Study Guide

The God of Small Things What's Up With the Title?

By Arundhati Roy

What's Up With the Title?

There are a couple ideas to mull over when we think about the novel's title. On one hand, we can focus on the first half of the title and think of the particular person to whom it might refer – the God of Small Things. Who is this person? Well, from Ammu's dream, we get the idea that the God of Small Things represents Velutha, the man whom she loves in spite of the fact that society will never approve of them being together. In her dream (which takes place in Chapter 11 and happens to be entitled "The God of Small Things"), Ammu dreams of a man with one arm who holds her close to him:

He could only do one thing at a time. If he held her, he couldn't kiss her. If he kissed her, he couldn't see her. If he saw her, he couldn't feel her. (11.5-6)

When Ammu wakes from her dream, Rahel and Estha are there with her. Ammu notices a curl of shaved wood in Rahel's hair and knows that the kids have been to see Velutha. She also knows something else: "She knew who he was – the God of Loss, the God of Small Things. Of course she did" (11.71).

Velutha's identity as the God of Small Things is reinforced at the end of the book when we learn about Ammu and Velutha's first romantic encounters. Since they know it's impossible for their love to exist in the real world, they never talk or think about the future, or the "big things"; they stick to the here and now.

Even later, on the thirteen nights that followed this one, instinctively they stuck to the Small Things. The Big Things ever lurked inside. They knew that there was nowhere for them to go. They had nothing. No future. So they stuck to the small things. (21.68).

So now that we've thought about who the God of Small Things is, let's take a minute to think about the second half of the title. What exactly are the small things in this book, and why are they important? We've already discussed how the small things sustain Ammu and Velutha's relationship, since thinking about the Big Things is out of the question. But let's also think about the relationship between big and small things in the development of the novel's plot.

The narrator pays a lot of attention to Sophie Mol's death as the one big central event of the novel. The question that keeps coming up is whether Sophie Mol's death was totally random, or whether a combination of many smaller events made it inevitable that she would die. Maybe it's the small things that cause one big bad thing to happen: Margaret deciding to move out of her parents' house led her to meet Chacko. Estha's singing in the lobby led to his being molested, which in turn led him to want to run away. One small thing Rahel says causes her to worry that Ammu hates her. Somehow, all of the small decisions and events of the novel lead to Estha and Rahel running away from home and bringing Sophie Mol with them, which brings on not only Sophie Mol's, but also Velutha's death.