Chapter 7 - Wisdom Exercise Notebooks
Rahel searches for "hidden things" in Pappachi's study. Estha stands silently at the door. Rahel produces their childhood notebooks from a shelf and reads from Estha's, laughing at his childish mistakes as well as the fact that he chose to write about morbid topics.
We skip over to the last time Ammu returned to Ayemenem. The twins were nearly eleven, but only Rahel was at home. Ammu talked nonstop, as though talking would make the reality that she was dying disappear. Rahel hated Ammu during this time, and she never saw her again before her death. Ammu died at the age of thirty-one while out of town for a job interview. The church refused to bury her, so she was cremated. Rahel watched with Chacko while her body was pushed into the oven, but neither of them cried. Rahel never wrote to Estha to inform him of Ammu's death. To her, writing a letter to Estha was tantamount to writing a letter to a part of her body.
Back in the present, Rahel notices that Estha has left the doorway. She walks onto the veranda, where she sees him disappearing on another walk. She considers the fact that she is standing in the same spot where "Welcome home, Our Sophie Mol" was performed. The chapter ends with the assertion that "Things can change in a day."
Chapter 8 - Welcome Home, Our Sophie Mol
Mammachi plays the violin on the veranda while thinking about other things. When her mind wanders to Margaret Kochamma, her playing becomes angry. She hates Margaret Kochamma because things did not work out between her and Chacko, who is the recipient of all her adoration towards men, even though he is her son. Mammachi thinks of Margaret Kochamma as "just another whore." Kochu Maria festoons a cake with the words: "Welcome Home, Our Sophie Mol." Sophie Mol is greeted at the house by a crowd and a nervous, excited air. Everyone is showing excellent behavior, pretending that they live cheery, entertaining lives. As Roy puts it, "And once again, only the Small Things were said. The Big Things lurked unsaid inside." Ammu watches as Rahel leaves the festivities to greet Velutha. Ammu admires Velutha's chiseled body and his familiar relationship with her daughter. Suddenly Velutha catches Ammu's glance and, for the first time, notices that she is a woman. The moment catches them both off guard and excites them. Back at the house, Ammu storms into her room after Margaret Kochamma accidentally insults her. She expresses fascination at Kochu Maria's way of kissing Sophie Mol's hands, which Ammu finds condescending. Ammu's touchy nature comes from having suffered Pappachi's terrible abuse throughout her childhood. While everyone has cake, she calls Rahel into the house and tells her not to be so close with Velutha. Rahel goes outside to squash ants and ignores Sophie Mol's attempts to play with her.
Chapter 9 - Mrs. Pillai, Mrs. Eapen, Mrs. Rajagopalan
The adult Rahel observes toads near the house in Ayemenem. She remembers a day when she and Estha took Sophie Mol to visit Velutha. She realizes how sweetly he entertained them as children, not judging them like their parents or trying to be a child himself-just letting them be themselves. Rahel sees Estha in his room. Both of the twins feel lost in their lives, haunted by memories and bottled anger, left behind by Ammu to "[spin] in the dark, with no moorings, in a place with no foundation." Again there is a vague reference to Sophie Mol's death. Rahel wanders to the abandoned pickle factory. She thinks of how on the day Sophie Mol arrived, Estha thought his Two Thoughts and hid a secret in a pickle jar. The chapter closes on the refrain: "Things can change in a day."
Chapters 7 and 8 deal with Ammu's death, but they also mock the idea of death because like the rest of the story, they do not follow a traditional, linear order. Death is the logical and inevitable end to life. But in Roy's world, things are illogical and unpredictable. The story of Ammu's death, then, unfolds in a nonlinear fashion. First we witness her cremation, the final affirmation that she is no longer living, then flash back to the moment when she begins to come alive again for the first time after the divorce, when she becomes attracted to Velutha. As in the preceding chapters, Roy makes allusions to the events surrounding Sophie Mol's death and the reason Estha stopped talking. Still she does not reveal these things, keeping them as hidden for the reader as they are for the characters. Roy suggests that if life is unpredictable and nonlinear, then a story about life should be equally so.
Sophie Mol's welcome wagon is, like the hotel in Cochin, an example of an attempt at cultural diplomacy that results in awkwardness and falseness. Instead of treating Sophie like one of its own, the family puts on airs to entertain and impress her as though the family's pride depends upon her approval. Instead of wanting Sophie and Margaret to be fascinated with their culture, they create a sort of hybrid culture involving Western violin music and a Westernized iced cake. When the truly Indian-the dark, bare-bodied Velutha and Kochu Maria's kissing custom-invades the scene, Ammu cannot stand it. She retreats to the house and tells Rahel not to play with Velutha so much. Although the hybrid cultural elements are in a sense a phony put-on, there is safety within it, because Ammu does not have to explain herself or her actions, but can pretend that her purpose is to be a good hostess and show a small, grieving child a good time.
The theme of mutability pervades these chapters as Roy develops the refrain,"Things can change in a day." Ammu becomes attracted to Velutha in a day, and she goes from living to dead in a day. As we know, Sophie Mol also goes from living to dead in a day. Everyone is alive one day and dead the next. In keeping with her pattern, Roy makes sure to include the world of "Small Things" in developing the theme of mutability. Rahel expresses her anger at Ammu and her jealousy towards Sophie Mol by squashing ants. Although we witness Rahel's violence only from the human perspective, we can imagine the colony of ants as representing the crowd of people celebrating Sophie Mol's arrival. Rahel has a power over them that she wishes she had over the adults in her world. If we extrapolate from this focus on the influence of "Small Things," we can conclude that the people in Ayemenem are just as fragile and vulnerable to sudden change or sudden death as the ants.