Critical Response to Article on GOST

by Yi Nok Ryan on October 18, 2017

Critical Response to Joe Holroyd’s Article on God Of Small Things

After reading Joe Holroyd’s “Dialectical Reading, Ideological Writing and Political Realism in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things”, I believe that I agree, to a large extent, with Holroyd’s thesis. In particular, Holroyd writes that Estha and Rahel’s use of language are constantly varying and often allowing the reader to openly interpret the use of wordplay in various instances. For example, using the example of “Orangedrink Lemondrink”, Holroyd questions whether the use of this instance of wordplay is similar to a coping mechanism for the trauma inflicted on them (a conscious decision to use such wordplay), or if it is merely a symptom of childhood psychological trauma (a sub-/unconscious decision). I agree that many of these examples show up throughout the novel, (however) my belief on this aspect is that the children’s wordplay is purely of a sub-/unconscious nature. To raise another example, certain words are capitalised throughout the children’s narrative: I believe this is because those words (usually nouns) represent an object or idea which the children values strongly, however they themselves are not aware of such values, thus the capitalisation of such words (whilst technically the author’s choice) can be explained as a sub-/unconscious phenomenon.

Another concept I fiddled with after reading Holroyd’s article is whether GOST is a bildungsroman. Here, I define a bildungsroman as “a novel dealing with one person’s formative years or spiritual education, focusing specifically on psychological and moral growth which results in character change”. As Holroyd mentions, the novel can be considered as a piece of political criticism on India’s division of social class, as well as its communist system (which could be representative of universal phenomena). However, he also writes that the novel cannot be identified as Marxist or “institutionalised” because of the focus on Estha and Rahel’s language-use as a privilege – that is, their perspective is “true-seeing” and not corrupted by “big things” like structure, order and complete monopoly. Thus, I believe GOST can be viewed as a bildungsroman, where the focus lies within Estha and Rahel’s growth from childhood to adulthood. They begin as innocent, true-seeing children, and as the plot progresses they encounter a traumatic event (Orangedrink Lemondrink Man) that causes a psychological and moral shift in behaviour – a majority of these changes can be seen in their wordplay. Throughout the plot, we see the introduction of “big things” like India’s political situation, the Love Laws, and the Caste system. However, these only aid in evaluating the children’s psychological and moral responses to such issues which can be described as (previously mentioned) innocent and true-seeing. The last section of the novel is categorised as Estha/Rahel’s return home, where they have been psychologically separated as a result of physical separation from each other. Their wordplay no longer occurs as frequently, a suggestion of “growing up” or character change. Furthermore, the culmination of the entire novel’s events cause them to reconnect via incest, which is the most important “character change” to be noted. Thus, I conclude that it is possible to view GOST as a traumatic bildungsroman. The concentric narrative is perhaps the hardest to justify for this hypothesis (GOST is a bildungsroman).

In conclusion, I agree to a large extent Holroyd’s points made in the article, and the reading allowed me to develop my own ideas regarding the interpretation of GOST from various ideological, dialectical, and political perspectives.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe October 18, 2017 at 9:51 PM

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ryan… a ‘traumatic bildungsroman’ is an interesting hybrid. I think it works.


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