Study Guide

Little Bee (The Other Hand) Love

By Chris Cleave

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"Is you getting baddies?"

"Are we getting baddies, Charlie. Not is we."

"Are you?"

"Yes, Batman. Yes, that's exactly what we're doing." (2.36-39)

This conversation takes place when Charlie catches Sarah and Andrew making love the morning Little Bee is released from the detention center, after she calls Andrew on the phone. Charlie is only four, but he intuits that his parents' lovemaking is to try to make Andrew, who is severely depressed, feel better. Sarah describes it as a form of necessary maintenance, something she does to keep her household running smoothly. Not too sexy, but sometimes love, or trying to love, just isn't, even when sex is involved.

"Really. I don't love Lawrence. How could I? Let's make a fresh start, hmmm?" (4.168)

This is what Little Bee hears Sarah tell Andrew on the beach in Nigeria, where Andrew and Sarah are running from Sarah's affair. Notice that Sarah says she doesn't love Lawrence, but she doesn't say that she plans on giving up the guy. Whatever the case, she doesn't give up Lawrence, and seems to be in some kind of love with him.

"It's okay to still love Andrew, you know. It's okay with me anyway." (4.345)

Is Lawrence's statement manipulative, loving, both, or something else entirely? For that matter, does he go to Sarah after the funeral because he wants to support her, or because he wants to prey on her right when she's vulnerable? Because Lawrence is such an ambiguous character, it's hard to pin down most of his motivations. He also seems really sneaky.

<em>Ask her to leave</em>, Lawrence had said. But no, no, I couldn't. We were joined by what had happened on the beach. Getting rid of her would be like losing a part of me. (4.465)

Sarah is beginning to love Little Bee like she's family. Lawrence's desire to see Little Bee go makes some readers not love him so much.

"Your mummy saved my life, did you know that? She saved me from the baddies." (5.197)

Little Bee wants Charlie to understand what a special, <em>loving</em> person Sarah is. Although some readers don't like Sarah for various reasons, she's a superhero to Little Bee. Also, who knows when Charlie last heard something nice about his mom? We gather Andrew wasn't exactly lavishing her with praise and compliments. Little Bee is giving a gift, helping Charlie love his mother by showing that she is loved.

"If you want me to stay, this is how it will be between us. […] But while I am here […] I will love you as if you were my mother and I will love Charlie as if he was my brother." (5.211)

Little Bee has a calm and devoted love for Sarah and Charlie. Her conflict over whether or not staying with Sarah is best for Sarah suggests that her motives are pretty pure.

Handing out in flight meals in a plane crash. That's what our affair was meant to be. (6.147)

Sarah's observation suggests that her life is already on the verge of disaster when she starts the affair. She gets the metaphor from Little Bee, who heard it from a doctor in the detention center. He was using it to refer to the services being provided to the refugees in the center.

But to really escape from Andrew, to really become myself, I had to go the whole way and fall in love. (6.148)

Love, of course, is defined differently for each person. Since her affair with Lawrence isn't the focal point of the novel, we don't get a deep sense of their relationship. Or, at the very least, their relationship seems shallow. At the same time, Sarah's comment does suggest she loves him, whatever that love means to her.

Because we still haven't done enough to save her, Charlie. I thought we had, but we need to do more. And we will do more, darling. We will. We won't ever give up on Little Bee. Because she is part of our family now. (11.215)

At the end of the novel, Sarah has surrendered to loving Little Bee. It's so ironic that Little Bee, one of the most loveable people ever, is so dangerous to love at the same time. Sarah is also trying hard to teach her son what she's learned about love from her relationship with Little Bee.

That was when I stood up and I started to run toward Charlie. <em>Don't shoot, don't shoot, I AM THE ONE THAT YOU WANT</em> […]. (11.223)

Here, Little Bee shows her love for Charlie in the most dramatic fashion, putting herself between the child and the soldiers with guns.

"That is it. Udo means, peace. Do you know what peace is, Charlie?"

Charlie shook his head.

"Peace is the time when people can tell each other their real names." (11.240-11.242)

We think peace is a kind of love, for sure. Here, Little Bee lives up to her given name with a simple act – revealing her real name to Charlie to help him be able to use <em>his</em> real name again, and begin to move past the guilt he feels over his father's death.

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