Chapter 16 - A Few Hours Later
We find Estha, Rahel, and Sophie setting out on the river in their boat. Sophie has convinced the twins that she must run away with them to make the adults even more upset. They row for a little while and then bump into a log and capsize. Rahel and Estha emerge on the shore without Sophie. After searching for her for hours, they finally collapse on the veranda of the History House. They do not see Velutha sleeping in the shadows.
Chapter 17 - Cochin Harbor Terminus
Having ironed his and Rahel's clothes, the adult Estha sits in his bed in the dark. Kochu Maria sleeps. Baby Kochamma writes in her diary. She begins every entry in it with "I love you I love you," thinking of Father Mulligan. They stayed in touch until his death a few years earlier, before which he had left the church to become a follower of Vishnu. Although he rejected her romantically in life, after his death Baby Kochamma developed an imaginary, loving relationship with him through her diary. The twins sit quietly on one bed. Estha remembers the last time he saw Ammu before he left for Assam. We learn that Velutha was arrested after Sophie Mol's death and was charged with kidnapping and murder. After that, Comrade Pillai led a Communist siege of the pickle factory, claiming that Velutha was being persecuted for his party affiliation.
Chapter 18 - The History House
Back on the day of Sophie Mol's death, policemen cross the river looking for clues. They trudge amidst small creatures and the beauty of nature. They come upon the History House, on which veranda Estha, Rahel and Velutha are sleeping. They beat Velutha savagely, to the children's horror. The policemen have no sense of Velutha as a fellow human being, because he is an Untouchable. The twins learn two new lessons, the first that "Blood barely shows on a Black Man," and the second that "It smells though, sicksweet, like roses on a breeze." Even though Velutha is beaten so badly that he cannot move, the policemen handcuff him and drag him off. They feel good about 'saving' the twins from this Untouchable, and they steal the toys lying around the veranda for their own children.
After so many chapters building up to the actual telling of Sophie Mol's death, the incident is extremely quick. Sophie drowns in a mere instant and by accident. All the scandal surrounding her murder has to do more with other people's social conflicts than with her death. For the twins, it is not even their role in Sophie's death that haunts them throughout their lives, but the fact that surrounding it were Ammu's renunciation of them and Velutha's murder. For Estha and Rahel, Sophie Mol's death really signifies the day on which they lost both their mother and father figures.
In the previous three chapters, the world of "Small Things" invaded the world of "Big Things" when Vellya Paapen and Velutha visited Mammachi's and Comrade Pillai's houses, respectively. Now the world of "Big Things" not only invades but demolishes the world of "Small Things." The policemen are the ultimate symbol of the world of "Big Things." They are sanctioned by society to destroy with hard boots and weapons and loud voices, putting them immediately at odds with the lively, quiet lushness of "Small Things." It is especially clear that the policemen and Velutha come from a different world when they beat him nearly to death; as the "God of Small Things," he is seen as a "Small Thing" himself, unimportant and non-human. When the children witness their friend and guardian being abused, they see their haven crumbling before them. Hours before, they had fled into that haven, away from Ammu's accusations. Now there is nowhere safe for them; perhaps this is why even as adults, they cannot seem to stay in one place. Perhaps this is also why they are drawn back to Ayemenem, to reclaim the world of "Small Things" and come to terms with their painful secrets now that enough time has passed and enough people have passed away.