Small Great Things

Small Great Things

by

Jodi Picoult

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Small Great Things: Chapter 24, Kennedy Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kennedy is thrilled as she meets with Odette and Judge Thunder. Odette tries to hang onto Ruth's sterilization comment as motive for murder, but Judge Thunder agrees to throw out the murder charge and consider Kennedy's motion to acquit Ruth and throw out the case. She skips into the conference room with Howard and Ruth and shares the good news. She says that tomorrow, the defense will rest and hopefully, this will all be over by the weekend.
As far as Kennedy is concerned, this case is closed—it's clear that Turk is racist and awful, while the medical evidence all points to Ruth's innocence. However, Kennedy still hasn't truly brought up race in the courtroom, which suggests that Ruth might not be willing to go along with her plan.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Ruth points out that she hasn't testified, but Kennedy says that she doesn't need to. Kennedy knows that Ruth wants to bring up race and discrimination. Their argument gets heated as Ruth points out that Kennedy has to put Ruth on the stand if Ruth insists, so Kennedy sends Howard out. She tells Ruth that they'll jeopardize their lead if she testifies, but Ruth admits that she wants to tell the truth: she did try to resuscitate Davis when he first stopped breathing. Kennedy suggests that Ruth keep this to herself, but Ruth insists that she wants to tell the jury that she's a good nurse. Kennedy knows they're going to lose.
As far as Ruth is concerned, the goal of the trial is to clear her character and make it obvious to anyone that she's a good nurse and a dedicated caregiver, no matter what her patients believe. In the same vein, Ruth wants the chance to speak because, throughout her life, she has been denied the opportunity to do so. She knows that Kennedy can't refuse to let her testify, which means that this is Ruth's one opportunity to speak.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Kennedy remembers one night when she and Ruth had been working in her kitchen, and Violet fell and ended up with a nasty head wound. Ruth calmly cared for Violet at Kennedy's house and then at the emergency room, where Violet got two stitches. After, Kennedy thanked Ruth and told her she was good at her job. Kennedy knows that this is all Ruth wants as she sits at home with a bottle of wine. Micah gets home and Kennedy tells him everything. She laments that Ruth is going to ruin this for her, but Micah suggests that Kennedy think about Ruth, not herself. He also suggests that maybe, it's more important to Ruth that she finally gets to speak at all.
Again, Micah says much the same thing that Ruth implies, but because he's white and is Kennedy's husband, Kennedy takes him more seriously than she took Ruth. When he points out too that Kennedy is making the case about her, he also calls out Kennedy's internalized racism: the fact that she thinks she's doing good in the world because she helps black clients, but she never questions why so many of her clients are black.
Themes
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
On Friday morning, Kennedy meets Ruth and Edison behind the courthouse. Ruth is still insistent on testifying. Kennedy notices Wallace Mercy outside. She begins her questioning and asks Ruth about the Florence Nightingale pledge, which is the pledge that nurses take to care for patients and do no harm. Ruth explains what happened on the morning that Turk asked she be taken off Davis's case. She then explains what happened when Davis stopped breathing: she tried to get him to perk up, but stopped when she heard people coming. Ruth says she was caught between malpractice or violating an order.
The mention of Wallace Mercy shows the reader that Ruth is still surrounded by her wider black community, even if she still feels alone. Now that Ruth is able to tell the jury what actually happened, she'll be able to live with herself. This mirrors Kennedy's earlier assertion that she can live with herself because she does good things in the world; however, Kennedy's contribution to the world is seldom questioned, while Ruth is on trial for hers.
Themes
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
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Ruth then answers questions about the crash team's efforts, losing her nursing license, and working at McDonald's. Softly, Ruth says that she thought she was a respected member of her community, but in reality, she was just tolerated. She says that she's being blamed because of the color of her skin.
When Ruth chooses to bring up race, she doesn't raise her voice or sound angry, but she's still violating the rules Kennedy laid out.
Themes
