The God of Small Things | Study Guide

Arundhati Roy

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The God of Small Things | Chapter 8 : Welcome Home, Our Sophie Mol | Summary

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Summary

The "play" that has been orchestrated for Sophie Mol's arrival continues as the Ayemenem House is staged for the arrival of the blue Pontiac bearing its precious cargo. Roy describes in detail the grand house before its decline and the grand dame of the house, Mammachi. She will be playing the violin as the car arrives. Although she looks forward to meeting her granddaughter, she is jealous of Chacko's ex-wife and wishes she were not reentering her son's life.

Kochu Maria is busy completing a tall cake with the words WELCOME HOME OUR SOPHIE MOL. Her strange appearance is described, along with her singular mix of native Indian and converted Syrian Christian attitudes. She finishes just as the car is heard approaching. At this point all of the factory workers stop working and line up along the driveway. A proud Chacko leads Margaret Kochamma and Sophie Mol to meet his mostly blind mother.

Rahel, who is feeling invisible and ignored, spies Velutha and goes to him. Ammu observes how the two of them interact, and then her eyes lock with Velutha's. Suddenly an undeniable charge of physical desire pulses between them. They are both shaken, but the "play" continues around them.

Rahel quizzes Velutha about his presence in the communist march the day before—he coyly denies it—and they both notice that Estha has also removed himself from the welcome scene and is nowhere in sight. Kochu Maria delivers the cake and declares that Sophie Mol is "a little angel." When Margaret Kochamma responds to Kochu Maria's traditional way of kissing with an ignorant comment, Ammu has a sarcastic retort and then goes to her room in an angry huff. She has never been one to avoid confrontation or "act nice," having learned as the child of an abusive, cruel father to stand up to injustice and behave recklessly at times. A particularly cruel scene with Pappachi when she was nine years old is described to substantiate her viewpoint.

Then the cake is served. Mammachi plays the violin, and Ammu calls Rahel in for her afternoon nap. Rahel delays obeying, stopping to kill some ants. Sophie Mol tries to join her, but Rahel runs away.

Analysis

People in the family have trouble with normal feelings of love. Mammachi has taken her son into her heart as "Her Man" ever since he made Pappachi stop beating her. She is jealous of any woman who might take him from her. She does not want him to have a sexual relationship outside of what it takes to fulfill "Man's Needs," so she facilitates his trysts with factory workers in the hope that will keep him from seeking a new wife. She is very concerned that he and Margaret Kochamma might resume their sexual relationship but deals with that by putting money in Margaret's pockets and deciding she is just a whore like all the others.

Rahel and Estha obviously feel at constant risk of losing their mother's love. Instead of offering the unconditional love that mothers give their children, Ammu regularly threatens them with the lessening of her love. Their grandmother and great-aunt are similarly stingy with love toward them. So when Rahel and Estha see how Sophie Mol is so clearly loved without limits, it is very upsetting to them. We learn in this chapter that Ammu comes by her hard heart honestly; she was horribly abused as a child. Yet she is clearly passing on some of that damage to her children. In one flash of insight about this, Ammu is amazed when she sees that Rahel can feel utterly happy nonetheless—in the presence of Velutha, in a "world of smiles and laughter that she, her mother, had no part in." Soon after that realization, when she feels the physical attraction between herself and Velutha, Ammu surely has a sense that love does not always have to be destructive.

Chacko does seem to still be in love with Margaret Kochamma, but it is not based in reality. She can never love him back. She obviously had a very good relationship with Joe, and Sophie Mol is already showing that she is quite a normal girl. The situational irony lies in the fact that she is not a part of the family dysfunction yet she will soon be placed at the core of it. For now Rahel is so jealous of Sophie Mol, despite having declared at the airport that of course she must love her, she cannot be around her.

One important comment in this chapter that should not be missed is Baby Kochamma's dark warning about Velutha: "That man will be our Nemesis." In explaining why Baby makes this comment, Roy gives us another clue about the terrible events about to occur. She calls it a "prophetic vision" even though Baby only intends it "to get him into trouble."

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