Family Dynamics

By Clayton Whitt & Josh Syre

Introduction

The role of family is the most central theme in this novel. The three main relationships that are explored in this novel are: brother/sister, mother/child, husband/wife. The entire novel discusses the way the family sticks together and falls apart. It discusses how family love is sometimes obligated, and just because families share the same blood, doesn't mean they have unconditional love for one another.

Activity

Do you have a sibling(s)?


Do you and your sibling(s) have a close-knit relationship?


If not, do you show any sort of appreciation towards them? How often?


Have one or two explain the relationship.



Most family-related relationships contain unconditional love, but not all show it or prove it in any way. Although most don't show it, they still feel it for their families.

Brother/Sister

  • Fraternal twins -close relationship as kids
  • Lived through same experiences as children and were supportive of each other -as time went on, relationship became more intimate
  • When rahel left, the twins felt something missing between them and when he returned their relationship entered a new level

Before

“...of waking up one night giggling at Estha’s funny dream" (Roy 5).

“...together as me and separately, individually, as We or Us. As though they were a rare breed of Siamese twins, physically separate, but with joint identities” (Roy 4-5).


  • Show similar personalities these twins had
  • Shared a connection ever since they were children
  • "never been shy of each other's bodies, but they had never been old enough (together) to know what shyness was".


After

“...who had never been shy of each other’s bodies, but they had never been old enough [together] to know what shyness was."

“Separately, the two of them are no longer what they were or ever thought they’d be. Ever. Their lives have a size and a shape now."



  • Relationship became more intimate and they realized how much they needed each other
  • Relationship evolved
  • Tried to persuade many that they weren't "of blood relationship"


Mother/Child

  • Strict/loving mother
  • Only parent to Rahel/Estha
  • Has deep love- Left Baba when he began to be abusive to the twins and Ammu
  • Left the world being remembered as a very loving mother
"D'you know what happens when you hurt people?" Ammu said. "When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less" (Roy 158).


  • Ammu is a strict mother
  • Her words invoke uncertainty in her children's minds at times, in this situation, Rahel's.
  • Her words cause Rahel to believe that Ammu does not love her as much.

"Everybody says that children need a Baba. And I say no. Not my children. D'you know why?"..."Because you're our Ammu and our Baba and you love us Double" (Roy 158).

  • Ammu is a nontraditional woman who had a divorce
  • Her kids are constantly reminded that they are only raised by one parent.
  • Because she has to be both parents, she has uncontrollable love for her kids.


Husband/Wife

  • In their society, marriage is viewed more as a way to bear children than made of love.
  • Husbands are typically abusive of wives and use them as a physical scapegoat for their anger; commonly beat their wives.
"Rahel drifted into marriage like a passenger drifts towards an unoccupied chair in an airport lounge. With a Sitting Down sense. She returned with him to Boston" (Roy 21).

  • After returning to Ayemenem at the age of 31, Rahel enrolls in an architecture program in Delhi.
  • There she meets Larry McCaslin, who she marries and goes back to the US with.
  • They hardly show any affection towards each other; the marriage isn't highlighted very much in the book as it is supposed to have an unimportance to it.

"A year into the marriage, and the charm of Chacko’s studently sloth wore off for Margaret Kochamma. It no longer amused her that while she went to work, the flat remained in the same filthy mess that she had left it in." (Roy 142)

  • Chacko charmed Margaret Kochamma when he lived in England, and they married.
  • Despite his initial image of a businessman, Margaret finds Chacko incredibly lazy and leaves him for Joe, a dependable biologist.
  • Margaret left him simply because of his behavior; interaction is important to build healthy relationships.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do families stay closer when they are together or when they are apart?
  2. Characters in the novel are torn between love and duty. Which characters truly love each other?
  3. What caused Rahel and Estha's relationship to distance more and more?
  4. How does Chacko feel about Ammu throughout the book? (Beginning, middle end)
  5. Why do you think we understand so little about Baba, Rahel and Estha's father?

Concluding Thoughts

The theme of family dynamics plays a crucial role for all of the characters within God of Small Things. It could be used as the glue to keep relationships close-knit and unbreakable, or as the catalyst to destroy one. Rahel and Estha were practically inseperable, while Ammu and her ex-husband weren't. Some relationships, like that of Margaret and Chacko, weren't meant to be created at all. She chose to marry him out of her being desperate, causing a self-destructing relationship.