Study Guide

The God of Small Things Chapter 18

By Arundhati Roy

Chapter 18

The History House

  • Back to 1969.
  • Six policemen cross the river. The description of them walking toward the History House lasts for a few pages. We don't know about you, but we really feel the dramatic effect of this long, drawn-out build-up.
  • We learn more about the History House – it's beautiful but old. The roof is lined with bats.
  • The policemen creep toward the house carrying batons but thinking of machine guns.
  • They see Estha, Rahel, and Velutha lying asleep in opposite corners of the veranda.
  • They wake up Velutha by kicking him. They're wearing heavy boots. You might guess where this is going.
  • Estha and Rahel wake up "to the shout of sleep surprised by shattered kneecaps" (18.57). How's that for a gruesome image? They are paralyzed by fear and disbelief, even more so when they realize that the man being beaten is Velutha. They didn't even know he was in the house.
  • The police beat Velutha with extreme violence and brutality. The narrator describes his skull cracking and his broken ribs puncturing his lungs.
  • The narrator tells us that the twins are too young to understand that the police feel like they have a reason and a right to do this to Velutha. There is nothing accidental about what's happening.
  • Estha and Rahel learn that blood smells "sicksweet. Like roses on a breeze" (19.79-80).
  • The policemen stop beating Velutha. We learn that his skull is fractured in three places. The bones in his face are smashed, leaving it featureless and mushy. Six teeth are broken. He's bleeding from his mouth because four of his ribs are puncturing his lungs. His spine has been damaged. His intestine is ruptured. Both of his kneecaps are shattered. In other words, he's a goner.
  • One of the policemen brings his boot down heavily on Velutha's groin. They handcuff him.
  • Rahel tells Estha that she can tell that it isn't Velutha – she says it's Urumban, his "twin" who was at the march. Estha says nothing because he is "unwilling to seek refuge in fiction" (19.99).
  • One of the policemen asks the twins if they are OK.
  • The six policemen take all of Estha and Rahel's toys for their kids. The only thing they leave behind is Rahel's watch, which has the fake time painted on it.
  • They drag Velutha across the floor.