Study Guide

The God of Small Things Chapter 8

By Arundhati Roy

Chapter 8

Welcome Home, Our Sophie Mol

  • We're back in 1969. The chapter begins with a description of the Ayemenem house.
  • We get a close-up of Mammachi sitting in the heat of the afternoon playing her violin.
  • We learn more about Mammachi. For years she would collect her dark hair as it fell out. One day she made it into a bun of black hair, which she pinned to her thin silver hair. At night when she took off the bun, she would let Estha and Rahel braid her hair.
  • We learn that Mammachi has scars on her scalp from the many times that Pappachi beat her.
  • As Mammachi plays the violin, she thinks about the beginning of her career as a pickle-maker.
  • We learn that, even though Mammachi has never met Margaret Kochamma, she's never liked her. She thinks of her as a shopkeeper's daughter. Social class is a very big thing for Mammachi.
  • The narrator also tells us, though, that even if Margaret Kochamma had been part of the Royal Family, Mammachi still would have hated her for marrying Chacko. The day that Chacko stopped Pappachi from beating Mammachi, Mammachi diverted all of the love in her heart to Chacko.
  • When Chacko moved back to the house, Mammachi had a separate entrance built to Chacko's room so that he could have secret hookups without the rest of the household knowing. She justified this by saying that men have needs.
  • Mammachi really hopes that Chacko won't sleep with Margaret Kochamma while she's visiting.
  • Kochu Maria bakes a huge cake for Sophie Mol. We learn more about Kochu Maria's appearance. She's, um, not exactly a babe: "She looked like a bottled fetus that had escaped from its jar of formaldehyde in a Biology lab and unshriveled and thickened with age" (8.31).
  • We learn that Kochu Maria is super aware of how she wants to be perceived in society. She's also addicted to television.
  • Kochu Maria doesn't speak English, so when Estha recites lines from Julius Caesar to her, she thinks he's insulting her.
  • The car bearing Sophie Mol and the gang pulls up to the house, and everyone in the factory stops working.
  • Mammachi comes out to greet Sophie Mol. Nobody greets Rahel.
  • Margaret Kochamma says hi to Mammachi, who seems a little cold.
  • Mammachi brings Sophie Mol close to her to get a good look. She asks Sophie Mol if she's a pretty little girl. Sophie says she is.
  • Not too far away, Velutha watches the scene from behind the rubber trees. Rahel, who sees this whole meet-and-greet as part of a play in which she has only a small part, runs away from the family to go see him "offstage." Ammu sees everything.
  • Ammu watches Velutha and Rahel go through an elaborate secret greeting and sees Velutha toss her up in the air. She checks out his awesome bare abs.
  • Ammu realizes that she hopes that it was, in fact, Velutha that Rahel saw in the march. We learn that just like Velutha, Ammu hates the "smug, ordered world" (8.83). By watching Rahel and Velutha together, Ammu also realizes that Rahel and Estha have parts of their lives that exist totally outside their relationship with her.
  • In the meantime, Velutha looks up too and notices Ammu. She has beautiful dimples and shining shoulders. We can tell that they've got it bad for each other.
  • Rahel tells Velutha that she saw him in the march the day before. Velutha tells her it couldn't have been him – it must have been his "Long-lost Twin Brother" Urumban.
  • Velutha looks back at the group collected around Sophie Mol, saying he wants to get a look at her. Rahel claps her hands over his eyes and asks him not to look.
  • Rahel notices that Estha is not part of the group.
  • Kochu Maria agrees that Sophie Mol is very beautiful. She takes Sophie Mol's hands and smells them. Chacko explains that that's her way of kissing Sophie Mol. Margaret Kochamma asks if men and women do that to each other, too, before realizing that she sounds totally ignorant. This comment rubs Ammu the wrong way and she makes a sarcastic comment about reproduction.
  • Chacko gets mad at Ammu, who goes off in a huff.
  • We learn more about Ammu's upbringing and her attitude toward men.
  • When Ammu was a kid, she saw how her dad was charming and kind with other people and a bully with his family.
  • The narrator tells us about one night when Ammu was nine. Pappachi had driven Ammu and Mammachi out of the house. Chacko was away at school. Pappachi was tearing the house to shreds. An hour after he turned out the lights, Ammu went back into the house to rescue her new boots, which she loved more than anything.
  • Just as Ammu got her boots, Pappachi turned the lights back on. He beat her with a riding crop. He made her bring Mammachi's scissors from her sewing kit. Then he cut her new boots to pieces until they were completely destroyed.
  • We snap back to the scene of Sophie Mol's arrival. Velutha and Rahel are still watching everything that's going on and wondering where Estha is. Everyone else has cake.
  • Ammu calls Rahel in for her nap. Baby Kochamma yells at Rahel to stop being so friendly with Velutha.
  • Mammachi calls for Velutha and asks him about some repairs in the factory.
  • Baby Kochamma says that Velutha will be the family's nemesis, but nobody pays attention to her.
  • Kochu Maria tells Rahel that one day Sophie Mol will be their Kochamma (a respectful name for a woman). Rahel tells Kochu Maria that she's going to move to Africa and that Kochu Maria is ugly.
  • Sophie Mol goes to see what Rahel is up to. Rahel is killing some ants, but then gets up and leaves Sophie Mol behind. The adults think they're playing hide-and-seek sweetly.