Chapter 8 Summary

Chapter 8 finds Sarah reflecting on the person she was as a child and the person she has become as an adult. She listens to the water running upstairs as Lawrence takes a shower and is startled to realize that over a period of years she had "lost the habit of being Andrew's wife." She thinks about the upcoming day and feels strong enough to put in an appearance at the magazine's office—her office. 

Clarissa, Sarah's assistant, is surprised to see her boss back at work so soon after Andrew's death. The two talk about upcoming articles for the next issue of the magazine. Sarah is frustrated by their shallow content, full of fashion and gossip. She tells Clarissa that she wants the magazine to adopt a more serious angle. Clarissa tries to talk her out of such an approach: "No one dies when we write about fashion," she notes. Sarah goes back home. 

From her kitchen window, Sarah sees Little Bee lying in the grass in her garden, looking up at the sky. Lawrence comes in. The two talk about their goals in life. Sarah asks if he has ever wanted to change the world. Lawrence is dismissive. His job in civil service does not get into that kind of territory, he says. Sarah is dissatisfied. She does think she can change something in the world. If not the world, she might at least be able to change the course of life for Little Bee. 

Lawrence does not see this as a huge accomplishment. Even is she is successful, he reasons, not much change will occur. After all, he notes, there are thousands more people just like Little Bee out there, a "whole swarm" of them. Sarah's retort that they may be coming "to pollinate" is dismissed by Lawrence. Sarah fears her readers may well feel the same way as Lawrence. 

Regardless of Lawrence's dismissal, Sarah will not give up on Little Bee. She tells her lover that the young woman has changed her, that she "cannot look at her without seeing how shallow [her] life is." Lawrence remains unmoved. He points out that they see the problems of the world every day on television and that Sarah is being disingenuous if she is saying that it is only now that she realizes those problems are real. Furthermore, he points out, any one of those people would gladly trade lives with her if they could. But they can't and neither can she. The only thing she will do is complicate her own life in a futile effort to help them. She has already cut off her own finger to save one of them. How much more could she possibly be expected to do?