ABSTRACT

Imaginative play is central to the ways in which children make meaning. In Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, children’s play constitutes a space in which the binary rationality of the adult conceptual order is set aside. As

Bronwyn Davies suggests, the world of children’s play is a space in which multiple discourses are concurrently put into use, including “magic, logic and morality, which draw on traditional narrative structures, adult symbolic systems and moral systems, as well as children’s own symbolic and moral orders.”3 Through play children can resist their powerless position within the adult cultural world and reposition themselves as agents, albeit within their own cultural world. Making use of postcolonial understandings of power and language, this chapter examines how children in Roy’s novel resist and endorse cultural and social meanings through performative and imaginative play. I argue that the children’s play constitutes a site of resistance to the colonial and patriarchal discourses that circulate in the cultural and social spaces that they inhabit. In using the word “play,” I refer to the children’s (and others’) games and imaginings, and in doing so, I am aware of, and delight in, the double meaning of “play” as game and as performance. I investigate the means by which the children explore, engage, and critique multiple and contradictory discourses, investing in a nonbinary or emotional logic.4 I suggest that through the performance of personas the children play out multiple split, fragmented subjectivities and thus resist the restrictive humanist notion of identity as unitary and fi xed. Further, I argue that the children’s play is often ambivalent and contradictory, as the children are constantly torn between resisting their marginality in the adult world and upholding the discourses that work to oppress them.