In The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy demonstrates how the text communicates meaning through the usage of alternating narratives, flashbacks and flashforwards, which disrupts the flow of a conventional linear narrative. When coupled with the usage of symbolism and repetition, the novel mimics the psychological effects of Ammu, Estha and Rahel’s trauma and invites the reader to be a witness and observer to their trauma.
- How does the text make one feel?
- Disoriented, confused, fragmented parts of a complete story (elusive)
- Because of the alternating narrative (hard to keep up), flashbacks and flash-forwards (continuously moving in present and past) —> we are given hints of what happens (but initially it doesn’t make sense to us), symbolism (for example, Frozen Time) and repetition of phrases (which acts as landmarks in the novel that allow us to piece the story together).
- Effect? It is difficult to make sense of and find the beginning.
- Role of reader: Reading is a form of communication in literature which is informed by the tension between the binary opposites of the explicit and the implicit, revelation and concealment. Through this tension between what is said and implied by the text, the reader is spurred into action, in which they act as co-creators of the story and provide meaning to the text. Through this process of reading, the reader reformulates himself and discovers what had previously eluded his consciousness.
- “I have talked about rereading as a choice on the part of the reader, an invitation on the part of the writer. On occasion, we can even encounter a kind of challenge from the writer, a situation wherein a conclusion cannot be understood without rereading.” —> maybe can put this at the conclusion.
- How alternating narrative disrupts the flow of time
- How flashbacks and flash-forwards disrupts the flow of time
- How do the above elements reflect the language of trauma: disjointed, interruptive, repetitive.
Two stories are being told alternatively throughout the novel, and they happen out of sequence- In addition, both stories are supplemented by backstories, complicating the story even more. Many narratives within a huge narrative.
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Effect: it’s hard to find a distinct starting point to the story; no sense of a clear beginning. Seems that the novel begins in the end and ends in the middle.
Flashback —> when the twins reunite and they call each other by their childhood name - Flash-forward/foreshadowing —> e.g. we are told “Orangedrink Lemondrink man” but we don’t know what is the significance of that until we reach chapter four.
Effect: it creates suspense in the reader, who has only read the book once so far, and prepares him/her for the horrors that tragic events that will happen. - Suspense is further generated with the theme of the frozen Time.
Effect: Therefore, for the characters, time is scrambled, memories are shared/forgotten, as a way of dealing with the trauma. No character can remember the past in a complete story, each character only holds inaccurate, subjective fragments of the story. Only Roy (author person) and the implied reader are able to see the gaps in the story, make sense of the explicit and implicit, and understand how the story blends: “Little events . . .”
Why are we witnesses?
However, we must also note that this is only ONE way of presenting the story. Through rereading, the gaps are filled. All the narratives tied together, symbolism makes sense, language make sense. We, thus, are reformulated by our reading and discover the hidden meanings —> and becomes witnesses and co-creators of the trauma that the three faced.