Time in The God of Small Things

Dheera D. and Alisha K.

In Class Activity

In your literary journal, reflect upon a period of your life that you would like to preserve forever or a time period that you would like to forget. While you reflect, examine yourself to see if your are carrying something negative about you. It may even be around you.



In literature, is the factor that allows characters, plots, and settings to change or transition smoothly

3 Sub Categories

Idea of Preserving Time: This represents change, a part of life and literature that seldom is accepted with open arms. If time is wanted to stand still by another, then either a problem is occurring or the person is very happy in that moment. Depending on who wants time to slow, actions on how to attain this may vary from honest to violent.

Pickling as a Way to Preserve Time: In the book The God of Small Things, the reference of pickling in the family is present to show how for everyone, time is not only frozen because of what they want to remember, but also because of what really matters to them the most in their lives. When something is pickled, it is meant to last for nearly forever. In this case, the remembrance of what happened with Sophie Mol’s death is what is to be preserved, be it for the better or worse.

The Toy Watch as a Way to Preserve Time: The toy watch of Rahel’s is meant to symbolize that time in fact is standing still for everyone already. This could be interpreted as if the fleeting situations have already been pickled, but they are pickled into a negative feeling. Every reference back to the watch is either implying a direct correlation with Sophie Mol’s death or how time is frozen.


General Ideas of Frozen Time

  • “She seemed terrified of what adult thing her daughter might say and thaw Frozen Time. Fear made her garrulous. She kept it at bay with her babble.” (Roy 153)

    • Time didn't stand still because it evoked negative feelings but because fear kept it from moving forward.

  • “It was as though Ammu believed that if she refused to acknowledge the passage of time; if she willed it to stand still in the lives of her twins, it would” (Roy 152)

    • Ammu as a mother has recurring thoughts of trying to freeze time in order to spend more time with her children. It can be specifically seen after the twins are separated from her.

  • “Time stopped on the red staircase” (Roy 106)

    • This instance refers to when Rahel insults her mother at the movie theater. The description of how her words seemed to stop time indicate the intensity of her words and also the memory.

  • “It was a black and white photograph...smiles frozen on their faces, arms pinned to their sides,chests swiveled to face the photographer” (Roy 128)

    • The photograph captures the time period prior to Sophie mol’s death and emphasizes the happiness that was present prior to her death. It contrast to the rest of the book because the time being preserved is prior to most of the storyline.

Pickling As a Way To Preserve Time

  • “The earthly remains of Paradise Pickles and Reserve.....Where a red, tender-mango-shaped secret was pickled, sealed and put away. It’s true. Things can change in a day.” (Roy 183)

    • The tender-mango-shaped secret being pickled, sealed and put away is the memory of planning to run away and the instance that Estha has his two thoughts. The memory seems to be preserved and Rahel realizes that things can change in a day.

  • “....fumes that rose from the cement vats of Paradise Pickles. Fumes that wrinkled youth and pickled futures.” (Roy 214)

    • The fumes that rise from the Paradise Pickles symbolize the after effects of the preserved time. In a way Rahel understands that the memories of her past has left her youth blemished and her future tainted.

  • “Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house--the charred rock, the singed photograph, the scorned furniture--must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for.” (Roy 32)

    • The importance of preserved time is noted as it allows Rahel to reexamine her life after all the events that took place have taken place. The time that has been preserved are the only things she has left from the destruction of her life.

Toy Watch As a Way To Preserve Time

  • “Rahel’s toy wristwatch had the time painted on it. Ten to two. One of her ambitions was to own 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).” (Roy 37)

    • Rahel’s ambition to change time expresses her want to be able to move beyond the past.

  • “Something lay buried in the ground. Under the grass. Under twenty-three years of June rain. A small forgotten thing. Nothing that the world would miss. A child’s plastic wristwatch with the time painted on it. Ten to two, it said.” (Roy 121)

    • As if it were a secret that can't be passed on to someone else or kept because it is painful to do so, the watch brings back memories of a lost time period.

  • “The watch they all forgot. It stayed behind in the History House. In the back verandah. A faulty record of the time. Ten to two.” (Roy 295)

    • The watch also represents the how although time has passed, the History house and the events that occurred there have not been forgotten.

Discussion Questions

1. Compare and contrast the effect of preserving time on some of the characters’ dispositions.

2. Which shared memory, if any, between the twins is important enough to keep the rift between them strong in their later years? Why would it have an effect on them so?

3. Why do you think that the memories of bad times are preserved throughout time in this family? How does their perception of time reveal?

4. Had the toy watch have been real and working, how might Sophie Mol’s death and the aftermath of the event have affected the twins’ relationship differently through the years, if it would have?

5. Is there anything else in the story other than Paradise Pickles that carries a similar underlying message that time is being preserved?

6. If there was a sudden change in the lives of the twins that brought joy do you think they would accept or reject this surprising change by preserving the memory?

7. How do you think the way the book is written (two timelines) enhances the story and how it is understood?

8. Is Sophie Mol’s death the most important place to freeze time because it was a

catalyst for other events or because it was emotionally significant to the twins?

Concluding Thoughts

  • Rahel has been able to move to America and live a different life whereas Estha has remained in India. Both, however, have been unable to move on regarding the past as evidenced by Rahel’s failed marriage and Estha’s muteness.

  • Roy does not set her story in a normal setting in which there is only one time period but with two time periods. This may have been done in order to draw parallels or show cause and effect between the preserved past and the twins’ present actions.

  • Central to the plot are the love laws which remain constant throughout time.

  • The characters of Baby Kochamma and Maria Kochamma along with the state of the Ayemenum house serves as a contrast to the twins who seem to not have changed. Baby Kochamma and Maria Kochamma has adapted to western culture with their preoccupation with TV and have neglected the house and garden. The physical state of the house reinforces the idea that after the events that have been preserved occured, the family lies in shambles.