Small Great Things

Small Great Things

by

Jodi Picoult

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Small Great Things: Chapter 6, Turk Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Turk and Francis Mitchum, his father-in-law, dismantle the nursery. Francis pulls down the curtains and repaints the walls while Turk takes the crib apart. He thinks of Brit, still in the hospital, who has stopped responding to anyone. Turk hasn't slept because of his anger, and it almost feels good to have the crib collapse on him. Turk explains that though Francis isn't much to look at now, he's still a true skinhead. When the government began cracking down on skinhead crews in the nineties, Francis understood how to adapt. He encouraged skinheads to grow their hair out and start white supremacist websites.
The way that Turk describes Francis is as someone who is very plugged into the world and understands almost instinctively how it works—but also understands that he needs to work with younger people like Turk if he wants to continue spreading white supremacist rhetoric via the internet. His physical description also suggests that Francis benefits from looking perfectly normal, which allows him to more effectively spread his ideas.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
Turk thinks about a live baby using the crib and the baby clothes, and stands up so fast he gets dizzy. He catches sight of himself in the mirror, looking unkempt and tired with matted hair. Turk goes to the bathroom and shaves his head to reveal his swastika tattoo on the back of his head. He got it when he was 21, right after Brit agreed to marry him, and Francis called him stupid for it. When Turk walks back into the nursery, Francis softly says that he gets it; Turk is going to war.
The decision to shave and expose the swastika tattoo indicates that Turk believes Ruth killed Davis; while the other doctors may be "race traitors," Ruth is easier to blame since she was the only black person present. Turk's anger also speaks to the pain of having one's family disintegrate in an instant, showing that Turk is grieving like any other father.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
That evening, Turk and Francis go to pick up Brit from the hospital. Brit recoils before getting in the car, and Turk realizes she's afraid of finding a car seat. She allows Turk to settle her in, refuses to speak to Francis, and cries. Turk thinks of Davis and thinks that he saw Ruth beating on Davis's chest before he died. He thinks she must've done something when she was alone with Davis. Turk glances back at Brit and wonders if he's lost his wife as well as his child.
When Turk wonders if he's losing Brit as well, it shows that he understands the power of grief to separate people from their loved ones—it's how his family fell apart in the aftermath of Tanner's death.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
After high school, Turk briefly attended community college but couldn't stand the liberal professors. He did recruit at the college though. One day, he recruited a guy named Yorkey. The two of them recruited others and made them feel like they were worth something, just because they were white. Turk fanatically policed their drug use and personal appearance and before too long, he had created the Hartford division of NADS.
Turk's success at recruiting others suggests that there are many young people like him, who are beaten down, alone and craving community. When he's able to get them on his side, it speaks to the power of telling someone they're important—specifics matter less than the sentiment.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
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In the middle of the night, Turk wakes in a pool of sweat. Brit isn't in bed; he finds her standing in the doorway of what was the nursery and what's now a guest room. She asks if it was all just a nightmare and asks what'll happen if nobody remembers Davis. Turk promises that nobody will forget.
At this point, Brit's grief helps the reader to see her as a mother who's suffering, not an evil white supremacist. With this, Picoult continues to encourage the reader to look for the humanity in all the novel's characters.
Themes
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The next day, Turk puts on the suit he shares with Francis in preparation for his meeting with Carla Luongo, the risk management lawyer at the hospital. Brit, however, listlessly refuses to get dressed. Turk realizes she took sleeping pills, roughly dresses her himself, and drags her to the car. At Carla's office, Turk watches her face as he takes off his hat, revealing his swastika tattoo. He insists that Ruth killed Davis, says he heard the nursing staff talking about what happened, and that he saw her "pounding on" his baby. He stands to leave and threatens to sue the hospital. As he reaches the door, Carla asks why he'd sue the hospital when evidence suggests that Ruth killed Davis.
It's worth keeping in mind that a risk management lawyer's job is mainly to keep the hospital from getting in trouble. This means that it could be in Carla's best interests to encourage Turk to go after Ruth individually, as that means the hospital won't get involved in an expensive lawsuit. Because this is undeniably racist, this does show how black people like Ruth are often the ones who end up taking blame—when the reader knows that Marie is at least partially to blame, and Ruth was in a lose-lose situation.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Going back in time, Turk recalls that within a year of starting the Hartford NADS crew, they were doing well. He was able to steal guns, which the crew then sold to black people. One night, as Turk and Yorkey were driving home from selling a gun, a cop pulled them over. Turk was calm, but Yorkey looked nervous and guilty. The cops searched the car and found meth that Yorkey had purchased, but Turk went to jail for it for six months since it was his car.
Though Turk taking the fall for Yorkey could be construed as him agreeing to care for his community, Yorkey already violated Turk's terms and conditions by continuing to use drugs. This suggests that Yorkey will have to pay for his failure when Turk gets out of jail.
Themes
