Study Guide

Little Bee (The Other Hand) Guilt and Blame

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Guilt and Blame

To quote U2 again (we happily will), "If you need someone to blame/ throw a rock in the air/ you might hit someone guilty." In Little Bee, everybody, even four-year-old Charlie, is awash in guilt and blame. The novel looks at the guilt that survivors feel when their loved ones are lost, and how such guilt can be transformed into something positive, something that tries to right wrongs in the world. An example of this is Sarah and Little Bee's commitment to finishing the book about the plight of refugees, which Andrew began before his suicide.

Little Bee's author, Chris Cleave, takes direct aim at oil companies, calling them out on atrocities committed in the thirst for oil. He also critiques institutions that process asylum seekers and people trying to immigrate. Cleave even points his finger at us, ordinary citizens, asking us to consider if our attitudes toward asylum seekers and other immigrants are just.

Questions About Guilt and Blame

  1. How do guilt and blame factor into what we know about Andrew's decision to take his own life?
  2. Why are the oil companies able to get away with destroying Little Bee's village and killing most of the people in it?
  3. Does Little Bee blame herself for Andrew's death? Do you think she's at all responsible for it?
  4. Is Sarah to blame for Andrew's suicide? Does she feel guilt over it?
  5. Did Andrew have a moral obligation to cut off his finger to try to save the girls' lives? Is he to blame for the death of Little Bee's sister?
  6. Does Sarah feel guilty about her affair with Lawrence? Does Lawrence, also married, feel guilty?
  7. Cleave's first novel, Incendiary, also has a protagonist who has an affair. If you've read it, what are some similarities and differences between Sarah and the unnamed narrator of Incendiary?

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