The use of flashbacks in “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy

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The use of flashbacks in “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy

The use of flashbacks is a common literary technique used to convey important information about a character, setting, or plot. It allows the reader to gain insight into events that have occurred in the past and how they impact the present. In "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy, the use of flashbacks plays a significant role in the development of the story and its characters.

The novel is set in Kerala, India, and tells the story of a family torn apart by tragedy and forbidden love. The narrative is non-linear, as the story moves back and forth between past and present events. The flashbacks in the novel are not presented chronologically, but instead, they are triggered by memories and associations that arise in the present. These flashbacks are presented in a stream of consciousness style, as the characters' thoughts and memories are intertwined with the present action.

The first and most significant flashback occurs in the opening chapter, where the reader is introduced to the death of Sophie Mol, the young daughter of the family's British visitor. The incident is presented in a fragmented manner, with small details and events revealed over time, creating a sense of mystery and intrigue. The use of flashbacks here not only sets the tone for the rest of the novel but also establishes the importance of memory and the past in the narrative.

Another important flashback is that of the twins' childhood, particularly their experiences with Ammu, their mother, and Velutha, a lower-caste man who works for the family. Through these flashbacks, the reader learns of the twins' deep affection for Velutha, and the taboo nature of their relationship. The use of flashbacks here is particularly effective in conveying the complexity of the twins' emotions and how their experiences shape their present-day lives.

The use of flashbacks in "The God of Small Things" is not limited to the past, however. The novel also uses flash-forwards to hint at events that will occur later in the narrative, creating a sense of foreshadowing and anticipation. For example, in one scene, Rahel, one of the twins, is shown crying in the present, and the reader is given a glimpse of a future event that will lead to her tears.

Overall, the use of flashbacks in "The God of Small Things" serves as an effective narrative device, conveying important information about the characters and their experiences, while also creating a sense of mystery and suspense. Through the use of non-linear storytelling, the novel challenges the reader to think critically about the impact of the past on the present, and how memory and experience shape our understanding of the world around us.