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Turk decided to keep his head down, spend his time plotting revenge, and hoped that the black gangs wouldn't kill him. He turned to parts of the Bible he'd never read before and decided to join the Bible study group. Turk was the only white man there. He held hands with the men on either side, said the Lord's Prayer with them, and participated in discussions. He became close with a black boy named Twinkie. They talked about food they missed and teamed up to cheat at card games. One day, when the news was broadcasting a gang shooting, Twinkie heard Turk use a racist slur to describe the black gang members. Later, during a card game, Twinkie made them lose. Turk knew he'd hurt Twinkie's feelings and after that, the slur sometimes caught in Turk's throat.
Turk's description of his time in jail suggests that jail is a situation where normal rules of play don't apply, since Turk is able to put aside his racism to befriend Twinkie. When Turk notes that he sometimes struggled to use racist slurs after hurting Twinkie's feelings, it reinforces the power of friendship and recognizing one's shared humanity—it was easy for Turk to hate black people in general, but hard to hate an individual black person who had become a friend. Turk's inability to internalize this after his release, however, suggests that he's still getting enough support from white supremacist groups to not want to give that up.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
Related Quotes
In the present, Francis watches Turk kick through the front window of the duplex. Turk insists the window was bad, but Francis seems to know that Turk is upset about his meeting earlier at the police station. Turk explains that he met with a cop named MacDougall, who wasn't sympathetic, and filed a complaint against Ruth. Turk's phone rings. It's MacDougall with news: Turk can have Davis's body to bury, and the medical examiner found evidence that Ruth may be at fault. Turk thanks MacDougall and sinks to his knees. He runs to the bedroom, holds Brit's hand, and thinks that he can now give her justice.
When Turk decides to go through these formal channels as he pursues justice for Davis, it shows that he understands that, in order for him to continue to be racist, he needs to make sure that it's formalized through the court system. To a degree, Turk can trust the court system more than Ruth can simply because he's white, even though his beliefs are exactly what the courts (in theory) exist to dismantle.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
After Turk got out of jail, he discovered that Yorkey had joined a group of hulking bikers. Turk's attempts to round up the old crew failed, so he decided to take on the bikers alone. He doesn't even remember the fight, but he landed several bikers in the hospital. Turk once again became a legend.
Turk's success in this fight can be read as a direct result of the grief and hate he felt in regard to losing Yorkey. For Turk, these powerful emotions manifest themselves as extreme violence.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
On the day of Davis's funeral, Turk wonders who organized it. Most of the attendees are people Turk doesn't know, but they're from the Movement. When Turk tries to reach for Brit's hand, she shrinks away and turns to Tom Metzger, the founder of the White Aryan Resistance and her stand-in uncle. Turk thinks that nobody talks about how lonely grief is as he focuses on shoveling his scoop of dirt on top of the casket. Brit finally takes Turk's hand and he starts to feel like they might survive this.
Again, Turk's emotions during the funeral and Brit's behavior encourage the reader to identify with them and their grief. Turk's beliefs aside, he still feels lonely and blindsided by his son's death, which are feelings anyone can empathize with. Similarly, the fact that the funeral is attended mostly by unknown Movement members shows that Turk is still a valued part of this community.
Themes
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
A few weeks after Turk's fight with the bikers, he got a handwritten note from Francis asking him to come meet him in New Haven. Turk drove to a house in the subdivision and let himself into the backyard, unwittingly walking into a child's birthday party. Five-year-olds hit a piñata of a black man hanging from a noose, while a young woman (Brit) held paper stars for Pin the Star on the Jew. Brit showed Turk inside and they watched for a minute as Francis lectured preteens on Christian Identity theology, which holds that the white race are God's chosen ones, not the Jews. Turk was shocked when Brit called Francis "Daddy" and introduced them.
Just as Turk and Brit's grief humanizes them, this birthday party seems to humanize the family life of the white supremacists in attendance. At the same time, however, the piñata and the paper stars illustrate how they've corrupted the wonder and the fun of a child's birthday party and turned it into a vehicle to manufacture and teach hate to the next generation.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
Francis and Turk walked through the backyard, where Francis admitted that he likes talking to young people so he can feel relevant. He commented on Turk's reputation and on Turk's father, assuring Turk that nobody can choose their parents. They discussed how, in Francis's estimation, the current generation of Aryan boys are teaming up with Native Americans to make meth, while Turk understands that they're working together against common allies. Francis suggested that, in the same way, the two of them could team up: Francis is old guard, while Turk knows technology.
Francis's desire to speak to young people and work with Turk suggests that even though he's a white supremacist, he still has the capacity to see that people who are different than him have things to offer. Though he still looks like a powerful villain here, this suggests that he may have a better capacity for understanding, empathy, and humanization than Turk gives him credit for.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
After the funeral, everyone comes back to the duplex. As things start to wind down, MacDougall arrives to pay his respects. Brit isn't charmed; she goes inside and starts throwing casserole dishes. Turk tries to comfort her, but Brit spits that this would all be over if Turk would act like a real man. Francis ushers Brit upstairs while Turk grabs car keys and drives. He considers finding Ruth's house, but knows he'll be blamed. Instead, he finds a homeless man and beats him until Turk remembers who he is.
When Turk has to beat someone to remember who he is, it indicates that he is missing an outlet in his life that would allow him to feel human without hurting others. By hurting others, Turk actually becomes less human and it becomes more difficult for the reader to identify with him.
Themes
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon