A stylistic approach to the God of small things written by Arundhati Roy

  • Wing Yi, Monica CHAN

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This thesis presents a creative-analytical hybrid production in relation to the stylistic distinctiveness in The God of Small Things, the debut novel of Arundhati Roy. Roy’s text drew the world’s gaze after winning the Booker Prize in 1997. Many studies have been written on diverse aspects of the book, and much has been said regarding the writer’s style. However, those studies rarely focus on the minutiae of Roy’s writing and this thesis provides a greater degree of detailed analysis. The objective is to achieve a deeper understanding of the relationship between style and literary aesthetics in The God of Small Things by studying the stylistic patterns behind Roy’s resonating poetic prose.

The stylistic study is carried out adopting two approaches: the corpus-based approach (Part A) and the empirical-creative approach (Part B). The first section provides a stylistic analysis concentrating on the most significant stylistic features of the novel. The study is based on the list of style markers rendered by Leech and Short, Style in Fiction (1981) and elaborated according to the following key aspects that were extracted from the repertoire using my intuitive observation of the novel. These chosen style markers taken together represent key aspects of Roy’s style: (1) Lexis—Roy’s very frequent and particular utilization of adjectives; (2) Grammar—the high concentration of minor sentences and the listing of noun phrases in the text; (3) Figures of Speech— repetition and neologism. The second section presents a self-written pastiche which aims at imitating Roy’s style in literary prose and adapting its approach to a Chinese context. The creative process serves as an experiment on taking pastiche writing as an “experiential” approach to stylistics. In addition, since the resemblance of the pastiche to Roy’s style should not be the only value of the piece, some key themes in the original text are also reproduced.

The analysis in Part A illustrates patterns of Roy’s stylistic choices. On the use of adjectives, Roy tends to arrange adjectival elements in sequence, construct a fixed “like” sentence structure, and adopt combining word forms and affective adjectives. On minor sentences, Roy chooses to separate adverbial phrases, sentence fragments starting with “like”, “as though”, and clauses beginning with “that”, “which”, “and”, “but”, “or”. As for repetitions, there is repeated use of set phrases, sentence patterns and recurrent appearance of certain lines and images. Lastly, on neologisms, Roy’s patterns of creating new words include hyphenation, direct merging, and prefix/suffix building.

The pastiche is entitled Hong Kong Locust Stand I. By juxtaposing with the original, it is found that many stylistic features in The God of Small Things, are present in the pastiche, though with variation. While stylistic elements cannot totally be independent from the theme, the atmosphere, character and plot of the pastiche also demonstrate qualities representing those in Roy’s novel. The pastiche presents an innovative and respectful way to come to terms with Roy’s style through selective imitation and creative adaptation.

In conclusion, it is hoped that this study opens the way for further hybrid studies of style that incorporate both analytical and creative approaches.
Date of Award2007
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of English
SupervisorDavid Barry D. ASKER (Supervisor)

Cite this