Small Great Things

Small Great Things

Themes and Colors
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Small Great Things, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Small Great Things follows Ruth, a black labor and delivery nurse; Turk, an angry white supremacist whose baby is born—and dies—in Ruth's hospital; and Kennedy, a white public defender who represents Ruth during her ensuing trial for murder. Ruth is put in a difficult position when Turk requests that no black staff touch his son, Davis. However, during a busy morning in which Davis's white nurse is called away to an…

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In contrast to the overt, purposeful racism as espoused by Turk Bauer and the white supremacists he works with, Small Great Things also explores how racism functions in society among white people who don't believe themselves to be racist. Kennedy brightly quips in her first meeting with Ruth that she "doesn't see race" and that "the human race is what matters," statements that make Ruth—a black woman who experiences prejudice every day at the hands…

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At the beginning of the novel, both Ruth and Turk are happy and fulfilled in their respective communities. Turk is a well-respected webmaster of lonewolf.org, a website that offers people interested in white supremacy a place to find camaraderie and others who think like them, and is married to the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the movement. Ruth, on the other hand, is an experienced labor and delivery nurse who feels…

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One of the effects of having three narrators with wildly different backgrounds (Ruth, Turk, and Kennedy) is that, through their stories, the reader is forced to recognize that there are some things that remain the same between them, despite the differences in their skin color, their jobs, and their beliefs. This is most apparent in the way that the novel portrays intimate moments between family members, especially when it comes to…

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As the question of how and why Davis Bauer died moves into the courts, Ruth is shocked and hurt when Kennedy tells her that it's impossible to bring up race in a court of law. Doing so, Kennedy insists, will only hurt Ruth by making her look like an "angry black woman" on a mission to blame Turk and Brit for holding racist beliefs, rather than sticking to the facts of the case that can…

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