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“The role of Intertextuality in The God of Small Things.”

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Nicole Caillon

on 25 February 2014

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Transcript of “The role of Intertextuality in The God of Small Things.”

“The role of Intertextuality in The God of Small Things.”

Definition of intertextuality
“unwitting references to and quotations from other texts.” (Allen, 2005:1)
This author holds that intertextuality involves a recognition that meaning lies between texts in networks which are ultimately only partially recoverable, only partially readable and traceable.

AIM: Explore to what extent Arundhati Roy, as a postcolonial writer, expresses her Indian reality and resists Imperialism in her novel The God of Small Things through the inclusion of the Western Canon, which symbolizes the “story of the colonizer.”
Definition of Canon

According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the canon is
all the books that are recognized as being the most important pieces of literature.

So, does Arundhati Roy consider the books from English origin the most significant in literature and the only ones capable of telling stories? Or is she trying to question them?

- Inclusion of the Western canon to dismantle the British culture and empower Indian authenticity.
- These texts can be used to interrogate the language of the colonizer and show the colonizer that the Indian culture be erased and its past forgotten.

Intertextuality and Anglophilia
- Intertextuality reproduces Anglophilia: “Chacko said that the correct word for people like Pappachi was Anglophile. He made Rahel and Estha look up Anglophile in the Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary.”(Roy, 1997, P.52)
- SOUND OF MUSIC : the movie is a mirror of the Ipe family itself - TRANSGRESSIONS are shared.


“Et tu, Brute?” when Caesar is betrayed by Brutus, a kind of son to him. Roy draws a parallelism between Brutus’ actions and those of Estha’s after betraying Velutha when the police come across the river to arrest him.

“Ammu had told them the story of Julio Caesar and how he was stabbed by Brutus, his best friend, in the Senate. And how he fell to the floor, with knives in his back and said,’Et tu? Brute? – Then Fall Caesar. ‘It just goes to show,’ Ammu said, ‘that you can’t trust anybody. Mother, father, brother, husband, bestfriend. Nobody.” (Roy,1997, 83)

Arundhati Roy’s presentation of
Betrayal and Identity
as social constructions perpetuated by asymmetrical power relationships.

Intertextuality and postcolonial elements
- Deconstruct Anglophilia to introduce the “modern Indian”
The adventures of Susie Squirrel.
- It fosters the twins’ own individuality, hybridity.
- The twins create a language of their own by means of appropriation.

THE JUNGLE BOOK: Theme of Identity.
Are Indians animals or persons; are they raised in the wild or within the English norm?

Nicole Caillon
The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” (Adichie, 2009)

- I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out. Now, this despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria. I had never been outside Nigeria. (Adichie, 2009)

She warns us that stories in history have been used as a source of power “to dispossess and to malign.” (Adichie, 2009) However, the lecturer claims that stories “can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.” (Adichie, 2009)

- African Authenticity

She includes postcolonial elements:

: she appropriates the language of the colonizer.
-“The dominated or colonized culture can use the tools of the dominant discourse to resist its political or cultural control.” (Ashcroft, 1998:19)

“the constructed and partial nature of all narratives that parade as or assume the authority of “History” and the necessity of finding a way to write in the differing perspectives and voices, multiple histories. “History” like any other kind of narrative in a way of ordering the world and its events.” (Mullaney, 2002: 44)

She creates hybrid characters – use of lg to build identity.
-a hybrid individual is that who is a product of a colonized society, who possesses elements from both societies: the colonizer and of the colonized.
- Characters: Neither Jam nor Jelly, neither English nor Indian.
- They use a Hybrid language. English with a small e. E.g: “viable die-able age.”

Resemble without questioning: Baby Kochamma, Pappachi vs. menace: the twins. Ridicule the British.

Establish connections: assign new meaning to the texts.

Arundhati Roy includes in her novel:
The Sound of Music, The Jungle Book, The Adventures of Susie Squirrel, Julio Caesar, The Tempest and Heart of Darkness.

ntertextuality and the theme of cultural loyalty
- Helps develop the theme of cultural loyalty.
- Although characters were educated in the Western tradition, none of them renounce to their own culture; they all return to Ayemenem.
- Chacko one of the most loyal characters; he criticizes Anglophilia.
“Pappachi’s mind had been bought into a state which make him like the English.” (Roy, 1997, P.52)
- References to Heart of Darkness: THE HISTORY HOUSE

The English can become Kurtz (The epitome of Imperialism):
“Saipu, The Black Habib, The Englishman” had gone native; “Who spoke Malayalam and wore mundus. Ayemen’s own Kurtz. Ayemenem his private Heart of Darkness.” (Roy, 1997, P.52)

- Chacko questions the English and tries hard to make the twins understand his point by telling them that they have been locked out of their “own history” and that their “lives had been invaded by war… a war that made us adore our conquerors and despise ourselves.” (Roy,1997, P.53)

The twins can be Marlow: the future generations that can challenge the British.


Arundhati Roy challenges the Western Canon the same way the twins do in the novel:
-She resists the imposition of canonical language.
- She plays with the classics of English literature by writing back with a mocking attitude.
- She helps individual’s understand the reality they live in; she fosters Indian Authenticity.
- She uses language to resist, as a weapon to fight the colonizers.
- She presents IDENTITY and HISTORY as imprecise, as both individual and social constructions.

Arundhati Roy uses the Western Canon to:
- foster Indian Authenticity.
- interrogate the colonizer.
- show the power language has to build one’s own identity. E.g: Twins.
-alert the reader about the danger of the single story.
- recreate India’s story and history.
The Sound of Music, The Jungle Book, The Adventures of Susie Squirrel, Julio Caesar, The Tempest and Heart of Darkness

How does Arundhati Roy achieve and recreate Indian Authenticity?

Arundhati Roy “writes back”- she reveals colonialists ideologies:
- She writes the novel after the independence of India from British Imperialism.
- In her novel we hear the voice of the colonized, Indian characters, contradict the English and reveal the excessive exercise of power over the colonizer.
- She presents power relationships and asymmetries between the colonizer and the colonized.
-She reconstructs the history of the Ipe family as a means to reconstruct the history of India.

- Narrative style: nonlinear, multi-perspective way of storytelling
“Never again will a single story be told as though it’s the only one” (John Berger)
Question point of view

“Still, to say that all began when Sophie Mol came to Ayemenem is only one way of looking at it… equally it could be argued that it actually began thousands of years ago. Long before the Marxists came. Before the British took Malabar, before the Dutch Acendency, before Vasco da Gamma arrived…that it all began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.” (Roy, 1997: 33)

- She creates her own Hybrid novel : W. Genre - Standard English -english with a small e -Characters which resemble the Indian culture, her own culture.

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