Small Great Things

Small Great Things

Small Great Things Chapter 5, Kennedy Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It's been a trying morning for Kennedy. Everyone overslept, her daughter Violet refused to eat cereal, and then after Kennedy's husband Micah gave Violet an egg, she screamed, "I want a fucking knife!" When she wailed again, Micah and Violet heard that she wants a fork and knife.
By introducing Kennedy in this harried domestic scene, Picoult encourages the reader to see that she's not so different from any of the other parents in the novel.
Themes
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
Things only get worse; Kennedy's boss sends her to the New Haven correctional facility to negotiate about bras—the facility has banned female lawyers because their underwire bras keep setting off metal detectors, but the lawyers aren't allowed to enter braless either. One of Kennedy's male colleagues suggests that the prison review its entire clothing policy, since he was allowed in wearing golf cleats last year. Kennedy briefly dreams about what her career would be like if she'd gone into corporate law, but she doesn't regret becoming a public defender. Micah's job as a surgeon allows her to live on the pitiful salary and she feels as though she can at least look at herself in the mirror.
The correctional facility's clothing policy is an early indicator that the justice system as a whole isn't reasonable or fair; instead, it's nonsensical and unfairly targets anyone who isn't white and male. What Ruth will later deal with in terms of racism in the justice system isn't necessarily unique to her; women as a whole experience prejudice, and black women even more so.
Themes
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Kennedy reminds the Warden that their bra policy could easily be construed as discrimination, which makes the Warden agree to reconsider. She sails out of the room and discovers a text from Micah, apologizing for being a jerk earlier. They decide to go on a date to have Indian food later.
Though the novel draws out similarities between the bra policy and Ruth's case, Kennedy's ability to threaten a discrimination lawsuit without fear of losing stands in stark contrast to her coming assertion that she can't bring up race in court.
Themes
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Kennedy explains that her mother, Ava, bought her a gift card for a massage last year. Kennedy feels she has better things to do, but goes to the appointment Ava made for her. As the massage therapist starts, Kennedy tries to make small talk. When the therapist doesn't respond, Kennedy starts talking to herself. Finally, the therapist says that Kennedy desperately needs a massage, but she's horrible at receiving one.
Even though Kennedy didn't buy the massage herself, it still acts as a marker of class and privilege—even if she has better things to do, she still doesn't have to spend her massage time working in order to make ends meet. This also establishes Kennedy’s personality—she is stressed out, but deals with that by constantly pushing forward.
Themes
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
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On days when both Kennedy and Micah work late, Ava stays with Violet. Being an old southern belle, Ava throws tea parties that thrill Violet. Kennedy arrives home to a happy Violet and a clean kitchen. Ava is scandalized when Kennedy says in front of Violet that her client didn't try to kill her today, and Kennedy is upset to see that Ava is wearing her coat and getting ready to leave. Rather than cancel her date with Micah, Kennedy meets him at the Indian restaurant with Violet. She orders before he arrives, and Violet is in a bad mood when he gets there. Violet asks why their waiter is wearing a towel on his head. Mortified, Kennedy explains that some Indian people wear turbans. Then she wants to disappear when Violet points out that the waiter doesn't look like Pocahontas.
On the whole, Violet's comments about race and difference illustrate that her understanding of race and racism, while rudimentary or absent, isn't malicious: she's just curious, but that curiosity can end up seeming extremely rude. Violet is able to think this way in part because she's white and affluent; she lives in a wealthy white neighborhood (the same one Ruth lives in) and per Ruth's implications, there's very little diversity there. Her affluence, in other words, can lead to ignorance and then rudeness.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon