Guilt and Blame

in God of Small Things

the blame game

Jennifer missed drama rehearsals the day before a big performance. Jennifer blames her mother, who was supposed to be home to take her, but fails to recognize that her mother tried to call her to tell her she was stuck in traffic after leaving the office late. Who is responsible for her absence?
A body was found this past week in a river in Chicago. Investigators have come to the conclusion that the body was the murderer of a mother's daughter, and she had taken revenge on him. In this case, was the death of the murderer his own fault (he had it coming for him), or was the mother just insane?
Sam had a test that he was unprepared for and failed. He blames his teacher for not teaching, and his teacher blames him for not paying attention or having his notes printed - however, Sam's printer was broken and his teacher didn't respond to his email when he tried to contact him. Who is guilty?

God of Small Things

Throughout the story, the only way that the family is able to make sense of the tragedies that have happened to them is by blaming others. However, the narrator sometimes suggests that these things could have been destined to happen to them, or that Karma is catching up to them.

Karma

Hindus place a strong emphasis on the idea of Karma, or God's intervention on your life based on your actions. In their society, they believe that you get exactly what you deserve.
What Is Karma?
It could be suggested that Sophie Mol and Velutha were taken from the family because God did not approve of their breaking of India's Love and Caste laws. Their death's could be seen as punishment for Ammu's actions, as well as Rahel and Estha's lack of placement in the caste system.

Blame: assign responsibility for a fault or wrong

The majority of the characters feel that it is easy to blame the other family members for the tragedies that the family as a whole is enduring. For example, Margaret Kochamma blames Estha for Sophie Mol's death, while Chacko blames Ammu.

Guilt: the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime

Sadly, in addition to the blame that the characters feel, there is a sense of guilt, mainly where there shouldn't be any. For example, Estha feels incredibly guilty after he was molested because he feels that he did something wrong. He carries this guilt with him throughout the rest of his life, and is constantly afraid due to it.

Quote 1

"'Ammu," Rahel said, "shall I miss dinner as my punishment?" She was keen to exchange punishments. No dinner, in exchange for Ammu loving her the same as before. (Roy 260)."

When Ammu tells Rahel that hurting others' feelings causes them to love you a little less, Rahel feels extremely guilty for speaking carelessly. She tries to take punishment wherever she can to make up for what she's done. The guilt she feels haunts her through Sophie Mol's visit, pressing her to watch Sophie and Ammu closely to make sure that Ammu doesn't start loving Sophie more.

Quote 2

"So eventually, though she knew that her friends and colleagues at the school would think it odd – her running back to her first husband just as soon as her second one had died – Margaret Kochamma broke her term deposit and bought two airline tickets. London-Bombay-Cochin. She was haunted by that decision for as long as she lived. (Roy 91-92)."

This is one of the things in which the blame and guilt are inappropriately placed. How could Margaret have known that Sophie Mol would die in Ayemenem? She has no control over this, and yet, she blames herself for even the thought of going to Ayemenem. There is also guilt in this passage. Along with the blame she places on herself, she also feels guilty for wanting to go to India to be with her first husband, and placing her daughter in danger.

Quote 3

But worst of all, Estha carried inside him the memory of a young man with an old man's mouth. The memory of a swollen face and a smashed, upside-down smile. Of a spreading pool of clear liquid with a bare bulb reflected in it. Of a bloodshot eye that had opened, wandered, and then fixed its gaze on him. Estha. And what had Estha done? He looked into that beloved face and said: Yes."

Here, we see the guilt and that Estha has been feeling since he was taken to the police station for questioning regarding Velutha. He feels like his whole death can be placed on him for answering "yes" to a question to which he can be sure he should have said "no." In this passage, we get the overwhelming sense that the guilt that Estha has felt has burdened him for an extraordinary amount of time.

Quote 4

"'Because of you!" Ammu had screamed. "If it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here! None of this would have happened! I wouldn't be here! I would have been free! I should have dumped you in an orphanage the day you were born! You're the millstones round my neck!" (Pg.101-102)."

In this section, we see both blame and guilt from multiple characters. Here, Ammu is thinking back to the "careless words" she said to the twins and is blaming herself for saying them without meaning it. Also, Ammu is by blaming the twins for her circumstances. She is putting so much guilt on their shoulders that it ultimately pushes them to run away.

Quote 5

"Ammu grew tired of their propriety handling of her. She wanted her body back. It was hers. She shrugged her children off the way a bitch shrugs off her pups when she's had enough." (Roy 211)

When the twins are looking at the stretch marks on Ammus belly from when she was pregnant with them, Ammu realizes the unhappiness she feels with her life the way it is. She wants her body back. The body she had before carrying the twins. In this specific section, we see that Ammu blames the twins for how her life turned out, but does not directly hate them, which is shown earlier in the passage when she says her heart aches with love for them. Ammu only feels anger towards Rahel and Estha because if they weren't around, her life would be different.

Concluding thoughts

When examining a situation searching for who's guilty or who's to blame, always look at it from every perspective, for there is always another side that could change your mind. In turn, recognize the fact that you don't control everything that happens in your life. Things could still be the same despite your previous actions.

Questions

  1. Is there a specific instance or action that we can attribute to one person for the death of Sophie Mol? In cases like this, is it appropriate to blame others for the tragic death of a loved one?
  2. If the book were to be written from the point of view of Sohpie Mol, who do you think she would have blamed for her death?
  3. Do you think the characters, specifically Estha and Rahel, should feel more guilty over Sophie Mol's death or Velutha's?
  4. When is it right to blame others and when is it right to feel the guilt of something?
  5. Are you the type of person that blames others for tends to feel guilty or blame others in tragic situations?
  6. How does the blame placed on specific characters in God of Small things compare to the blame placed on Snowball by Napoleon in Animal Farm?

Citations

  • Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. New York: Random House, 1997. Print.
  • "Karma." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 04 May 2013.