Study Guide

Little Bee (The Other Hand) Justice and Judgment

By Chris Cleave

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Justice and Judgment

She was not pretty and she was not a good talker either, but there is one more thing that can save you from being <em>sent home early</em>. This girl's thing was, she had her story all written down and made official. There were rubber stamps at the end of her story that said in red ink this is TRUE. (1.45)

Little Bee describes the lack of official justice available to most asylum seekers she has encountered. The girl with no name, whom she's talking about, is a rarity in that her story has somehow been officially verified.

Batman looked solemn. <em>Daddy is fighting baddies</em>, he said. (2.56)

Charlie (Batman) equates his father's inability to help Sarah care for Charlie as fighting baddies. Turns out, Batman isn't too far off.

"Oh for goodness' sake," I said. You're a child. Why would anyone want to kill you?" […] Little Bee looked back at me and she said, "Because we saw them killing everyone else." (4.211-212)

In Little Bee's world, any sense of justice seems to have flown out the window when her family was slaughtered and her village destroyed, since it was wanted for an oil field. For the naïve, pre-finger amputation Sarah, such things just don't happen. After the encounter, she'll have a very different take on things.

"White man been giving me this finger all my life. Today you can give it me to keep. Now cut off your middle finger mister and give it me." (4.294)

The man speaking is the leader of a group of men trying to find Little Bee and her sister, so they can kill them. They offer Andrew a rough version of justice when they offer to trade the girls' lives for Andrew's finger.

"Oh Andrew. I think you have to do it."

"I can't."

"It's just a finger." (4.307-309)

At this point, Sarah has already gotten between the armed killer and Little Bee and her sister. Now she's totally focused on saving the girls. It's not that she wants Andrew to do the dirty work, but understands that these men are serious and that to <em>not</em> do what they want will lead to something bad – which it does.

She saw the white woman put her own left hand down on the hard sand, and she saw her pick up the machete, and she saw her chop of her middle finger with one simple chop […]. (4.321)

Sarah doesn't waste any time stepping up when Andrew won't. Again, she seems focused on doing whatever it takes to save the two girls.

"But you will die, little one," he said. "The mister would not pay for you." (4.330)

The killers mete out their rough justice on Little Bee's sister by raping, torturing, and murdering her while Little Bee is forced to listen. They possess a grim and twisted honor – true to their word, they do, in fact, spare Little Bee's life.

"Do you really want me to make a choice like that? I cut off my own bloody finger. Do you think I wouldn't cut you off too?" (6.275)

Sarah's personal sense of justice intensifies as a result of her experiences with Little Bee, as Lawrence learns in this moment.

"I think I wanted to say thank you to Sarah for saving me, but also I wanted to punish Andrew for letting my sister be killed." (7.161)

Even though the death of Little Bee's sister can't truly be considered Andrew's fault, we can see how Little Bee would consider him a candidate for her vengeance, especially when we learn the details of her sister's death.

"Oh you f***ing b****," he said. "I <em>can't</em> go to the police, can I? I can't let Sarah find out. Her head is f***ed up enough about all this" (7.188)

Lawrence isn't at all concerned about justice for Little Bee. He's interested in finding things he can use against her and ways he can judge her.

It would be a long story to explain why I did not like to leave Charlie like that. (9.85)

Little Bee senses that Lawrence might not have Charlie's best interest at heart, though we never learn whether her intuition is justified. Her desire for Charlie to have justice overpowers her desire to disappear into the crowds of the London streets.

"Yes, because if I is not Batman <em>all the time</em> then mine daddy dies." (9.94)

Charlie has what some might see as an overdeveloped sense of justice, particularly for a four-year-old. He takes the entire burden of his father's death on himself. Do you think this is likely going to be a permanent element of his character?

"Lawrence found out what flight they were putting you on," she said. "He's not entirely bad, at the end of the day. We couldn't let you go back alone, Bee. Could we Batman?" (11.112)

Ultimately, Lawrence, whatever his motivation, contributes to the possibility of justice for Little Bee. But since it means being separated from Sarah, it seems like a decent-sized sacrifice. Still, we don't get to know Lawrence well enough to get a good sense of what exactly motivates him.

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