The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Afterward Estha and Rahel are at the police station with Inspector Thomas Mathew. They read the words on the signs backwards out loud, and he knows they are traumatized. After hearing about all the toys, Mathew knows something is wrong, and he sends for Baby Kochamma. He is not friendly to her this time. He explains that Velutha will probably die of his injuries, and so if Velutha did not actually kidnap the children this means the police have killed a basically innocent man.
Like Pillai, Inspector Mathew is not concerned for Velutha as a human but only as a political tool. Mathew thought he was sending a message that the caste system would be upheld, but now he discovers that his own position could be compromised. The twins use their backwards reading now as a means of mentally escaping the situation.
Themes
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Inspector Mathew says that unless the “rape victim” (Ammu) files a complaint or the children identify Velutha as their kidnapper, Mathew will have to charge Baby Kochamma for false witness. Baby Kochamma is terrified, and she offers to try and convince the children to change their story. Mathew is worried about his own position, as he knows Velutha was a Communist Party member and that Comrade Pillai will exploit this incident.
Baby Kochamma had seen herself as helping the Ipe family name, but now that she is in personal danger she is willing to sacrifice anything to save herself. Even though Pillai abandoned Velutha, he will use Velutha’s death as a political tool to incite revolution and try to increase his own power.
Themes
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Inspector Mathew leaves Baby Kochamma alone with the twins, and she accuses them of murdering Sophie Mol. She says there is no forgiveness for this crime, and that they will have to go to jail and Ammu will too. She then describes the horrors of prison. The only way to lessen the damage done, she says, is to “save Ammu” from jail by answering “yes” when the police ask if Velutha kidnapped them and killed Sophie Mol. She tells them Velutha will die anyway, so it doesn’t matter.
Though Baby Kochamma was introduced at the novel’s beginning, we only see the true extent of her sins now. She is basically willing to sacrifice the lives of Estha, Rahel, and Velutha to preserve her own safety and the Ipe family name. Baby Kochamma is able to weave convincing tales, and the twins helplessly go along with her, just wanting to escape in fantasy.
Themes
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Indian Politics, Society, and Class Theme Icon
Baby Kochamma ends her speech by posing the choice as “saving Ammu” or sending her to jail. The children say “Save Ammu,” and the narrator wonders whether they were totally tricked into their betrayal, or if they also had a subconscious desire to preserve their own safety and order. In their later lives the twins would be tortured by this question. Baby Kochamma is delighted at her success, and she sends Estha alone with Inspector Mathew to testify.
Baby Kochamma feels like she has fixed the situation, but for the twins this is the beginning of a lifetime of guilt. They were in shock and deceived by Baby Kochamma, but they also succumbed too easily to set their future consciences at ease. In a way they were like Baby Kochamma, willing to sacrifice a man’s life to protect the family.
Themes
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Inspector Mathew takes Estha into the prison and Estha sees the bloody, broken Velutha. One of Velutha’s eyes focuses on Estha just as the Inspector asks his question and Estha says “yes.” At that “childhood tiptoed out” and “silence slid in.” On the drive back home Estha tells Rahel she was right, it was actually Urumban, and Velutha had surely escaped to Africa. Velutha dies that night in the cell.
This is perhaps the most tragic scene of the novel, as Estha betrays the dying Velutha to his face. It is this small thing, this little word “yes” that haunts Estha for the rest of his life and leads him eventually to stop speaking altogether. At the enormity of this tragedy Estha too tries to escape into Rahel’s fantasy.
Themes
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When Ammu went to the police station after Sophie Mol’s funeral, Baby Kochamma became terrified that her plan would fall apart – she had assumed that Ammu would never admit to her relationship with Velutha. She had forgotten about Ammu’s “Unsafe Edge.” Baby Kochamma knew that she must get Ammu out of Ayemenem, so she preyed on Chacko’s grief and managed to portray Ammu and the twins as the cause of Sophie Mol’s death. Because of this it was really Baby Kochamma’s fault that Chacko broke down Ammu’s door and kicked her out, and that Estha was “Returned.”
Baby Kochamma basically becomes the story’s villain as she destroys many lives to try and save the family “honor” and her own reputation. Even Chacko is mostly innocent, as his grief was so great that it was easy for Baby Kochamma to persuade him to kick Ammu out. The parts of the story revealed at the beginning finally fall into place, and we see that Velutha was already dead when Ammu went to the police station.
Themes
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Indian Politics, Society, and Class Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon