Small Great Things

Small Great Things

by

Jodi Picoult

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Rachel / Adisa Character Analysis

Ruth's sister. She was born as Rachel but in her late teens and early twenties, she decided she wanted to connect to her African roots and changed her name to Adisa. She and Ruth have always had a strained relationship, as Adisa loved their black Harlem neighborhood, spoke in Ebonics, and didn't care about education. Ruth believes that Adisa embraced every single negative stereotype of black people through her life choices: Adisa has five children, isn't married, and can barely keep minimum wage jobs. She also, in Ruth's estimation, sees prejudice and racism everywhere. Despite their rocky relationship, Adisa comes to Ruth's aid when she loses her job. Adisa helps Ruth apply for welfare and tries to convince her to accept Wallace Mercy's offer of help. She eventually decides to follow Ruth's lead and trust Kennedy, though Adisa is rude to Kennedy throughout the trial. The night before the last day of trial, Adisa admits that she stole Mama's scarf after Mama died so that Ruth wouldn't bury Mama in it. She gives the scarf to Ruth for good luck.

Rachel / Adisa Quotes in Small Great Things

The Small Great Things quotes below are all either spoken by Rachel / Adisa or refer to Rachel / Adisa. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Small Great Things published in 2016.
Chapter 1, Ruth Quotes

As Christina held my hand and Ms. Mina held Mama's, there was a moment—one heartbeat, one breath—where all the differences in schooling and money and skin color evaporated like mirages in a desert. Where everyone was equal, and it was just one woman, helping another.

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Mama, Rachel / Adisa, Christina
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7, Ruth Quotes

"I'm sure the lady didn't mean anything by it," Mama pronounces.

But it didn't make me feel any less small.

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Mama (speaker), Rachel / Adisa, Virginia
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17, Ruth Quotes

When you're ready for us, we'll be waiting for you. At that moment, I feel another presence I haven't felt before...It's a community of people who know my name, even when I don't always remember theirs. It's a congregation that never stopped praying for me, even when I flew from the nest.

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Mama, Rachel / Adisa
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Small Great Things LitChart as a printable PDF.
Small Great Things PDF

Rachel / Adisa Character Timeline in Small Great Things

The timeline below shows where the character Rachel / Adisa appears in Small Great Things. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
...worked for Sam Hallowell. It was a snow day, so Ruth and her big sister Rachel went with Mama to work instead of going to school. Mama never missed work for... (full context)
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
Suddenly a piercing scream rang through the house. Mama told Rachel and Ruth to stay in the kitchen, but they followed her to Ms. Mina's room... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The experience of watching the birth affected everyone differently: Rachel had five children; Christina had one child via surrogate; and Ruth is now a labor... (full context)
Chapter 4, Ruth
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
...with the pitcher. Ruth tries to shake it off, reminding herself that it's her sister Adisa who sees the worst in everyone, not her. (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Mama taught Ruth to read before she turned five. At that point, Ruth and Rachel got accepted to a prestigious public school on the Upper West Side, but the bus... (full context)
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Ruth says that she and her sister look nothing alike. Rachel is dark like Mama, but Ruth is much lighter. This meant that strangers were nicer... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Friday is Ruth's day off, so she meets Adisa at the nail salon. Adisa gives Ruth a hard time for choosing the "whitest" color,... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
...than working all day Saturday. Ruth agrees, excited to have Saturday to spend with Edison. Adisa insists that they shouldn't be asking Ruth for favors, but the nail technician interrupts. (full context)
Chapter 7, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
...room, where Mama is cleaning the strands of crystal from the chandeliers. Mama talks about Adisa and Edison as Ruth remembers how, as a child, Mama would bring her on Saturdays... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
...suggests that Ruth is imagining things, and Ruth wonders if Mama's right. Ruth immediately hears Adisa's voice in her head and thinks that even if the microaggressions were unintentional, they still... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...how she has the right to say that, but instead hangs up and drives to Adisa's house. (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Adisa insists that this was bound to happen. She says that Ruth should just tell Edison... (full context)
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...Ruth screams as the police attack and handcuff him. She yells for Edison to call Adisa as the policeman drags Ruth upright and out of her house. She wonders if her... (full context)
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...cop leads her to a holding cell. Ruth sits and wonders if Edison has called Adisa and realizes that the Hallowells will be able to get her out. She thinks that... (full context)
Chapter 8, Kennedy
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...her home, and about Edison. Kennedy is surprised that Ruth lives in her neighborhood, that Adisa lives in a difficult neighborhood, and that Ruth’s Mama is a maid. She briefly scans... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
...will question their intentions. She walks up to Edison, who is nervous and polite, and Adisa, who seems angry, and tells them that she can get Ruth out. Minutes later, the... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...Ruth that it'll take a few days before she's released. She runs to Edison and Adisa and begins telling them what documents they need for the house. She gives Edison her... (full context)
Chapter 10, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
...in fifth grade. One morning she read facts out of a fact book, which annoyed Rachel. Mama shut both girls down and then told Ruth to change her shirt; she had... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...before Edison can visit, and he might not be able to anyway—he's a minor, and Adisa can't accompany him because she has a record. When Ruth gets back to her cell,... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...Christina would eventually exclude her anyway, but she didn't have many other friends. She and Rachel, who was eighteen and pregnant, could barely speak to each other. (full context)
Chapter 14, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Adisa buys Ruth lunch at a bistro. They talk about how much money Ruth has saved... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Later, Adisa marches Ruth to the counter at the welfare office to apply for assistance. Ruth feels... (full context)
Chapter 16, Kennedy
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...gospel music. They carry posters with Ruth's face on them, led by Wallace Mercy and Adisa. (full context)
Chapter 17, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
After work, Ruth discovers six missed calls from Kennedy—Adisa apparently involved Wallace Mercy and set up a march in Ruth's honor. Ruth takes the... (full context)
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...Mama made Barbie clothes out of socks and a dream house out of shoeboxes, but Rachel teased Ruth for it. Rachel's friends teased Ruth too because Ruth didn't fit in with... (full context)
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...Ruth lets herself into Mama's room and gently washes her mother's body. After Ruth finishes, Adisa comes in, wailing. When she finally stops crying, they fall into each other's arms. Adisa... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...older woman are there among the sea of black faces. Mama's friends speak and then Adisa speaks. Ruth speaks next and chokes back panic. Her jokes fall flat, but she talks... (full context)
Chapter 19, Ruth
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
As Ruth and Edison step off the bus, Ruth receives a call from Adisa. Ruth follows Adisa's instructions to head towards the front of the courthouse, where she sees... (full context)
Chapter 25, Ruth
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...be a monster. She also thinks that she doesn't regret what she said to Kennedy. Adisa bursts in and brushes off Ruth's worries about Edison. Suddenly, Ruth realizes that she's lost... (full context)
Chapter 30, Ruth
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...a daze. She feels different, but also like nothing has changed. She texts Edison, calls Adisa, and gets a text from Christina. Kennedy and Howard assure Ruth that it's over, and... (full context)