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The IUP Journal of English Studies :
Novel as Counter-Narrative of the Nation: Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things†
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In her novel The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy offers a deeply critical perspective on modern India while riveting the reader’s attention on the microcosm that constitutes the story. She unobtrusively works her commentary on issues confronting the nation into the narrative, which readily invites the discerning reader’s honest reflection on them. This paper discusses The God of Small Things in terms of its engagement with three major issues—degradation of environment, commodification of culture, and degeneration of Indian democracy—and demonstrates how in the process the novel challenges the prevailing paradigms and dominant narratives of the nation that are based on a romantic concept of the nation, inadequate understanding of ground realities, and lopsided priorities. The paper then focuses on how the novel suggests alternative scenarios foregrounding the experiences of the voiceless, the underprivileged, and the disenfranchised. It further establishes how Roy’s commentary underlying The God of Small Things deeply impacts imagination and how in the final analysis the novel emerges as an authentic counter-narrative of the nation.

 
 
 

Arundhati Roy’s novel The God of Small Things distinguished itself as a unique work of art juxtaposing artistic imagination with social reality. Roy (2011) herself admits, “It isn’t just about small things. It is about how the very smallest thing connects to the very biggest.” Unsurprisingly, much great social value emerges from the connections she makes between the smallest and the biggest things, and between fiction and reality. She makes these connections and voices her concerns primarily in the form of commentary underlying the novel’s narrative structure, and in the process, the novel challenges the dominant narratives, received notions, and prevailing paradigms about many aspects of modern India. Although the novel encompasses a wide range of issues facing the nation, this paper limits its scope to the explication of only three important ones—environmental degradation which has since assumed hideous proportions, commodification of Indian culture to serve commercial interests, and degeneration of Indian democracy—all adversely affecting the nation. The central research problem addressed here, therefore, is how Roy destabilizes the ideological strategies of the hegemonic narratives and paradigms governing these issues by offering a counter-narrative of the nation from the perspective of the disadvantaged millions. Roy holds the growing clout of the corporate companies largely responsible for the unsavory developments on all the three crucial fronts, and pleads for an immediate course correction.

 
 

Journal of English Studies