They all go to Enugu. Kambili and Jaja sit in the living room, staring at the spot where the étagère and the ballet-dancer figurines used to be. Mama is upstairs, packing up Papa’s things. She had told the gate man to turn away the throngs of sympathizers who tried to enter the compound, even the members of the extended family. Kambili looks at Jaja, trying to speak with her eyes, but there seem to be shutters drawn across Jaja’s eyes.
Papa helped hundreds of people with his money and support, and so the public grief over his death is great. Jaja seems totally closed off to Kambili now, and their “language of the eyes” is just a memory. The figurines represented a time of abuse, but also a time when Papa was still alive.
Jaja says that he should have taken better care of Mama, like Obiora takes care of Aunty Ifeoma. Kambili says “God works in mysterious ways,” and thinks that Papa would have been proud to hear her say that. Jaja laughs at this, and says that God even murdered his own son.
Jaja learned to find his independence in Nsukka, but he also became guilty for not standing up to Papa earlier. He has rejected Christianity altogether now, even when it is separated from Papa’s rules—he has rejected his father completely in a way similar to how Papa rejected Papa-Nnukwu. Kambili, in contrast, still can’t help seeking his approval.
The phone rings and Mama answers it. When she hangs up she says that they did an autopsy and found poison in Papa’s body. Then she calmly says that she had been putting poison in his tea since before she came to Nsukka. Sisi helped her get the poison. Kambili’s mind goes blank, and then she thinks of Papa’s tea and his “love sips.” She starts to scream, asking Mama why she chose his tea. She grabs Mama and shakes her. Jaja pulls Kambili off and hugs her. He tries to hug Mama but she moves away.
This is the surprise twist that throws everything off—the meek, submissive Mama decided, like Jaja, to escape Papa’s abusive control, but Mama could not stand up to Papa directly, and so she fought violence with sly violence by slowly killing him. This is another example of how violent tyranny usually breeds more violence, even in the quest for freedom. Looking back from the end of the novel, the “love sips” that Papa had started to refuse to give his children become not just symbolically but physically important —Mama has been poisoning Papa’s tea, and so by refusing to lovingly share his tea he is unwittingly protecting his children.
A few hours later the police arrive. Before they can even ask any questions Jaja confesses that he used rat poison to kill his father. The police let him change his shirt and then take him away.
Jaja’s guilt about not protecting Mama earlier leads him to make this sudden confession, as he tries to take all the suffering and blame of Papa’s abuse and subsequent murder onto himself. And it also suggests the ways that violence, even in defensive response to other violence, often has tragic consequences that spin out of control.