The God of Small Things

The God of Small Things Summary and Analysis of Chapters 4-6

Chapter 4 - Abhilash Talkies

The family arrives at Abhilash Talkies, the cinema in Cochin. In the women's bathroom, Baby Kochamma, Ammu, and Rahel all urinate in front of one another. Rahel cherishes this intimacy. Alone in the men's bathroom, Estha stands on top of cans in order to be tall enough to urinate like a grown man at the urinal. This makes him proud. Then the family reunites and enters the movie theater. Estha cannot help but sing during the movie, which annoys the rest of the audience greatly. He leaves and heads for the lobby, where he annoys the refreshments seller, the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, with his singing. Then the man makes him come behind the counter for a free drink. He makes Estha fondle his penis while he drinks his drink. Then he sends him back into the theater, but Estha is nauseated. Ammu takes him to the ladies' room. Back in the lobby, the Orangedrink Lemondrink man flirts with Ammu and gives Estha free sweets. Ammu notices that Estha is out of sorts, so she makes the family leave the movie early. Back in the lobby, Rahel senses that the Orangedrink Lemondrink man is not to be trusted. When Ammu praises him, Rahel retorts, "So why don't you marry him then?" only to be told that now Ammu loves her a little less. After that, Rahel is inconsolable and anxious, unable to forget Ammu's words.

They drive to the hotel, where Chacko wonders what his daughter, Sophie Mol, looks like. He remembers that before he and Margaret Kochamma divorced, he used to sneak into Sophie's room to memorize her face, wondering if she was really his child. In another room, Estha awakes and vomits into the toilet. Then he goes to Rahel's door; she senses him there and lets him in. Rahel wonders if it was indeed Velutha whom she saw marching with the Communists. She thinks about how Comrade K.N.M. Pillai, the local Communist leader, rallied the workers of Paradise Pickles to the Communist cause. Velutha was the only card-carrying Communist in the factory, and Comrade Pillai did not want to be allied with an Untouchable. In his hotel bed, Chacko considers how he might get around Comrade Pillai's attempts to rally his workers. In the next bed, Estha and Rahel hold each other and dream of the river near their house.

Chapter 5 - God's Own Country

The scene opens with a focus on the river, which has a history of its own. People over the generations bathe in, ride on, and defecate in it. It is unfit for swimming and has a nasty smell, but the people who own the nearby hotel tout the area as "God's Own Country." At the hotel, history is twisted and abbreviated. Historical houses are converted into dining rooms and sitting areas, while traditional performances are abridged to suit tourists' patience. Rahel runs into Comrade Pillai while walking around Ayemenem. After making small talk, he remembers something about a sex scandal and death in her family. He shows her a pile of photographs of his son, who is named Lenin. Rahel remembers the moment when Lenin became real for her and Estha. They were in the waiting room of a doctor's office, Rahel and Lenin both with foreign objects lodged in their noses. Afraid of the doctor, Rahel tried one last time to blow the glass bead out of her nose--and succeeded. Meanwhile, Lenin had to wait for the doctor to remove the object from his nose. Back in the present, Comrade Pillai shows Rahel a picture of herself, Estha, Lenin, and Sophie Mol. Rahel remembers that Sophie had made herself look silly for the picture, adorning herself whimsically and making a funny face. Just before the picture was taken, she had explained to Estha and Rahel that there was a good chance they were all illegitimate children. The picture was taken days before she died.

Chapter 6 - Cochin Kangaroos

The scene opens onto Cochin Airport on the day when Sophie Mol is scheduled to arrive. As Ammu helps Rahel get dressed in her new clothing, Rahel cannot help but remember that her mother loves her a little less for what she said the previous day. At the airport, the family is dressed in new, special clothing for Sophie's arrival. They hold welcome signs, and Ammu reminds the twins that they are ambassadors of India insofar as Sophie Mol is concerned. Sophie Mol and Margaret Kochamma arrive. The air is uncomfortable as Chacko greets his ex-wife and daughter. Sophie is taller than Estha and Rahel, with blue eyes, light skin, and dark brown hair. Baby Kochamma tells Sophie that she reminds her of Ariel from The Tempest, but Sophie does not understand the reference. Rahel hides in the window curtain because she is overwhelmed, but Ammu yells at her for having dirtied her dress. The children begin to get acquainted. On the car ride back, Estha and Rahel sing a song in English to impress Sophie. The chapter ends with the remark: "Just outside Ayemenem they drove into a cabbage-green butterfly (or perhaps it drove into them)."


