Study Guide

The God of Small Things Love

By Arundhati Roy


Baby Kochamma resented Ammu, because she saw her quarreling with a fate that she, Baby Kochamma herself, felt she had graciously accepted. The fate of the wretched Man-less woman. The sad, Father Mulligan-less Baby Kochamma. She had managed to persuade herself over the years that her unconsummated love for Father Mulligan had been entirely due to her restraint and her determination to do the right thing. (2.55)

Baby Kochamma wants to believe that she chose not to receive Father Mulligan's love – the one thing she wanted more than anything. Forbidden love, like that between Ammu and Velutha, is despicable to her – and maybe it's because they have what she never could.

At Pappachi's funeral, Mammachi cried and her contact lenses slid around in her eyes. Ammu told the twins that Mammachi was crying more because she was used to him than because she loved him. (2.79)

Throughout the book, we see examples of duty-bound love. Mammachi doesn't especially love Pappachi, and why should she? He's been nothing but awful to her.

Frightened eyes and a fountain looked back at Ammu.
"D'you know what happens when you hurt people?" Ammu said. "When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less." (4.237-238)

People always say that a mother's love is unconditional – that she will love you no matter what. Here Ammu takes that guarantee away from Rahel in response to her careless, hurtful words.

The original plan had been that Estha would sleep with Chacko, and Rahel with Ammu and Baby Kochamma. But now that Estha wasn't well and Love had been re-apportioned (Ammu loved her a little less), Rahel would have to sleep with Chacko, and Estha with Ammu and Baby Kochamma. (4.254)

In Rahel's mind, Estha gets to sleep in Ammu's room not because he's sick, but because Ammu has started loving Rahel less.

[Sophie Mol] arrived on the Bombay-Cochin flight. Hatted, bell-bottomed, and Loved from the Beginning. (5.116)

After Ammu tells Rahel that careless words come with the danger of being loved less, Rahel seems to feel that she needs to earn the love she receives. Sophie Mol, on the other hand, doesn't have to do anything to deserve anyone's love; she has it from the moment she steps off the plane.

For instance, [Velutha] saw that Rahel's mother was a woman.

That she had deep dimples when she smiled and that they stayed on long after her smile left her eyes. He saw that her brown arms were round and firm and perfect. That her shoulders shone, but her eyes were somewhere else. He saw that when he gave her gifts they no longer needed to be offered flat on the palms of his hands so that she wouldn't have to touch him. His boats and boxes. His little windmills. He saw too that he was not necessarily the only giver of gifts. That she had gifts to give him, too.

This knowing slid into him cleanly, like the sharp edge of a knife. Cold and hot at once. It only took a moment. (8.89-91)

Is your heart melting right now? Here, we see Velutha starting to fall in love with Ammu. He's known her forever, but now he sees her in an entirely new and different way.

It is only now, these years later, that Rahel with adult hindsight recognized the sweetness of that gesture. A grown man entertaining three raccoons, treating them like real ladies. Instinctively colluding in the conspiracy of their fiction, taking care not to decimate it with adult carelessness. Or affection. (9.25)

This moment shows us a different kind of love – the love between Velutha and the twins. Estha, Rahel, and Sophie Mol go to visit Velutha dressed as ladies in saris. As an adult, Rahel realizes how kind it was of Velutha to play along with their game.

Velutha smiled when he saw the Marxist flag blooming like a tree outside his doorway He had to bend low in order to enter his home. A tropical Eskimo. When he saw the children, something clenched inside him. And he couldn't understand it. He saw them every day. He loved them without knowing it. But it was different suddenly. Now. After History had slipped up so badly. No fist had clenched inside him before.

Her children, an insane whisper whispered to him.

Her eyes, her mouth. Her teeth.

Her soft, lambent skin. (10.256-259)

Velutha's feelings toward the children change here. He has fallen in love with Ammu, and as a result, his love for her children deepens to the point that it takes him by surprise.

Between them they decided that it would be best to disturb her discreetly rather than wake her suddenly. So they opened drawers, they cleared their throats, they whispered loudly, they hummed a little tune. They moved shoes. And found a cupboard door that creaked.

Ammu, resting under the skin of her dream, observed them and ached with her love for them. (11.33-34)

A mother's love for her children can be overwhelming. The twins, in their innocence, are afraid that if they wake Ammu up suddenly, she'll have a heart attack and die. So they tiptoe around trying to wake her gently. Noticing this, Ammu is overcome with her affection for them.

Somehow, by not mentioning his name, she knew that she had drawn him into the tousled intimacy of that blue cross-stitch afternoon and the song from the tangerine transistor. By not mentioning his name, she sensed that a pact had been forged between her Dream and the World. And that the midwives of that pact were, or would be, her sawdust-coated two-egg twins.

She knew who he was – the God of Loss, the God of Small Things. Of course she did. (11.70-71)

Ammu has a dream about falling in love with a man unknown to her, who she calls The God of Small Things. She realizes that it's Velutha that she was dreaming about.

Estha nodded down at Ammu's face tilted up to the train window. At Rahel, small and smudged with station dirt. All three of them bonded by the certain, separate knowledge that they had loved a man to death. (20.12)

All three of them – Ammu, Rahel, and Estha – loved Velutha, and none of them were supposed to. His loss becomes all the more painful because it's likely that, if not for them, he probably wouldn't have died. It was because they loved Velutha that they involved him in their lives. And it was because they involved him in their lives that he died.