Hybridity in The God of Small Things By Arundhati Roy

In The God of Small Things, Rahel and Estha are taught to place their Christian and Anglo-Saxon upbringings on a pedestal. However, despite their family’s many efforts to celebrate western values, the family cannot escape their Indian identity. Rahel and Estha’s inability to conform to Western teachings demonstrates the futility of their family’s efforts. The scene with Miss Mitten teaching the children how to read English ultimately shows, “Indians can mimic but never exactly reproduce English values” (Loomba 146).

This scene brings light to hybrid identities in post-colonial India, where individuals equally balance their Anglophile and Indian identities. Although the scene shifts to the past, initially in the present it is ironic that in the car ride Rahel and Estha both see a sign that states, “BE INDIAN, BUY INDIAN” (57). In one sense, the twin’s surroundings have a nationalistic appeal to them, but as we shift to the past we see this nationalistic pride is indeed an inherent part of the twins. For instance, when Miss Mitten gives the twins the task to read aloud The Adventures of Susie Squirrel, an English book, the twins mention that it’s impossible to read “Malayalam and Madam I’m Adam backwards as well as forwards” (58). When the twins discover that Miss Mitten does not know what Malaylam is, they state it is “language everyone spoke in Kerala” (58). For children this young, this immediate passion and defense for their Malayalam language demonstrates that the twins are well connected to their Indian roots. Also not to mention, Estha’s “active dislike” for Miss Mitten after the incident showcases how despite the English teachings that are imposed on the twins, they remain loyal to their Indian roots.

One can argue that hybrid identities ultimately result from the failure of colonialism to “civilize” its others and to fix them into perpetual “otherness” (Loomba 145). The twins could have been similar to their uncle Chacko, an Oxford graduate, by continuously asserting their knowledge of English language and literature. However, neither twin celebrates entirely their English or Indian cultural influences. They simply read English literature to their elders when directed.

 

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