The God of Small Things is not written in a sequential narrative style in which events unfold chronologically. Instead, the novel is a patchwork of flashbacks and lengthy sidetracks that weave together to tell the story of the Ipe family. The main events of the novel are traced back through the complex history of their causes, and memories are revealed as they relate to one another thematically and as they might appear in Rahel's mind. Although the narrative voice is omniscient, it is loosely grounded in Rahel's perspective, and all of the episodes of the novel progress toward the key moments in Rahel's life.
Point of view
The book is narrated in the third person. However, during a great part of the narrative, the reader sees everything through Rahel's eyes. This gives the reader special insight into the happenings and characters. Throughout the book, there are various moments that intersect. In one moment, everything is seen through a child's eyes, with a child's feelings and rationales. Later, the same facts, objects, and people are seen in a completely different light.
The story is set in the village of Ayemenem in the Kottayam district of Kerala, India. The main part of the plot takes place in 1969, a time of changes in ideology and influence.
India is a very complex society with various cultural and religious habits and beliefs. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, and Muslims share the same space. Society is divided not only by the very strict caste system but also by class consciousness. Many languages are spoken in India, but the higher classes make a point of speaking English, sending their sons to study in England and adopting certain English habits. Kerala itself, where the story is set, has a complex social setup, with Hindus, Muslims, and Christians displaying different lifestyles and traditions. It also has the largest Christian population in India, predominantly Saint Thomas Christians or Syrian Christians. In the Kottayam district, Christians are a majority.
Roy has described the book as "an inextricable mix of experience and imagination."