Study Guide

The God of Small Things Chapter 10

By Arundhati Roy

Chapter 10

The River in the Boat

  • We're back in 1969 on the day Sophie Mol arrives.
  • Estha leaves the hubbub of her arrival and goes into the factory.
  • He finds a place to Think (with a capital T) between the wall and a big iron pot of banana jam.
  • Estha thinks that the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man could walk into the factory at any moment. He thinks about how Ammu would probably offer the Orangedrink Lemondrink man tea, and how nobody would be able to help him.
  • Estha thinks Two Thoughts (two capital Ts here, folks – this must be important).
  • His two thoughts are: a) Anything can happen to Anyone and b) It's best to be prepared (10.28-30).
  • Estha thinks about how Ammu had honored him by letting him copy Mammachi's recipe for banana jam into her new recipe book.
  • Estha thinks Thought Number Three: "A boat" (10.60). He thinks about gathering provisions and rowing across the river.
  • Rahel comes into the factory looking for Estha. He doesn't answer her, but sings a boat song. She asks him why he's rowing the jam. Estha says, "India's a free country" (10.78).
  • Rahel gets up to go. Estha tells her he's going to Akkara to the History House. When Rahel asks why, he recites his Two Thoughts: "'Because Anything can Happen to Anyone,' Estha said. 'It's Best to be Prepared'" (10.97). The narrator comments that you can't really argue with that.
  • We learn that Vellya Paapen claims to be the last person to have gone into the History House. He used to tell the twins a story about running into the ghost of Kari Saipu. He claims to have pinned the ghost to the trunk of a rubber tree with his sickle.
  • Then the narrator gives us the scoop on the History House from the kids' perspective – everything that Vellya Paapen doesn't or won't know about it, including how it will be Vellya Paapen's actions that "set the Terror rolling" (10.104).
  • Rahel asks Estha if they'll have to become Communists if they move to the History House. Estha says they might. They hear someone coming and so they shut their yaps, "sealing the secret" (10.111).
  • Later, Rahel meets Estha under the mangosteen tree. They find a boat covered in moss.
  • We find out that Ammu will use the boat to go across the river to meet Velutha – but it hasn't happened yet.
  • The narrator poses a question: can that little boat make it across the river, or is it too old? Is Akkara too far away?
  • We learn more about the river. The first third of the river is a nice, calm part where Chacko taught the twins how to swim and Velutha taught them how to fish. The second third is where the river gets really deep and the current picks up. The final third, on the other bank, is calm and oozy.
  • We learn that Estha and Rahel have no problem swimming across the river, but the middle of the river is definitely not a good place to hang around. Taking the boat across, we learn, is going to be a problem.
  • But in the meantime, the twins wash the boat and carry it to Velutha's hut.
  • Velutha isn't there, but Kuttapen, his paralyzed brother, is. Kuttapen is shouting a jingle at the guava tree.
  • We learn that Kuttapen lies on his back all day while Velutha and Vellya Paapen are away, watching his youth pass him by.
  • Kuttapen thinks of his dead mother and assumes he will be the next in the family to die. The narrator basically tells us that it's too bad Kuttapen is wrong.
  • We also find out that Kuttapen is on the brink of insanity.
  • Estha and Rahel walk into the hut. When their eyes get used to the dark, they see Kuttapen. Rahel brings him some water.
  • Kuttapen asks about Sophie Mol and the twins show him the boat. He warns them about the river and gives it British characteristics to show how it is secretly evil.
  • Velutha comes home to check on Kuttapen. He hears the kids singing before he sees them. He feels a clench of love for them in his chest.
  • The twins ask Velutha to fix the boat. He says maybe but that he doesn't want them to play games on the river.
  • The kids leave. Kuttapen asks Velutha if the kids have talked about seeing him at the march. Velutha says they haven't said anything, but they know.
  • Rahel runs home, remembering that she's supposed to be napping and has to get home before Ammu realizes she's gone.