The God of Small Things
Society and Class Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
"It's a little too late for all of this, don't you think?" he said. He spoke the coarse Kottayam dialect of Malayalam. He stared at Ammu's breasts as he spoke. He said the police knew all they needed to know and that the Kottayam Police didn't take statements from veshyas or their illegitimate children. Ammu said she'd see about that. Inspector Thomas Mathew came around his desk and approached Ammu with his baton.
"If I were you," he said, "I'd go home quietly." Then he tapped her breasts with his baton. Gently. Tap tap. As though he was choosing mangoes from a basket.... Inspector Thomas Mathew seemed to know whom he could pick on and whom he couldn't. Policemen have that instinct. (1.55-56)
Thomas Matthew sexually harasses Ammu by tapping her breasts, showing that since he's a man, he's automatically more powerful than she is. Then he shows her what kind of woman he thinks she is by bringing up her "illegitimate" children. Talk about a nasty interaction.
Looking back now, to Rahel it seemed as though this difficulty that their family had with classification ran much deeper than the jam-jelly question.
Perhaps Ammu, Estha and she were the worst transgressors. But it wasn't just them. It was the others too. They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down who should be loved and how. And how much. The laws that make grandmothers grandmothers, uncles uncles, mothers mothers, cousins cousins, jam jam, and jelly jelly. (1.188-189)
Classification – figuring out where things and people belong and how they should be labeled – is a big deal in this book. The society Rahel and Estha live in is divided by extremely rigid class lines that not only dictate how "good" someone is but also whom they can associate with and even love. We find out early on in the novel, however, that Rahel, Estha, and Ammu – along with almost everyone else – will violate those rules.
That whole week Baby Kochamma eavesdropped relentlessly on the twins' private conversations, and whenever she caught them speaking in Malayalam, she levied a small fine which was deducted at source. From their pocket money. She made them write lines – "impositions" she called them – I will always speak in English, I will always speak in English. A hundred times each. (2.7)
Baby Kochamma finds everything British – the language, the culture – inherently superior. Here, she punishes the twins for speaking their own language instead of English. Think about how this must contribute to the twins' fear that Sophie Mol is somehow better than them because she is only half-Indian and lives in England.