Gender Inequality in The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

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Ammu’s life reflects the ongoing struggles that woman have to endure on a daily basis. The novel depicts how woman have struggled to “escape traditional values, patriarchy and colonial power” (Culda, 2019). Throughout the novel there are different categories in which inequality is portrayed: gender assumption and gender stereotypes. Both of which have affected Ammu’s life extensively. This essay aims to examine how Ammu’s life was affected by gender inequality and “double standards” throughout the novel The God of Small Things, written by Arundhati Roy, which was set in Kerala-India in the 1960s. I will also be analysing Ammu’s home life as well as her relationship with Baba and how the two contribute to the overall theme of gender inequality.

The novel is based in an Indian society with many difficult problems that affect not only the Indian society but societies around the world. “Men and woman are affected by unwritten laws, social norms, moral norms, gender norms and mostly oppression”. (Culda, 2019) In the Indian society women suffer more because of their position within their homes and within different societies. India is a democratic society which means that men and women are theoretically equal. However, in India, it has been said that although India is a democracy, women are not treated as equal. The Indian society consistently objectified woman as opposed to treating them equally. Masculinity is favoured in the Indian society, however, in the novel woman are favoured and the author demonstrates gender inequality through the woman in the novel.

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Gender assumption is a theme that occurs many times throughout the novel. In a quote from the novel we can see how gender assumption negatively affected the woman of India- “Ammu completed her schooling the same year that her father retired from his job in Delhi and move to Ayemenem. Papachi insisted that.a college education was an unnecessary expense for a girl, so Ammu had no choice but to leave Delhi and move with them. There was very little a young girl to do in Ayemenem other than to wait for Marriage proposals while she helped her mother with the house work.” (Roy, 1997) This quote shows that men insisted that woman do not need to study in a higher education institution because they are solely responsible for taking care of the household. As we can see from the above quote, Ammu was prohibited to continue her education due to the fact that she was a woman and higher education was deemed unimportant for her and all woman in India. Ammu was forced to follow her father back to Ayemenem to prepare for marriage and take care of the house and children. This is one example of how there is a problem of gender and subordination (Hidayah, 2006).

Woman did not receive equal rights within their own homes, among their own family members. Chacko, Ammu’s brother, treated Ammu as if she was not on equal terms with him. When discussing their parent’s wealth and financial status, Chacko was set to inherit almost all of the family’s assets. Chacko made a statement that clearly demonstrates how woman are oppressed in their own households: “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is also mine” (Roy, 1997). This is an example of “double standards” as even though Ammu and Chacko are sibling they did not get the same treatment growing up. Chacko was entitled to the family’s belongings because he was a man. Furthermore, Chacko a self-proclaimed Marxist does not only oppress Ammu, but also makes the woman who work with him feel insignificant. “He would call pretty women who worked in the factory to his room, and on the pretext of lecturing them on labour rights and trade union law, flirt them outrageously” (Roy, 1997). This shows that Chacko has no problem sexually harassing woman in the work place, due to the fact that he was a man. He views woman as objects and not as human beings.

Baba, who was Ammu’s husband lost his job when the twins were two years old. He repeatedly told Ammu that he is able to keep his job provided that Ammu sleeps with his boss. This is an example of how Ammu’s now ex-husband did not view Ammu as a human, but rather as an object that he is able to manipulate as he pleases. Women are not respected as much as they should be, by even their husbands. Ammu refuses to go forward with the act of infidelity and Babe punches her in response. This is another example of how women are frowned upon by men in this society. When Ammu leaves her relationship with Baba she is scowled by Baby Kochamma. She constantly berates Ammu for her failed marriage while encouraging her brother, who seems to have new and unfamiliar woman regularly “She allows her brother to have illegal relationship with unfamiliar women but frowns upon Ammu for thwarting the ethical boundaries of the family.” (Sheeba, 2017)

The God of Small Things is a novel that tells of the suffering that women endured during this time in India and how Ammu was a victim to the suffering and gender inequality. Ammu had to “bear the brunt of male domination silently” (Sheeba, 2017). Ammu not only had to fight for everything that she wanted in life but had to do that with gender inequality and double standards weighing over her shoulders. She fought against inequality in her home life as well as in her relationship. Ammu is a tragic character as she did all she could for herself as well as her children, but she was no match for the brutality of discrimination and gender hardships.

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