Little Bee (The Other Hand)
by Chris Cleave
The Girls Back Home
Little Bee often imagines how she would explain the things she experiences in England to her gal pals back home, from the Nigerian village where she lived before coming to England. Chris Cleave says,
The "girls back home" are the novel's Greek chorus – they are a foil in whose imagined reaction the cultural dissonance experienced by Little Bee can be made explicit. It's a good device because it feels more natural than having Little Bee go around talking straight to camera and saying "Wow, I'm freaked out by this. And this. And this." (source)
Little Bee needs an interesting way to show the contrasts between industrialized England and her rural Nigerian village. Referencing the girls back home lets her show this contrast, and at the same time, let us see how much she's learned and changed as a result of her migration. As the quote from Cleave points out, imagining how the girls back home would react allows Little Bee to express her discomfort with the new – and her ability to adapt to it.
Little Bee's imagined conversations with her friends back in Nigeria are also incredibly tragic. It's easy to forget, through these friendly little fake conversations, that all of these girls are dead. As far as we know, they were murdered along with the other inhabitants of Little Bee's village. By fake-chatting with them, Little Bee might also be honoring and preserving her memories of them, and finding a way to show us that they're definitely still a part of her story.
If you are interested in Chris Cleave's comment about the girls back home being "the novel's Greek chorus," we have just the thing for you. Check out our discussions of the Choruses in three famous ancient Greek plays:
As you'll read, the chorus can take on a variety of functions – from guiding audience reactions, to directly influencing the action of the story. How are Little Bee's girls back home similar to and different from actual Greek choruses?