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jfwright's picture

I'll be perfectly honest, I haven't gotten through Little Bee yet, but I really like it so far! I love the ways in which Little Bee, Sarah, Andrew, Lawrence, Batman, and Nkiruka (among others) are entangled and wrapped around each other, but I'd like to focus on the power dynamics between people from the UK and refugees. My question is, can Andrew and Sarah grieve for Nkiruka and the guard if there is such a stark difference in power?

It is strongly stated that the reason that Andrew killed himself was because he could not live with the grief that he experienced after Nkiruka was murdered, Little Bee was presumed murdered, and the guard died because of his and his wife's obstinance in not returning to the tourist village; Sarah also explains that her life has been forever changed due to the experiences she had in Nigeria. However, when the young guard tries to convince them to leave, there is an obvious difference in power between the white tourists and the black guard: even though the young guard carries a gun and is looking out for the best interests of the white tourists, the white tourists assume that he is could not possibly know what is in the best interests of white tourists because he is from a native of Nigeria. They speak to him in desparaging language, e.g. when they offer to pay him to leave, and squabble over how much to pay him because they may be paying him as much as a week's salary if they give him what would be comparatively little to their own pocketbooks. Even though they grieve for deaths, do Andrew and Sarah grieve the people they saw (or assumed) were killed as equals, or do they still think of them as others?

The ways in which Sarah continues to think of Little Bee as an outsider are evident in some small and some larger ways. First, everyone seems to assume that whenever Little Bee says something slightly cryptic, she is saying a proverb from her home country; they assume that this is wisdom that they should drink in, and value deeply. However, she knows that the only reason that people assume this is because they don't understand her culture, and assume that she conforms to the "noble savage" type that is played frequently, at least in American culture (and I assume elsewhere as well). Conversely, she is thought of as dangerous by Lawrence, who believes that her life is worth less than Sarah's comfort: he encourages her to turn herself in, assuming that she has fled to the UK for a more comfortable life. Lawrence admits that he must turn in any refugees that he finds, and seems to have no moral qualms about this. What kind of a comfortable life Lawrence thinks that the refugees are trying to seek? How worthless does he assume the lives of refugees to be that they would leave their families? As a person who works for the Home Office, does he not hear the stories that the refugees tell? Or does he just not care? Does he think that because these individuals are from a different country, that their lives and protection are meaningless?

I don't have an answer to my question yet, but as I read through the rest of the book, I'll be paying attention to the ways in which dynamics of power play out. I have a feeling that I'll probably regret having posted this before reading the last 60 pages of this book.