Study Guide

The Ear, the Eye, the Arm Family

By Nancy Farmer

Family

Father approved of them because they taught the virtues most revered by the people of Zimbabwe: loyalty, bravery, courteousness and reverence for Mwari, the supreme god. (1.21)

Tendai might be describing the values the Scouts teach kids, but these are also the ideals the General wants to instill in his children. It seems like he cares more about loyalty, bravery, and reverence in his house than he does about warm and gushy things like love, compassion, and empathy.

The villagers waited patiently as the sun painted the dawn clouds over Resthaven, and gradually Tendai became aware that all was not right with the situation. Surely, if the chief had just had an heir after years of waiting, people would be rejoicing. They weren't. (22.11)

Pass around the cigars and bust out the "It's a boy" balloons, because the chief just had a baby. Wait a minute—no one seems all that thrilled. Tendai knows something is wrong, but he's just not sure what yet. Babies are valued in Resthaven because they represent the future generation, but evil twins aren't shown much love.

She burst into sobs. He rocked her back and forth as she wept. He knew this wasn't how a traditional brother treated his sister, but he was thoroughly sick of village ways. (22.54)

Tendai can tell Rita needs him right now. She's had a tough time in Resthaven, and she needs to let it all out. The best person to help her with this? Her older bro, of course. When it comes down to it, these two love and care about each other, and even Tendai can tell that Rita has a right to be upset.

Very quickly, the medium went into a trance. His eyes glazed. Sometimes he fell out of his chair. The secretary helped him back and dusted off his suit. The mudzimu of the Matsika clan would possess him and give Father advice from the ancestors. After a while the mudzimu would go back to his world, and the spirit medium would become his old, cheerful self. (23.8)

As Tendai thinks about his own family's Spirit Medium, he thinks about the similarities between the one his dad uses and the one in Resthaven. For his dad, using the Spirit Medium is a family affair, and everyone goes along to participate. This way, the kids get to see how important decisions are made and be a part of them.

"Leave my senior wife alone!" he roared. "You!" he ordered the Spirit Medium. "Cast out those monsters!" The Spirit Medium grasped his ndoro and began to chant a spell. The few men who remained reached down for stones. (25.83)

Witch or not, Myanda has a special place in the chief's heart—he cares about her because she's family. Even when the people want to get rid of her because of the bad spirits she might bring into the town, the chief sticks up for her. Families do matter in Resthaven, just not to everybody.

In spite of her dishonesty, she had taken them in and fed them. She was cruel to Kuda. But did she really know that? "I'm building character," she always said when they complained. Father made them do things they hated, too, in order to build character. (30.47)

Mrs. Horsepool-Worthingham claims she's doing them a favor by being tough on them. Um, no. Then again, Tendai thinks about how often his dad would say that, too. It seems like parents often give their kids a hard time as a way of teaching them a lesson… or two… or three.

The Mellower was so much a part of the family, it was difficult to think of him as an outsider. (37.9)

Aw, how sweet. Tendai might think of the Mellower as family, but that doesn't mean the guy is innocent. It turns out his obligation to his real family (a.k.a. his mom) is much stronger than his commitment to Tendai.

She wasn't going to stay home. She was tired of waiting while other people carried her children anywhere they pleased. As far as Mother was concerned, if Arm wanted to blast a hole in the side of the embassy, she would help him. (37.52)

Mother doesn't care whether it's right or wrong, she's going to help rescue her kids. So what if breaking into an ancient village or bombing an embassy is involved? What matters most to her is getting her kids back. She'll deal with the consequences later.

Arm looked out over the swiftly rushing clouds. The wind blew his shirt back against his chest so that it almost looked glued there. It was cold and getting colder. What happens to me? You join your ancestors. You become part of mudzimu, your family spirit. You know that. (38.5)

Ancestors hold a special place in the book since the characters value spirits and tradition so much. It's not just about the family that you have here with you, it's also important to honor and value the people who came before. You might never meet them, but they are still your family.

The vlei people were her real family. She didn't lure them out there: they came willingly. She bullied and exploited them, but to the mournful, unwanted vlei people she represented home. (39.19)

As Tendai looks at the She Elephant from the mhondoro's eyes, he gets a new perspective on the strange lady. She's not some raging, demented kidnapper; the people who work with her are like her family. It different than a typical family with parents and kids, but they are family nonetheless.

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