The God of Small Things- Love Laws and Transgression: who should be loved, and how, and how much

Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things is centred on Kerala: a miniature of India. This is a story about a dysfunctional Christian family. Here, the understanding of love, emotion, honor, respect, and intimacy is governed by “love laws: who should be loved, and how, and how much”. In the practice of instruction and using panoptic procedure powerful regulates the punishment: whom to punish and how to punish to less powerful/powerless. In Ayemenem house “they all broke the rules and crossed into forbidden territory” but in case of getting punishment powerless was in foreground. Since power itself is the creator of law.

The love laws explain us that Ammu breaks the laws twice. Once through marring with a man from a different castle and religion, and then she had the nerve to divorce him. This is the reason why Baby Kochamma considered Rahel and Estha as illegitimate child. Since, Baby Kochamma is an effortless double standard panopticon of the society. Though she was another one who hypocritically violets the love – laws in her youth falling in love with a priest farther Mulligan who can never marry. She desperately tried to seduce this man, convert her religion and ironically convert herself into a nun though she failed to do so. Being a representation of panopticon of society and patriarchally conformed woman starts to define the dignity of family which is going worst towards Ammu – Velutha affair. Therefore, in case of Baby Kochamma we can say that “change is one thing, acceptance is another.”

Love and the rules which regulates by the power of patriarchy has a constant changing form for different belonging caste as well as power. Ammu – Velutha affair is forbidden because of their caste differences and most importantly Velutha’s belonging of lower caste. “On Ammu’s road (to age and death) Vellutha was a small, sunny meadow” who does not behave like an untouchable is supposed to behave and of course he is not safe paravan like his paralyzed brother Kuttappen. The eternal impurity of his caste does not prevent him to mingle with children and Ammu, perhaps because he had education (in Ammu’s grandfather’s school for untouchables). From the very beginning, when their irresistible id and love making took place over the panoptic eye of society they both were aware of fate and potential danger of death drive.

Society uses panoptican and keeps sexual desire under control especially in case of lower caste and within the upper caste the less powerful group that is women. The transgression of Ammu and Velutha initially known by Vellya Paapren: Velutha’s farther. Trembling Pappen reached to Mammachi who could do something about the terrible situation. The eradication takes place with the threat of keeping keen eye on Velutha (when she is nearly blind). Ironically, Baby Kochamma and Chacko locked Ammu in the room after knowing the fact of extramarital relationship with under caste after Sofi Mol’s death and Velutha died in the prison and got the punishment of his bravery to crossing line of society. Eventually, Ammu died lonely. Here, sarcastically Chacko, Mammachi and Baby Kochamma are “the representative watcher of purity”.

Chacko, being a self-acclaimed Marxist hypocritically established many extra marital relationships with many workers and being aware of the fact Mammachi remains his supportive “sleeping partner”. Even, she builds another entrance in his room and justified the fact saying: “can’t help having man’s needs”. Even Baby Kochamma remains silent in Chacko’s scenario. On the other hand, in case of love making of Ammu with Velutha was needed to eradicate. Baby Kochmma and Mammachi is patriarchally conformed women, use their power to lower caste untouchable male and pathetically overlooks the hypocrisy of Chacko’s uncontrollable libido.

Chacko as a re-presenter of phallocentric society, his sexual manners with lower class labor did not interrupts the rules of love laws or any other restriction. His libertine behavior does not even hampered the family respect to Mammachi and Baby Kochamma . Though eventually he losses everything he loves. Perhaps this was his punishment of hypocrisy and flew to Canada. It also refers his surrender to panoptic operation of society. Additional, Ammu challenges the monolithic norms of the society and did not internalize the fear. The situations also work against them though not in the same way of Ammu-Velutha affair.

Thus, Rahen and Estha initially violate the love laws by loving Velutha and the punishment were separation. Rahel’s transgression took place from her very childhood as she finds herself dissimilar and wanted to be a human rather than a girl.  Being re-united in adulthood they again violate the love laws through incestuous relationship as they are from Ammu’s outlaw. They share all their agony as they were “two –egg twins with Same souls”.

However, panopticon operation uses only to regulate the less powerful in the society and who watching whom illustrates only for personal benefits of comparatively more powerful one. The situation strengthens the hypocritical potentiality of patriarchy of miniature India: Kerala. Living in the periphery of Ammu- Velutha scenario shows the double standard eyes of panopticon.


Nazmun Naher Shishir

Department of English (MAPW) Jahangirnagar University


Works Cited

Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. India: Penguin Books. 2002. Print.

< >

(Accessed on January 01, 2016)

< >

(Accessed on January 01, 2016)


Lecture Video:

Related Posts

About The Author

One Response

Add Comment

Leave a Reply to Cancel reply