The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things Glossary


An actual town in the Southern Indian state of Kerala, spelled "Aymanam." Arundhati Roy spent her childhood there, and it is the main setting for The God of Small Things.

Caste system

A social system that grades society based on castes, or classes. In India, the class system is hereditary and "stratified according to Hindu ritual purity." The highest caste are Brahmans and the lowest are Untouchables.


A major city in the South Indian state of Kerala, which hosts the region's major airport. It is where the family goes to greet Sophie Mol and Margaret Kochamma upon their arrival from England. Because Cochin is a tourist city, its history has been shelved in favor of pleasing foreigners: historical rooms are turned into lobbies and dining rooms, and traditional Kathakali performances are abridged and catered to tourist-level patience and taste.


A follower of communism, often as expressed in the philosophy of Karl Marx and the politics of Lenin. It is often seen as subversive by non-Communists for its revolutionary, levelling spirit. Comrade Pillai, Chacko, and Velutha are all card-carrying Communists.


A fellow member of the Communist Party.


In Asia, an offensive word for an unskilled laborer.

History House

The abandoned house across the river, where Velutha lives with Vellya Paapen and Kuttappen. Estha and Rahel become obsessed with the History House and use the shadowy area surrounding it as their haven from the Ayemenem House. It is the History House to which they run away after Ammu calls them burdens.


A traditional art form native to Kerala, which combines opera, dance, and "full-body acting." It makes use of Malayalam literature and mudras as well as elaborate costuming and makeup in order to portray regional legends. Rahel and Estha watch an authentic Kathakali performance in the temple. But in tourist spots such as Cochin, the Kathakali performances, traditionally several hours long, are abridged to please the foreigners' patience and taste.


One of the four states comprising Southern India, located on the southwest tip of India, bordered to the west by the Arabian Sea and on the east by the Ghat Mountains. Save flashbacks, the entire story of The God of Small Things unfolds in Kerala.


A low, untouchable caste, usually of fishermen. Velutha and his family are Paravans. As with any caste, being a Paravan is hereditary.

The Grotesque

A style of literature and/or art in which things are distorted and made bizarre. It can incorporate the supernatural, violence, the unmentionable, and sexuality.


Those in the caste system who are at the bottom. They are considered unclean, especially by the more "pure" upper castes. Roy seems to incorporate the meaning of "untouchable" in the sense of "irreproachable," suggesting that what is untouchable may also be sacred. Velutha and his relatives are considered Untouchables.