The God of Small Things | Study Guide

Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things | Chapter 14 : Work Is Struggle | Summary

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Summary

While the women take naps on the afternoon of Sophie Mol's arrival, Chacko visits Comrade Pillai, who does the printing for the factory. He does have an order for Pillai to fill, but Chacko also wants to check with him about Velutha's role in the Communist Party. Pillai is not there when he arrives, so Chacko visits with the family while he waits. Pillai's wife, Kalyani, has their teen niece, Latha—visiting from Kottayam—do a recitation for him.

When Pillai arrives he has their son Lenin also recite. It is an odd performance, as Lenin is only six and does not understand what he is saying; yet he flawlessly says an entire Marc Antony speech. After Chacko and Pillai attend to the business aspect of the visit, Chacko broaches the subject of seeing Velutha among the marchers in the protest the family encountered yesterday. Always cagey, Pillai thinks carefully about how to respond, and decides to claim he is talking to Chacko as a friend. He warns that Velutha will cause trouble for him and should be sent away to work somewhere else. He explains that the caste system runs very deep among the workers, and they resent any special treatment Velutha receives. Chacko resists, pointing out that Velutha is the one who keeps the machinery running. A philosophical discussion follows about employee unions and revolution.

This section of the chapter ends with foreshadowing. The Marxists will lay siege to Paradise Pickles, and the factory will close. Exactly how involved Comrade Pillai is in that will never be known, but he will be the last person Velutha visits in his life. As for Chacko, he will leave India for Canada, and Baby Kochamma and Kochu Maria will live off the meager proceeds of the rubber estate and the coconut trees left on the family property.

Two weeks later Velutha is unaware of any of this, having been in Kottayam on factory business. A fellow worker sees him at the bus stop when he returns, and he tells Velutha he is wanted by Mammachi. So Velutha goes directly there, only to be shocked by her spewing venom as she tells him he must leave Ayemenem forever because of his affair with Ammu. He leaves the house and goes directly to Comrade Pillai's, but Pillai will not get involved. So Velutha goes to the only place he can think of, to the river.

Analysis

More details of the looming tragedy are given. The death of Sophie Mol is significant, but the family will also lose its business. This is not just the story of one family's demise; it is the story of the breakdown of a whole society.

Chacko is on edge about the whole communist movement occurring in Kerala. As Roy explains, when he is in Comrade Pillai's home, suddenly he feels disrespected for his wealth and standing. Even though he claims he is not supportive of the caste system, he comes from a long history of it, as a member of its top layer. He wants to be viewed as an educated, progressive person, but Pillai is more realistic about that. "Rome was not built in a day," he reminds Chacko. It seems clear that Pillai himself, although espousing equality for all, is not willing to go against such a well-entrenched system, the "centuries of oppression." The chapter makes the statement that Pillai will betray Velutha, and ends with that betrayal happening. The Untouchable will go to his death without any support. It begins with his own father's betrayal and ends with those in power refusing to help him despite their supposed commitments to changing the system.

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