The God of Small Things | Study Guide

Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things | Chapter 5 : God's Own Country | Summary



Returning to the present, the chapter opens by contrasting the healthy river of Rahel's childhood with the polluted trickle it has become. The History House on the other side has been turned into a luxurious hotel where people feel like they are stepping back in time. Rahel observes other changes as she walks around Ayemenem, which has grown into a small town.

She is waylaid by Comrade Pillai, who insists on talking. She remembers his son, Lenin, and the time as a child that she and he were both at the doctor's office because they had forced objects up their noses. Now Lenin, who has changed his name to P. Levin, works in Delhi for the Dutch and German embassies. Then Pillai shows her a photograph of her, Estha, Lenin, and Sophie Mol, taken just days before Sophie Mol died. Sophie, the sophisticated child from England, is mugging for the camera while the others look frozen, as if "caught in the headlights of a car."


Despite the changes around Ayemenem, this chapter puts the emphasis on all the ways things are frozen in the past. On the grounds of the old History House is an important "small forgotten thing." It is the toy wristwatch that Rahel always wore as a child, with the hands painted on, still frozen in time at 10 to two. Earlier, readers have learned that she had longed for "a watch on which she could change the time whenever she wanted to (which according to her was what Time was meant for in the first place.)" Sadly, Rahel has never been able to do that. She and Estha remain frozen in the events of long ago.

People today visit the old History House to learn about the past, and to see traditional items and scaled-down versions of the ancient kathakali performances. The past remains very present in Ayemenem. Comrade Pillai shows old photographs, frozen pictures of moments in time, and children call Rahel a hippie "twenty-five years too late."

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