The theme of the grotesque deepens as the Orangedrink Lemondrink man molests Estha in Abhilash Talkies. Estha loses not only his innocence but his sense of safety. From that moment on, he is afraid that the man will seek him out to hurt him again. In the beginning of the novel, Roy tells us that the reason Estha stops talking is lost in history. Yet his encounter with the Orangedrink Lemondrink man seems a likely impetus. What leads up to the molestation is just the opposite of keeping quiet; Estha cannot stop singing in the movie theater, so he is sent out to the lobby where he falls prey to the bored, perverted predator. Estha's trauma silences him well into his adult years and perhaps forever. We encounter the adult Estha several times in the novel, but we never once hear him speak.

Rahel too loses her sense of safety as a result of Estha's molestation, although indirectly. Because of their subconscious connection, Rahel senses immediately that the Orangedrink Lemondrink man has done something terrible to Estha. But in their family, the big issues lurk just beneath the surface. They are not allowed to be acknowledged without disaster. Therefore Rahel's reaction, instead of telling Ammu her impression of the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, is to talk back to her. When Ammu tells her that she loves her a little less for hurting her, Rahel is inconsolable. "A little less her mother loved her" becomes a refrain throughout the next several chapters. This statement, which is a "Small Thing" to Ammu, consumes Rahel. When Sophie arrives, Rahel thinks of her as "Loved from the Beginning"-loved irrevocably-whereas she is imperfect and Ammu's love for her is volatile.

The theme of cultural loyalty arrives along with Sophie Mol and Margaret Kochamma. They represent the foreign and exciting, but also that which does not belong. At the hotel, history is manipulated until it is suitably attractive to foreign eyes: historical buildings and rooms are converted into lounging and dining areas and traditional kathkali dances, famous for their all-night length, are abridged to less than an hour. Cultures are combined, resulting in strange hybrids that are authentic in the eyes of no one except perhaps a tourist. Sophie encapsulates this process by her appearance alone: she has "Pappachi's nose," but her skin is light and her eyes are blue. She seems neither English nor Indian, and for this reason she is both fascinating and threatening. Back in Ayemenem, the History House serves as a haven for what is true but not necessarily attractive in the family's history. For this reason it is seen as forbidden and as "untouchable" like the people who live in it (Velutha, Vellya Paapen, and Kuttappen).

Just as the History House is a haven for history, the river and riverbank are havens for "Small Things" whether they are creatures or emotions. The inner workings of the natural world thrive there, as do other things overlooked by society such as Estha's fear of the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, the Paravans, Ammu's and Velutha's affair, and Sophie's death. In fact, the river does such a good job at keeping secrets that the latter two events remain hidden in tantalizing allusions until the novel's end--only then does Roy let us witness them firsthand. Just like the Paravans who live beyond the river, the "Small Things" in the river's domain are "untouchable." They are so not because they are dirty or insignificant. These things are "untouchable" in the sense of being sacred. They cannot be ruined by society so long as they are kept separate and clandestine.

The last line of chapter 6 continues this theme of "Small Things." Roy writes: "Just outside Ayemenem they drove into a cabbage-green butterfly (or perhaps it drove into them)." Not only does she take a moment (the last of a chapter, no less) to acknowledge something small, but she uses the moment to question the characters' as well as the reader's perspective. In her parenthetical remark, Roy acknowledges that the human perspective-or in a broader sense, the conventional perspective of the observer-is far from the only one. Even a fragile insect can have a point of view and even a suicidal intention.