Maintaining Social Images at the Cost of the Castes

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Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things portrays many types of oppression based mainly on the caste system in late 20th century India. The caste has many effects as characters’ qualities of life are compromised, people are turned on each other, and some are treated unjustly. Roy uses the caste system and power roles to portray how people consent to social norms regardless of their morals, because they are more eager to please society and maintain their images than act ethically. Velutha’s self-worth is put at stake because of people’s ethical decisions based solely on his unfairly fixed place in society. When Velutha returned to Ayemenem, Mammachi helps him by rehiring him as a factory carpenter. The other workers were extremely upset by this because “Paravans were not meant to be carpenters” so in order to “keep the others happy, and since she knew that nobody else would hire him as a carpenter” Mammachi had to pay Velutha “less than she would a Touchable carpenter but more than she would a Paravan” (74). The prevalence of the caste system is emphasized when the word “meant” is italicized, showing that it was the expected norm to reject and alienate Paravans. While Mammachi holds somewhat to her ethical values because “she knew that nobody else would hire him” she also shows the priority of her reputation her factory, which forces her to pay him less. This is a less extreme case of classism because Mammachi compromises and pays Velutha in between the two wages. However, if she did not feel the pressure to conform to discrimination to maintain her own reputation, she wouldn’t have lowered his wages at all. Baby Kochamma falsely reports a case to the police where she claims Velutha forced himself on Ammu. She misrepresents the si... ... middle of paper ... ...chamma is described as a “child” with connotations of ignorance and helplessness show by the image of “lowered eyes.” While Baby Kochamma truly did nothing wrong, the inspector causes her to feel “chastised” and punishable simply because she interacted positively with an Untouchable. The caste system in India not only caused people to be oppressed, ignored, and mistreated, but it also changed the mindset of society at large. The separation of classes leads to other separation between people causing some to feel the right to act more powerful than others. This is an issue in The God of Small Things because it causes characters to feel the need to hold to certain images or standards at the cost of those less fortunate to be born into higher classes. Arundhati Roy poses many dilemmas where characters must decide between their own pride and dignity, and helping others.

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