Study Guide

The Orange Houses Statue of Liberty

By Paul Griffin

Statue of Liberty

From the moment she lands in America, Fatima wants to see the Statue of Liberty. It's pretty much number one on her to-do list (getting a job and such aside), and she's completely undeterred in her goal, despite everyone claiming it's just a lousy tourist trap. In her defense, Lady Liberty has stood as a symbol of welcome to immigrants for generations, so it's not like Fatima—as an immigrant herself—is randomly identifying with it.

When Fatima and Mik take a boat ride to see the monument together, though, things get choppy. Literally. The water is too rough and the weather too stormy to get to the island:

An announcement came over the PA system: Due to the inclement weather, we will be forced to turn the boat around. This is as close as we get to Liberty today, folks. Take pictures while you can. (21.36)

Hmm… something makes us think this isn't just about the weather. Fatima wants to see the Statue of Liberty because it symbolizes freedom—in coming to America, she hopes she'll finally be free, safely away from war and the troubles of her homeland. Instead, though, she meets new trouble, mainly from immigration. In the country illegally, her freedom stands on shaky foundation, and eventually crumbles when Jimmi accidentally reveals her status to someone who turns her in.

Just like Fatima never makes it to the Statue of Liberty, so, too, she never makes it to the life of freedom she dreams of in America. She's deported before she can shore up her citizenship, sent back with just a glimpse of Lady Liberty and just a taste of life away from the trouble she's grown up knowing.

It's not until Fatima's on the plane home that she sees more than just the tip or toe of the statue: "Fatima watched until the plane was closest to Liberty, and then she closed her eyes so her Mother of Exiles would never fade into the distance" (44.4). This symbol of freedom is her last mental image of America, and she tries to preserve it in her mind forever, carrying her belief in the hope and opportunity of America back to Africa with her, even though it didn't materialize for her the way she once hoped. 

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