Study Guide

The God of Small Things Fear

By Arundhati Roy


"Take mine!" Estha said quickly, not wanting Rahel to go near the [Orangedrink Lemondrink] man.

But Rahel had already started towards him. As she approached him, he smiled at her and something about that portable piano smile, something about the steady gaze in which he held her, made her shrink from him. It was the most hideous thing she had ever seen. She spun around to look at Estha.

She backed away from the hairy man.

Estha pressed his Parry's sweets into her hand and she felt his fever-hot fingers whose tips were as cold as death.

"'Bye, Mon," Uncle said to Estha. "I'll see you in Ayemenem sometime." (4.219-223)

How creepy is this moment? It presents two reasons for Estha to be completely terrified: he's worried that the Orangedrink Lemondrink man is going to do something to Rahel, and he also realizes the possibility of his tracking him down.

Ammu said a grown-up's Hello to Margaret Kochamma and a children's Hell-oh to Sophie Mol. Rahel watched hawk-eyed to try and gauge how much Ammu loved Sophie Mol, but couldn't. (6.86)

We see the twins experiencing different kinds of fear about very different issues throughout the book. Here, Rahel is scared that Ammu will be enchanted by Sophie Mol and thus begin to love her more than she loves Rahel.

That night in the lodge, Ammu sat up in the strange bed in the strange room in the strange town. She didn't know where she was, she recognized nothing around her. Only her fear was familiar. The faraway man inside her began to shout. This time the steely fist never loosened its grip. (7.49)

In the moment of Ammu's death, she's paralyzed by fear. What makes this moment so awful is that everything is strange to her except the fear that she feels. What a terrible way to die – not knowing what's going on except that you're completely terrified. Somehow, that makes the whole experience scarier, doesn't it?

The Orangedrink Lemondrink Man could walk in any minute. Catch a Cochin-Kottayam bus and be there. And Ammu would offer him a cup of tea. Or Pineapple Squash perhaps. With ice. Yellow in a glass. (10.19)

Estha is overcome by the fear that the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man is going to come to Ayemenem and find him. What makes this moment so moving is Estha's sense of helplessness. He thinks that if the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man were to come for him, Ammu would be hospitable to him and Estha would be powerless.

Temporarily, for a few happy moments, the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man shut his yellow smile and went away. Fear sank and settled at the bottom of the deep water. Sleeping a dog's sleep. Ready to rise and murk things at a moment's notice. (10.255)

What's interesting about this quote is the way it comments on the nature of fear. Even when Estha manages to forget about the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man briefly, his fear has gone away. It's lurking in the depths of his mind, waiting to sneak up on him at any moment.

Ammu was still locked into her bedroom. Baby Kochamma had the keys. She called through the door to ask Ammu whether she had any idea where the children might be. She tried to keep the panic out of her voice, make it sound like a casual inquiry. (13.101)

It's rare that we see Baby Kochamma worried about anyone but herself. In this moment, Sophie Mol's body has already been found, and nobody knows what's happened to Estha and Rahel. Is it possible that Baby Kochamma might actually care about them? Or is she just worried about the consequences for her reputation?

"Perspiration trickled through Chacko's hair. He felt as though a company of ants was touring his scalp." (14.94)

One thing the author does really well is to show us people's fear rather than telling us about it. Here Chacko breaks out in a cold sweat when he finds out that Velutha is a card-carrying member of the Communist Party.

"Sophie Mol? She whispered to the rushing river. "We're here! Here! Near the illimba tree!"


On Rahel's heart Pappachi's moth snapped open its somber wings.



And lifted its legs.


Down. (16.16-23)

Here we see Pappachi's moth used as a symbol of fear. The timing of this moment is especially creepy. You can almost hear the moth's wings on Rahel's pounding heart.

Screams died in them and floated belly up, like dead fish. Cowering on the floor, rocking between dread and disbelief, they realized that the man being beaten was Velutha. (18.58)

This is a moment of sheer terror, pure and simple. Estha and Rahel have probably never even imagined that such brutality was possible, and to see it happening to someone they love so much – well, that's just truly terrifying.

If they hurt Velutha more than they intended to, it was only because any kinship, any connection between themselves and him, any implication that if nothing else, at least biologically he was a fellow creature – had been severed long ago. They were not arresting a man, they were exorcising fear. (18.70)

We can see here that the policemen don't just beat the smack out of Velutha because they think he's a criminal. They do it because they're afraid of him and no longer conceive of him as a human being.