The God of Small Things | Study Guide

Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things | Chapter 11 : The God of Small Things | Summary



As Rahel and Estha get back to the napping room, Ammu is just waking up from a dream of a one-armed man who holds her in the light of an oil lamp, on a beach littered with broken glass. The twins realize she is having a bad dream and debate whether or not to wake her. They decide they will just disturb her, but she senses them there and is not ready to be done with the dream. When she does awaken, she realizes the dream has made her happy.

She sees the twins are covered with sawdust and figures out they have been with Velutha. Then she curls up with them for a while, until she is ready for them to stop touching her. She goes to the bathroom, locks herself in, and examines her body, her hair, thinking that her future is something to dread.

The children play in Ammu's bedroom while she is gone. Foreshadowing indicates this will be the room where terrible things will happen. Ammu will be locked inside it. Chacko will threaten to kill her. The door will be knocked down as Ammu extracts a promise from her children: "Promise me you'll always love each other." Later, she will pack Estha's things in that room and ask for his promise to write. And, much later, in the present of the narrative, it is the room where Rahel watches the silent, adult Estha bathe and wash his clothes.


As Ammu thinks about her dream, she identifies the man in it as "the God of Loss, the God of Small Things." Already she seems to know that she cannot change the Big Things—the culture, the Love Laws—but by trying to have the Small Things she will lose. A song playing on her radio as she thinks about this confirms it: forbidden love leads only to death. This chapter, the one named with the title of the book, is the point at which things are fully set in motion. Readers now know where Ammu and Velutha are headed—toward an illicit love affair that seems beyond their control. And they know it will end in tragedy. If any further proof of that is needed, Roy has also inserted a brief description of the cremation of the elephant the family had seen dead on the road when driving home from the airport. The bad omen must not be forgotten.

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