The God of Small Things | Study Guide

Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things | Chapter 12 : Kochu Thomban | Summary

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Summary

This chapter is set at the kathakali performance Rahel decided to attend back in Chapter 9. Kochu Thomban, the temple elephant, is there asleep, and Rahel presents him with a coconut. The performance has begun. Roy provides background information about what the kathakali has become in a world of tourism. The actors are stoned, but the story is so familiar that it doesn't matter much.

Rahel senses Estha arriving. The violent stories of kathakali and of the Terror they experienced as children converge and bind them together even though they do not stand close. They stay through the whole performance, until dawn, when the bloody madness of the story finally ends. Coming out of the temple, they encounter Comrade Pillai, who was the person who first introduced them to kathakali as children. He is pleased that they are still "interested in your Indian culture." The twins walk home in silence.

Analysis

The violence of the kathakali tale seems to be part of the very fabric of Indian culture. It is hard for many readers to imagine taking six-year-olds (the age Rahel and Estha were when they first attended kathakali) to a performance so graphic. Yet their own family is characterized by violence, with fathers beating their wives and children, and characters in the world missing limbs that have literally been blown off. As Roy suggests, when the kathakali actors take off their makeup at the end of the performance, they go "home to beat their wives."

Still, the violence of the Terror witnessed by the twins has not left them. As they are reunited in that pain, their closeness seems to be getting restored. The last words in this chapter show the shift: "They walked home together. He and She. We and Us."

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