Pappachi’s Moth Summary and Analysis

Pappachi’s Moth is one of the most important symbols within The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. The story begins in the December of 1969. Mammachi, Rahel, and Estha’s grandmother drive them to Cochin for a vacation with Sophie Mol and Margaret Kochamma.  Ammu, Chacko, and Baby Kochamma ride in the same car, a sky blue Plymouth that Pappachi owns. Only Chacko has met Sophie Mol earlier. Sitting in the car, the twenty-seven years old Ammu realizes her mistake of marrying Babu. Ammu was eighteen years old when she met him at a friend’s wedding reception in Calcutta. He proposed to her five days later, and they were married luxuriously. The couple moved to Assam, where Babu managed a tea estate. As it turned out, Babu was an alcoholic, and their marriage was not glamorous. Their twins were born during the China war in 1962. When they were twelve years old, Mr. Hollick, Babu’s boss, had given him an ultimatum. He could either get fired because of his lazy attitude or send Ammu over to his boss’s bungalow to sleep with him. Babu tried to impose this proposition on Ammu, for which she beat him senselessly and returned to Ayemenem with the twice. She turned into a beautiful and unpredictable person.

The narrator then talks about Mammachi, who started her pickle business without Pappachi’s help when he was alive. He used to hit her every night with a brass vase. On one of Chacko’s summer vacations, when he came home from Oxford, he threatened his father so that he never hits Mammachi again. For a sense of pride, Pappachi purchased the Plymouth and did not let anyone else drive it. He was an Imperial Entomologist at the Pusa Institute in Delhi, and he highly regretted that the moth he had discovered was not named after him. It flew into his drink on one of the days, and he noticed its uncommon appearance and took it to the Institute. It was found to be a variant of the common species and, twelve years later, was distinguished as a different species, and Pappachi got no acknowledgment despite being its discoverer. This made Pappachi unpleasant and gave him temper issues until he died of a heart attack.

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The story’s focus is shifted to Chacko’s relationship with the twins. Chacko told them that to comprehend the family, the twins had to go to the forbidden History House on the other side of the river. He also said that the Earth was an ancient woman, in comparison to whom they were inconsequential. This fascinated Estha and Rahel and the idea that history found its way in the future haunted them.

In the present, Chacko and Ammu have an argument in the car. Chacko, an eccentric Rhodes scholar, builds model airplanes as a hobby, and he came back to Ayemenem after he quit his job as a lecturer at Madras Christian College and took over the pickle business. Estha and Rahel continued the habit that used to deter their teacher Ms. Mitten and read the road signs both backward and forwards.  On the way to Cochin, the Plymouth passes Murlidharan, the armless, naked lunatic. They also drive past a procession of Communists. The family tries to ignore the to-do of Chacko being an unofficial Communist. Rahel notices Velutha, who is marching with the Communists. She calls him, which leads to Ammu slapping her.

Rahel lives in New York as she remembers this incident and does not understand the reason behind Ammu’s anger. Velutha, a Paravan like his father, Vellya Paapen, was considered an Untouchable. However, he was a skilled craftsman, and Mammachi let him do all kinds of chores for her. Velutha disappeared for four years, and on returning, he worked on the maintenance of the pickle factory. He was loved by the twice. Vellya Paapen went to Mammachi and offered to kill Velutha because he had seen him rowing across the lake every night and returning every morning.

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The story returns to the Communist marchers, who open the Plymouth’s door and make Baby Kochamma wave the Communist flag and repeat a slogan. Rahel says that she had not seen Velutha. Post that day, Kochamma antagonizes Velutha because she was ashamed and embarrassed. The family continues to drive as Chacko called Ammu, Estha, and Rahel burdens. Outside the car, life continues irrespective of the uncomfortable silence in the car.

Pappachi’s Moth Analysis

The story uses a unique language. An important symbol in the story is Pappachi, the famous entomologist. He discovered a new species of moth, and its importance was not understood until after he retired. The moth was not named after him, which filled him with rage and bitterness. The moth is mentioned throughout the story because it symbolizes unhappiness and fear. Rahel draws attention to things that disappear and do not leave a mark. She wants to know that nothing is insignificant enough to just disappear. 

Pappachi’s Moth Theme

The primary theme of Pappachi’s Moth is the eerie symbol of fear and happiness that the moth represents. As something terrible had happened, she felt that the moth has landed on her and feels safe when the moth lets go. The moth illuminates the evil within Pappachi and gives rise to jealousy, and makes him bitter. Mammachi’s success made him upset because he could not experience the same, leading to beating his wife. The son’s standing up for his mother was rather brave. Rahel is also upset because he feels that Ammu does not love her as much and likes Sophie more. This is also a driving moment because this fear sticks with Rahel for the rest of her life.

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Pappachi’s Moth Key Points

The moth was an insect that Pappachi discovered as an Entomologist. However, the discovery’s importance was not understood until after he retired, which is why it could not be named after him and became the greatest failure of his life. The narrator muses that the moth haunted the family and caused Pappachi’s bursts of rage and domestic abuse.