Small Great Things Jodi Picoult

Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult, born on May nineteenth, nineteen-sixty-six in Nesconset, is still alive today; writing multiple best sellers over the years from 1992 to present day. Out of the twenty-three novels this bestselling author has written, Picoult’s most famous novels include My Sister’s Keeper, The Pact, and Nineteen Minutes.

Before attending Harvard to complete her Master’s in education, Picoult had many different jobs including a copywriter at an advertising agency and an 8th grade English teacher. Picoult has received many awards for her outstanding pieces. Some of these include the New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit during 2013, Book Browse Diamond Award for Novel of the Year, and Waterstone’s Author of the Year. Her family consists of her husband and two children, as well as her dogs, geese, chickens, ducks, and Holstein.

"...but when I told them my eyes weren't working and that all the color in the world had vanished, they laughed at me. Ruth, they said, this is the way it always has been. Always will be." (119)

Small Great Things follows the lives of multiple people, all unified through the loss of an infant. Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse, working for about twenty years in Connecticut. One day out of the many routine hours, Ruth is assigned to a new infant, Davis Bauer, son of Turk and Brittany 'Brit' Bauer. But, right after Ruth checks in with the neonate and mother, she is quickly reassigned from the patient, soon to realize they are White Supremacists who want Ruth, an African American, no where near their child. But in a sudden, unplanned moment, Jefferson is left with Davis in the nursery, only for the child to go into sudden cardiac arrest. With this conflict comes hesitation, and with her hesitation comes the death of Davis. Within days, the incident gets out of Ruth's hands, as she is suspended from with license and immediately taken to prison for first-degree murder charges, set by Turk. Ruth is completely aware that this accusation is all due to her skin color, as the only black nurse in the hospital and that the Bauer couple is convinced that their baby would not have died if Ruth did not put her hands on him to resuscitate him. As Ruth gets a new lawyer, Kennedy, she has a difficult time feeling a trust between them, but Kennedy is works to make sure the nurse gets the justice she deserves.

This quote hits me hard. It's like a bullet of understanding that pierces my heart for young Ruth. Because it's so chilling that they take this child's dream- this child's fear of her altered view of life- and receives it as a norm. Even her mother laughs about the situation, telling her that's what the world is made of. And when I had come to think about the italicized words of the page, I realized I was told the same things as the young Ruth. My parents had engraved in me that the world, especially the Americas, were a place of freedom; a place of opportunity and a good life. However, life would be a living pit of fire for my heart, as I would constantly be pushed away, abused, and neglected by society because of my culture. In that moment, more than relating with Ruth because of my mother's identical occupation, more than her struggles in her work field, I related to Ruth Jefferson through ways of upbringing that set her mind and attitude into the way it was when facing the world.

Did You Know?

  • Picoult was inspired to pursue writing this novel after reading about an identical news article about a black nurse in Michigan who sued the hospital after a white man had called her supervisor and requested that the nurse and no one like her should touch his baby.
  • While deciding to write a book about racism, Picoult originally decided she wanted to write about a African cop who was shot four times by his white co-officers. However, she decided not to continue the story, as she couldn't truly find an authentic path to follow with it.

Ruth provides an excerpt from her childhood in the house in which her mother was a maid in. She describes having a dream in which the colorful house they were staying sudden begin to blotch with black and white splatters and color is rapidly disappearing within the house. Soon, her and the rest of the house are monochrome and she wakes up screaming, alerting her mother and the owners of the house. As she explains to them that all she couldn't see any color of the world and they laugh at her, you see the symbolism present in the quote. It shows that, from the mature eyes of the adults, having nothing but a colorless world was normal; all they can tell is the difference between black and white. It didn't matter if you were a light-skinned African American, in a monochrome-understood society, you would still translate to the dark shade of film-black. This symbolism that just like her dream where it didn't matter if all the hues of the world vanished, the black still be seen in comparison to the white, it didn't matter if the African Americans were given their freedom and the slavery had disappeared, the world would still discriminate against them for the tone of their appearance.

Bodle, Daniel Brici

This painting by Daniel Brici connect well with the thematic statement that before you are even fully created, fully known to the world of who you are, the color that paints your skin, paints the factors that will affect your path of life.

This connects with Small Great Things in many occurrences of Ruth's career. In many scenes, Ruth greets the patients with love, only to be doubted on her abilities to care for their child; as though she hasn't done this routine for the past twenty years. Many doubt her education and work ethic before she has even made a sound from her mouth- all because of her skin tone. They made assumptions before she was able to fully become a human in their eyes- just because her smooth obsidian flesh muted their ability to see an breed of the same species.

This painting connects to the quote in showing the blotching color on the child's skin. For my perspective, I was able to look at it as the colors fading away, etching away to the skin and stretches of the child's appearance, showing a monochrome side to the girl.

This piece of artwork makes a connection to me when I think of what I wish for the world. I wish that the world would look at each other for nothing but the anatomy of our bodies, not the color of our skin. I sometime wish, sadly, that this world did not have the color of nude, that we were all clear- almost a membrane consistency, as weird as it sounds. But sometimes it seems to be the only possible way to stop the racism and discrimination that has still never stopped in our world today.

Created By
Elene Thomas

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