Little Bee Questions and Answers
by Chris Cleave

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Referring to the book Little Bee by Chris Cleave, what does the author mean when he writes "The girl's back home" are the novel's Greek chorus ?" Relating this to the novel, what is a Greek chorus? What is a greek chorus and how does it relate to the girl's back home?

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Pauline Sheehan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Little Bee, Little Bee engages with the reader right from the first word. Chris Cleave endears her to the reader and establishes the context and setting to ensure that there can be no misunderstanding. This fits with Little Bee's uncomplicated personality. "I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl." As the cultural differences between her life in Nigeria and her life in England will be crucial in the development of the plot, Little Bee's ability to combine the two in her discussions contributes to her character - even if those discussions are with herself as she talks to "the girls back home."

Chris Cleave has therefore added the "girls back home" to serve this purpose as, much like a Greek chorus, whose main function is to help the flow of either tragedy or comedy, "the girls back home" provide the link and increase the dramatic effect of Little Bee's words. In a Greek chorus, the chorus would sometimes signify the end of an act or scene just as the light-hearted humor that the reader participates in brings relief from otherwise horrific facts. The "chorus" also reveals the vast differences that exist.

References to "the girls back home" allow Little Bee to retain her "African-ness" although when she speaks, and uses Queen's English, she almost creates a separate person with vastly different expectations. She is aware that survival takes effort and that " I am only alive at all because I learned the Queen’s English." The "girls back home" would not understand the subtleties of English and Little Bee points out that she would be required to explain at great length every time something with multiple meanings is mentioned such as "topless does not mean, the lady in the newspaper did not have an upper body..." 

The fact that "the Girls back home" ... "would interrupt me again" ensures that the story retains its roots whilst at the same time providing the reader with insight into why it is necessary to make such huge sacrifices in the interests of a better life - what better life? 

Individuality lies at the heart of Little Bee and is factored by circumstances and opportunities. "The girls back home" are a constant reminder to the reader that countries, villages (especially Little Bee's) and entirely different cultures exist within this "global" structure England is so proud to promote. Their struggle is far more profound than the westernized world would like to admit - hence Chris Cleave's need to expose the concentration- camp-like facilities for potential refugees whilst at the same time allowing "the girls back home"  in their role of "Greek chorus" to expose details that would otherwise go unsaid and unnoticed.

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currerbell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The function of a Greek chorus is to narrate, with one voice, the action  of the play. Choruses are often used to speed things up that would take too long to stage, or they offer reflective commentary about the action that is unfolding. 

In Cleeve's novel, the girls back home serve a similar function. The "girls back home" can give insight into Little Bee's life and customs back home as they comment on the action, as it is interpreted through their African perspective. 

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