Study Guide

The God of Small Things Chapter 13

By Arundhati Roy

Chapter 13

The Pessimist and the Optimist

  • We're back in 1969. Sophie Mol wakes up on a cot in Chacko's room. She takes in the scene around her. Margaret is still asleep on the bed next to her. Chacko is sleeping in Pappachi's study.
  • She looks at Chacko and Margaret's wedding photo. We learn that Margaret Kochamma's father refused to be part of the picture because he didn't want his daughter to marry an Indian.
  • We flash back several years to when Margaret and Chacko first met.
  • Margaret was working as a waitress. She had moved out of her parents' home as a way of showing them that she was independent. All the same, even when she was finally out on her own, Margaret lived a quiet, responsible life.
  • One day, Margaret was working in the café when Chacko came in. He was tousled but well built. He wasn't fat yet.
  • Chacko asked Margaret if she'd heard about the man with twin sons. Chacko proceeded to tell her a long, drawn-out joke. The two of them started laughing hysterically. Margaret's boss was not pleased.
  • Chacko was on Margaret's mind longer than she expected.
  • Chacko started coming to the café more frequently.
  • It's pretty clear that Margaret had never met anyone quite like Chacko. Still, the narrator tells us, it seems that she was really confusing acceptance of herself with passion for Chacko.
  • Then we get things from Chacko's perspective. It turns out that Margaret was not only Chacko's first lover, but his first female friend.
  • We also find out that when Chacko and Margaret got married, her family didn't consent, and his didn't even know.
  • They got married. Margaret kept working. Chacko got fat and didn't work. Then he got a short-lived job in London.
  • Then Margaret met Joe. She was drawn to the fact that Joe was "everything that Chacko wasn't. Steady. Solvent. Thin" (13.74-75).
  • After Sophie Mol was born, Margaret realized she had to leave Chacko, both for her own sake and her daughter's.
  • Chacko returned to Ayemenem after Margaret left him. He would behave in uncouth ways in front of guests, and worst of all for Mammachi, he would reminisce openly about Margaret.
  • Margaret and Chacko stayed in touch over the years.
  • When Joe died, Margaret made Sophie go on with life as usual. Still, when Chacko invited the two to come to India for the holidays, she thought it was the best thing to do. The narrator tells us that Margaret will be haunted by this decision for the rest of her life.
  • The narrative cuts back to 1969. It's the morning of Sophie Mol's death. Mammachi and Baby Kochamma are told that a white child's body was found floating in the river.
  • Nobody has really noticed that Rahel and Estha are also missing or how long they've been gone.
  • Baby Kochamma has the keys to Ammu's bedroom, where she's locked inside.
  • The previous day, the twins had come to the door to ask Ammu why she was locked up. She said it was all their fault and that they were millstones around her neck – a really dramatic way of saying that they are holding her down and keeping her from leading her life the way she wants to.
  • We also learn that earlier that afternoon it had started to rain like crazy. Just like in the movies, this makes us feel like something dramatic is about to happen.
  • Yesterday, before Ammu yelled at the twins, Vellya Paapen showed up at the door crying. Kochu Maria tried to get him to leave but he wouldn't.
  • Vellya Paapen offered Mammachi his fake eye back because he felt like he didn't deserve it (she paid for it once upon a time). And by offered, we mean he put his eye in Mammachi's hand. Mammachi was none too pleased with the eyeball sitting in her hand all warm and slimy.
  • Mammachi asked Vellya Paapen if he was drunk as she washed his eye juices off her hands.
  • Vellya Paapen started crying really hard. He told Mammachi that he had discovered that Ammu and Velutha were lovers. He knows this is a total violation of class standards.
  • Mammachi, always even-tempered and reasonable, pushed Vellya Paapen out the kitchen door into a puddle of mud. Then she started spitting on him and calling him a drunken dog.
  • While all this was going on, Kochu Maria told Baby Kochamma everything. Baby Kochamma was practically licking her chops, seeing all kinds of potential in this situation.
  • Baby Kochamma made Vellya Paapen tell the whole story over again, this time slowly and in detail, and asking lots of questions.
  • Mammachi pictured Velutha and Ammu doing it. She thought of the shame it would bring on her family. She totally lost it.
  • Mammachi and Baby Kochamma made a plan for damage control. And by plan, we mean they locked Ammu in her bedroom and tried to get hold of Velutha so they could convince him to skip town.
  • Problem was, Sophie Mol's body had already been found.
  • We move forward in time a few days.
  • Baby Kochamma is at the Kottayam police station. She tells a made-up story to Inspector Thomas Mathew about how they had to fire a certain worker in the factory (Velutha), who tried to force himself on Ammu.
  • The narrator tells us that Baby Kochamma lies about Ammu and Velutha's relationship to save her own reputation. She doesn't care how Ammu looks after all this.
  • Baby Kochamma continues to tell a bogus story that makes Velutha look like an angry, sex-crazed worker. She makes sure to mention seeing Velutha at the march, but she doesn't notice that Inspector Thomas Mathew looks a little worried to hear that last part.
  • Inspector Thomas Mathew tells Baby Kochamma that the police will do everything they can and that Velutha will be captured by the end of the day.
  • After letting Baby Kochamma go, Inspector Thomas Mathew sends for Comrade K.N.M. Pillai. He needs to know if Velutha has any support or if he's "operating alone" (13.158).
  • We find out that the night before, Velutha had come to Comrade Pillai's door, and that Comrade Pillai was the last person to see Velutha before he disappeared. Comrade Pillai doesn't say anything about Velutha being a member of the Communist Party. He just says that, as far as he's concerned, Velutha is on his own.
  • In the meantime, Baby Kochamma arrives back in Ayemenem. Margaret Kochamma is sick with grief as she looks at Sophie Mol's dead body laid out on the chaise lounge.
  • We find out that Margaret is convinced that Estha is responsible for Sophie Mol's death. She even slaps him a few times.
  • The only person who Margaret won't remember is Velutha.
  • We go back in time to two weeks before Sophie Mol's death.
  • Sophie Mol wakes up and looks up at the rubber trees out her window. She gets out of bed and opens the suitcase, finding presents for Estha and Rahel.
  • Sophie goes out with a bunch of presents – Toblerone chocolate, multicolored socks, and souvenir pens from London – to "negotiate a friendship" with Estha and Rahel (13.185).