The God of Small Things | Study Guide

Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things | Chapter 3 : Big Man the Laltain, Small Man the Mombatti | Summary



Set in the present of the narrative, summer 1992, this chapter opens with a description of how filthy and neglected the house at Ayemenem has become. Baby Kochamma and Kochu Maria, old and addicted to television, either don't notice or don't care. What Baby Kochamma does mind, however, is that the twins are living at the house. She doesn't trust them and wishes they would leave.

Rahel is trying to make a connection with the silent Estha, but he seems oblivious to her presence. After he comes in from walking, she watches him undress in his spotless room. She reaches out to touch him, but he only retreats more into his silence. She watches him begin to wash his clothes.


There is a sharp contrast between the filth of the rest of the house and the "obsessive cleanliness" of Estha's room. Even though Estha is portrayed as the strange person, readers should wonder if perhaps he's the sane one in a world gone mad. Roy hints at this by saying it is a "positive sign of volition from Estha." He has not really given up on living.

Also notable is how many words in this short chapter Roy uses to describe the physical beauty of both Rahel and Estha, the twin children of a mother described in the last chapter as "Sometimes ... the most beautiful woman that Estha and Rahel had ever seen. And sometimes she wasn't." Beauty is desirable in their world, but it must be backed by inner beauty. Estha and Rahel, so damaged by life, are nonetheless still beautiful.

As Rahel studies her twin brother closely, she sees him as a woman sees a man. She is saddened by the fact that she can examine him so closely and yet not know him. How can her beloved twin have become such a stranger to her? And to what lengths will she go to try to reclaim him? The overall feeling is that of a dream, unreal with a hint of danger. Indeed, the title refers to a story told within the chapter in order to get across the idea that all people have hopes and dreams. Whether dreams are viewed as big or small depends on one's perspective and station in life.

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