Small Great Things

Small Great Things

Small Great Things Chapter 13, Kennedy Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Kennedy gets home after meeting with Ruth, Ava and Violet have made pizza. Kennedy picks Violet up as Violet asks her to guess what shape the pizza is in. Kennedy starts to guess it's an alien, but Ava motions that it's a dinosaur from behind Violet. Violet explains that he's sick with "a reptile dysfunction." Kennedy calmly puts Violet down and asks Ava what they've been watching. She turns on the TV; it's set to Fox News and Wallace Mercy is demanding an apology from the New York City police commissioner for racial profiling. Kennedy sends Violet upstairs after Violet helpfully says they watched The Five and Ava calls Mercy a "ridiculous fake reverend."
Ava's word choice when she talks about Wallace Mercy, who is black, betrays that she does hold biases about black people and doesn't believe they should make such a fuss about racism. Wallace Mercy as a character mirrors the real life Reverend Al Sharpton, a black minister, civil rights leader, and television and radio host whose activism resembles Mercy's in the novel. In this way, Picoult makes it clear that her novel reflects the contemporary world around it in its concepts and characters.
Themes
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Kennedy asks Ava to at least watch MSNBC if she wants to watch Wallace Mercy, but Ava insists she's not trying to watch him and thinks he's not helping Malik Thaddon, who won the U.S. Open and was grabbed by police outside of his hotel for no reason. Kennedy says that Violet doesn't need to see this and think the police might grab her. The two women watch Mercy until Ava remarks that if "they" weren't so angry, more people might listen. She insists that Violet didn't internalize anything.
Malik Thaddon too has a real-life counterpart: James Blake, a black tennis player who experienced the same thing as Thaddon does in the novel. This continues to situate the novel in the real world and reminds the reader that black people experience situations like this with shocking regularity. Ruth, in other words, isn't the only one.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy heads upstairs to read to Violet. She makes a mental note to thank Ava for bathing, feeding, and loving Violet, but also thinks of Ruth and that police will probably never grab Violet by mistake.
Because Violet is white, she has little to fear from the police—while Edison, being a black man, will be targeted just for who he is.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon