one way of telling a story. Anyone involved in what's happening would tell it differently, see the events in a different way, or place the emphasis on a different aspect of it. While the plot of The God of Small Things is very simple when you break it down, it's made complex by the number of points of view feeding into it. Sure, you can say this is a story about Sophie Mol's death and the repercussions of that event, but by delving into the perspectives of the different characters, we are pushed to consider multiple reasons why it (and all of the ensuing fallout) had to happen.