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Odette's questioning seeks to show that Ruth lied several times about not touching Davis. She suggests that Ruth was more interested in saving her job than the baby. Odette also suggests that Ruth was happy when Davis died and purposefully let him die. She yells into Ruth's face and finally, Ruth snaps: she says that she thought Davis was better off dead than raised by Turk. Howard shouts his objection and Edison runs out of the room.
Again, while Howard can object and get Ruth's comment taken off the official record, it doesn't change the fact that she said something awful. The jury still heard it, and they can still factor it into their decision to acquit or convict.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
During recess, Kennedy drags Ruth to a conference room and asks if she's happy now. Ruth says she's angry and has been for years, because she spends every minute trying not to be "too black" to keep herself and Edison safe. She approaches Kennedy and asks if Kennedy has ever considered whether her good fortune is a direct result of the misfortune of her black clients. She accuses Kennedy of being a white savior, and then fires her as her lawyer. Ruth storms out and Kennedy thinks that this is how Ruth feels: judged and humiliated because of the color of her skin.
Now that Ruth has spoken up once, it's easier to speak her mind to Kennedy and accuse her of refusing to listen to her when she insisted race was an issue. She also calls out Kennedy's work as a public defender, suggesting that Kennedy isn't as good and wholesome as she'd like to think she is.
Themes
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Kennedy explains to the reader that it's time for her to raise the motion to acquit Ruth. Judge Thunder, however, looks murderous. He refuses to reconsider Odette's murder charge and says that closing arguments will take place Monday morning. Kennedy arrives home to find Ava making cookies with Violet. She ignores Ava's questions if she's okay, sits down with Violet, and starts eating cookie dough. She thinks that Violet is left-handed and asks Ava if the world is biased towards right-handed people. Ava sends Violet away and insists it's not a big deal, since lefties are supposed to be more creative.
Kennedy's willingness to wonder if the world is stacked against Violet because she's left-handed shows that Ruth has opened her eyes to the many varieties and degrees of oppression and injustice. Ava's dismissal of Kennedy's question again speaks to Ava's unexamined racism; it's easy for her to say that being left-handed or black aren't so bad, as she's never had to experience either.
Themes
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy leaves Ava with Violet and takes the bus downtown. She stops at a CVS and looks at the black hair care products, thinking that she knows nothing about them. She walks past two homeless people, one black and one white, and notices that the white woman gets more change from passersby. Kennedy then wanders the streets in a black neighborhood, feeling unsettled that nobody looks like her or will make eye contact. She offers to help an old lady up the stairs, but the woman insists she doesn't speak English. A man shows Kennedy the hilt of his gun and she hurries away, feeling unsafe and like she now understands a little of how Ruth feels every day.
Though Kennedy's exercise certainly has its limits, it does allow her to experience some degree of what Ruth feels like every day. By realizing how unsettling it is to not see anyone who looks like her, and feeling unsafe because she's the only white person around, Kennedy gets a taste of what it's like to move through the world as a minority. Importantly, however, Kennedy can choose to get out of this experiment whenever she wants—while Ruth is stuck experiencing racism no matter what.
Themes
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy heads for Micah's hospital and thinks about the history of racism in the U.S. She lets herself into Micah's office, marveling that she can let herself in, while a black person would be questioned. Kennedy muses that she's been so caught up in winning her first murder trial, she's lost sight of what Ruth wanted all along: to point out that what happened to her was racially motivated. Kennedy thinks that more courageous lawyers wouldn't be scared to talk about race and might actually fix the system. Micah finally arrives and Kennedy says she feels like she's gotten good at metaphorically catching babies that have been thrown out of windows, but she's never questioned why someone is throwing babies to begin with.
Kennedy's metaphor about the babies coming out of a window describes the ways in which the formal justice system ignores race, while also dealing with it every day. Now, Kennedy realizes that Ruth has had her chance to speak, and it's now time for Kennedy to put her privilege to good use, be courageous, and speak up about racism for Ruth's sake. Since it appears as though Ruth will lose anyway, Kennedy can do this with minimal consequences.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Related Quotes