The God of Small Things
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Tragedy
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type :
Note: Here we present the events of the novel in chronological order – not the order in which we read them.
The whole family is in the car on their way to see The Sound of Music and to meet Sophie Mol and Margaret Kochamma at the airport.
In the anticipation stage, the hero of the novel feels incomplete and hopes for some kind of gratification. For Estha and Rahel, being stuck in the car on a sweltering hot day just trying to get to their favorite movie is an experience full of anticipation. The whole family is apprehensive about meeting Sophie Mol. Despite the distractions on the road (namely, the traffic-stopping march of Communists through the streets), they try their best to keep focused on what's ahead.
They get to the Abilash Talkies and are about to see their very favorite movie. Rahel feels they are all happy together as family.
In the Dream stage, the hero is set on his or her course, and things seem to be going well. For Rahel and Estha, going to see The Sound of Music is one of the greatest joys they can imagine. They love the movie; they've seen it multiple times and know all the songs. Rahel tries her best to capture this memory and preserve it for the future. This is the last moment of carefree happiness in the novel.
Estha is molested at the movie theater. Rahel speaks unkindly to Ammu and worries like crazy that everyone will love Sophie Mol more than her. Both twins start to feel massively insecure.
In this stage, things start to go wrong, almost without warning. Rahel and Estha both undergo experiences that rip them from their comfort zone and leave them feeling unsettled and fearful.
To begin with, Estha has to leave the theater to stand in the lobby because he can't stop singing. While he's in the lobby, the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man molests him – he makes Estha touch him you-know-where. This act fills Estha with extreme shame and unhappiness – he feels that he has done something wrong, and thinks what he's done has made him unlovable. It makes him sick to his stomach. What's worse is that the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man knows that Estha lives in Ayemenem and that his family runs Paradise Pickles and Preserves. Estha figures that the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man might come try to find him at any time. This realization fills him with unspeakable fear.
Rahel's experience is totally different. She speaks to Ammu carelessly and rudely, telling her that she should marry the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man if she thinks he's such a nice guy. For a woman like Ammu – who married a man who treated her horribly and is now looked down upon by society for being divorced – these words are supremely hurtful. She tells Rahel that careless words make people love each other less. Rahel is filled with fear not only that Ammu loves her less, but that when Sophie Mol arrives, Ammu will love Sophie more than she loves her. This fear gnaws at Rahel throughout the novel.
Within the span of a day and a night, Vellya Paapen tells Mammachi about the affair between Ammu and Velutha, Sophie Mol drowns, and the twins watch helplessly as the police ruthlessly beat Velutha.
In the Nightmare stage, things spin wildly out of control. The day Sophie Mol dies is a day of confusion for the whole family, even before Sophie Mol leaves the house.
When Vellya Paapen comes to tell Mammachi about his discovery of Ammu and Velutha's affair, there's no turning back. Mammachi and Baby Kochamma fear the shame such news will bring upon their family. They lock Ammu away in her room until they can figure out what to do. When Ammu blames the twins for her situation, they decide to run away, and Sophie decides to go with them. The catch is, they want to cross the river, and Sophie Mol is not a strong swimmer like the twins are. When their boat capsizes, they realize with horror that Sophie Mol is dead.
In the meantime, Baby Kochamma gets the police to go after Velutha, and they beat the smack out of him with their batons and boots. The twins see the whole violent scene. All of these events are beyond what any of the characters ever could have imagined, and they all happen in the same day. The events of the day are characterized by an extreme sense of loss of control.
Destruction or Death Wish Stage
The family is separated for good. Estha is Returned to Baba. Velutha dies. Ammu eventually dies.
After Sophie Mol's death, nothing will ever be the same for Rahel, Estha, Ammu, or Velutha. The happy part of their lives is over. The four people who love each other the most are separated, for the most part permanently. Velutha dies from his injuries. Estha has condemned Velutha under Baby Kochamma's orders, and, even though Velutha would have died anyway, Estha feels incredible guilt and pain. The family decides to send Estha back to live with Baba. Even Rahel and Ammu are separated, and Ammu eventually dies. Aside from the literal deaths of Ammu and Velutha, a different kind of death is at work here: the permanent loss of the simplicity and happiness that once existed in their lives.