Chronology is a vital part of Roy’s writing – used to deliberately unsettle the reader and to ensure that information is only revealed slowly. Final chapter of the narrative takes us back in time to the key event that has been suggested throughout the whole novel – the Terror. The chapter stays in this one time and in doing so sets up an ending which is in keeping with the questions raised throughout the novel. When Ammu says “Naaley” at the end – Roy using the Indian language to raise questions- the suggestion is one of hope. Yet we are told earlier in the chapter of the “thirteen nights which followed this one”. The suggestion of ill omen with the hope is deliberately ambiguous as though demanding that the reader thinks back over the novel as a whole.
Final chapter is set in same place as opening – the house- but with none of the overt corrupted-Eden symbolism of the opening chapter. The house is personified as a tired old person settling down to sleep and Ammu seems to be the only wakeful soul – once again she is apart from the rest of the household and listening to a “voice far away”. Here Roy uses the alliterative L to enhance the sense of peace and restfulness she feels and the verbs are gentle and again suggest an end to a struggle. Roy uses linguistic flights of fancy to help with the detachment Ammu feels from the “real” world – she listens to a “tangerine” which is pumping out a western popular song of the period ( Ruby Tuesday, the Rolling Stones)- a song which urges her to “seize the day”. The East/West clash has been a vivid theme of this novel and here Ammu is encouraged to break on of the Love Laws by the West. Her revolt against the caste system which will lead to such suffering is the response of the independent, semi-Westernised woman she has become – a divorcee and now a woman who will sleep with an untouchable.
The writing uses many of the devices that Roy has prepared the reader for. The passage on PP 334-5 where the lovemaking begins is a good example. The narrator is omnisicient, generally writing in the third person, but now and again other voices intrude via the technique of Free Indirect Speech. This introduces Ammu and Velutha’s inner thoughts into the narrative without drawing attention to a shift in narrator- when they embrce we are in Ammu’s mind as she remembers her “nut brown breasts (that wouldn’t support a toothbrush)” and are transported to an event from her youth and with it to an innocence of an earlier time. As they kiss, the narrative moves swiftly between the lovers in a pair of short sentences which mimic the physical moment -” a cloudy kiss. A kiss that demanded a kiss back” As Velutha kisses Ammu the omniscient narrator reclaims the voice of the narrative and continues to relate the story. Again, Velutha’s voice is heard – “the rest of her was smoke” and so the narrative flows in a way with which the reader is now familiar from the novel as a whole.
On this page the narrative explores the chapter title – the cost of living. In an ambiguous title, Roy raises the idea that if to live is to live freely, then the cost of living must be death. The idea is carried in a double metaphor as we remember death as a metaphor for orgasm since the writing of Chaucer – here Velutha “drowns” at his sexual climax and another link is made – between this act and the Death Of Sophie Mol.
The Death Of Sophie Mol is not, strictly a result of this action, but just as “anything can happen in a day” – another repeated phrase throughout the narrative, so all actions have consequences and “anything can happen” (as Estha says). As the lovers lie down, Roy transports us to the world of the twins. As ever the pair are rendered by their outward appearance and lose identity – ” A Mobile Republic… A Fountain in a Love in Tokyo. The rendering of these descriptions as proper nouns, typical of this novel, reinforces the idea that the twins have no identity as Rahel and Estha but are almost performers in a play. In this case they have prepared the setting for the love-act that will follow. In the poetic diction that follows, we are drawn first to remember the ill-omened finding of the boat; then the use of the boat to transgress the natural boundary and finally the death of Sophie Mol. This love making can only have one outcome – an inevitable tragedy. The reader also notices that all the small things under the boat have vanished all were white – a funereal or matrimonial colour depending on which side of the East/West divide one stands.
As befits a love story, much of the imagery is beautiful here – romantic love overcomes the societal obstacles placed in its path and “on Ammu’s road (to age and death) a small, sunny meadow appeared”. The image is simple and beautiful linking peace and tranquillity to impending tragedy – “Beyond it, an abyss”. Here the idea of hell is introduced to link to the “Terror” which returns to haunt Velutha – the lovers awake and he “folded his fear into a perfect rose”. The metaphor here rcalls Pappachi’s Moth which settles on Rahel. Ammu will wear this metaphorical badge of Velutha’s love and fear until she dies.
Roy describes them focusing on Small Things. In doing so they avoid the issue of their act to an outside, hostile world. The Small Things are an integral part of the Big Things in the world, but the idea seems to be that the Big Things are simply too oppressive to consider. Their world, however is held together by the framework of Big Things, just as it is for the diminutive Chappu Thamburan (again the Indian Lexis) – without them – “it crumbled”. They play with the beetle as though finding a way to enact their own version of the world – as Gloucester puts it “as flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods” ( King Lear IV.i, 36-7) . Chappu Thamburan survives but they do not. Shakespeare’s quotation goes on: “They kill us for their sport”. Ultimately this will happen to the lovers at the hand of society and, in effect, the God of Big Things.
The hope of the ending is doubly effective since there are instances of repetition in the chapter which point clearly to the tragedy in store. When Ammu’s voice says “Lay Ter” on page 334, she is repeating the childish voice of the children which first appeared in relation to this word on p146. Ammu has used the word to threaten Estha at Cochin airport and the twins, with their gift for manipulating language have repeated in their heads both the sound of Ammu’s over-articulated English and conveyed the associated feelings -” like moth’s feet”. When Ammu hears the word in the free indirect speech of the final chapter, we recognise her fears for the outcome of the story.
It is this action which has set in motion much of the novel and Roy repeats images to link the reader to all areas of the novel – the” jet -streaks in a blue church sky” are finally explained and we also realise that the juxtaposition of the twins’ incestuous love in the present and this illicit love from the past may well suggest that the outcome of the twins’ relationship may not be for the best. Society will impose its own rules on individuals. Those individuals will continue to find small ways to signify resistance, but ultimately it is the large – society -that will hold sway, however unfair that may seem.