The Bite of the Mango: Important quotes with page
1. “He stood so close I could feel his hot breath on my cheek. ‘When you grow up, I will be your husband,’ he announced. ” (Chapter 1, Page 20) The first time Mariatu encounters Salieu is when he accosts her while she is playing with her friends. His invasion of her personal space, his direct assertion that he will marry her, and the fact that Mariatu is only eleven years old at the time of the incident all foreshadow his later assault.
2. “‘Whenever you dream of palm oil,’ my grandmother had told me when I was seven, ‘blood will spill by the end of the day. ’” (Chapter 2, Page 25)
The discussion of the belief that dreams of palm oil mean blood will be spilt foreshadows the brutal events of the chapter. It prepares the reader for the terrible violence that is coming, just as Mariatu’s dream will warn of her of the mutilation that awaits her.
3. “As my eyelids closed, I saw the rebel boys giving each other high-fives. I could hear them laughing. As my mind went dark, I remember asking myself: ‘What is a president? ’” (Chapter 3, Page 41) Both the youth and the callousness of the rebel boys who take Mariatu’s hands is vividly demonstrated by their childish celebration.
At the same time, the revelation that she does not know what a president is reveals the futility of violence supposedly committed to stop Mariatu from voting.
4. “These spirits are often relatives who have died, like a grandfather, like Santigie, and sometimes they come to you in the guise of an animal, bird or reptile. ” (Chapter 4, Page 45) The belief that the spirits of dead family members sometimes take the forms of animals in order to look after the living shapes Mariatu’s interpretation of her encounters with two black cobras and one black dog.Each of these animals forces Mariatu to change direction, ultimately leading her to the hospital.
5. “‘Here,’ he said, holding the mango up to my mouth for me to eat. But I shook my head. I couldn’t eat from his hands. It felt wrong to be fed like a baby. ” (Chapter 4, Page 48) Shortly after losing her hands, Mariatu begs for help from the first man she sees. He cannot help her get to the hospital but gives her a mango. The first bites of it symbolize her will to live but, more than this, her refusal to be fed reveals her powerful drive to stay independent despite her disability.
6. “The weaver was injured.It was better off dying on its own than having me take it back to the village, where it would likely die in pain a day or two later or, worse, live out its life with a broken wing. ” (Chapter 6, Page 59) On her way to the hospital, Mariatu recalls seeing an injured weaver bird drop from the sky and concludes that it would be better for it to die naturally than struggle through life with an injured wing. This represents her feelings about her own life at this time as she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her hands.
7. “I don’t know where it came from but I laughed and laughed.I felt like that little weaver bird again, but this time I had the feeling I could learn to fly. ” (Chapter 6, Page 64) The injured weaver bird Mariatu saw as a young child suddenly recovered from its injuries and took flight. When her cousin makes her laugh in the hospital despite the fact that they have both lost their hands, Mariatu feels like the bird, injured but with the hope of “flying” again.
8. “But there must be some mistake. Only women have babies, not girls. ” (Chapter 7, Page 67) When Mariatu finds out that she is pregnant, she is confused, having had no education around sex and pregnancy.
The reader is reminded how young she is when she struggles to comprehend how she, a twelve-year-old girl, can be in a position she believed only adult women could find themselves in.
9. “I will never have a happy life now. I have no hands, and I have a baby growing inside me that I will never be able to care for. ” (Chapter 8, Page 74) Mariatu’s already extreme fear that her disability will make her dependent on others is compounded by the belief that she will not be able to care for a new life that is dependent on her. Speaking to Salieu in a dream, she is able to express her fears and her anger in a way she cannot do in real life.
10. “‘I want you to find a normal girl and have a normal life. And I want you to remember me for who I used to be, what I used to look like. ’” (Chapter 10, Page 93) Reuniting with her childhood sweetheart, Musa, is painful for Mariatu. She is unavoidably reminded of how she was and what she once had. She feels great shame about her current state and does not want him to see her. Instead, she wants him to remember her the way she was as a child, as though she can keep a carefree, uninjured version of herself alive in his memory.
11. “In the second-to-last scene, the boy rebels huddled together, crying.They admitted their crimes to one another and wished they could return to their own villages and their old lives—much like all of us at Aberdeen were wishing we could do. ” (Chapter 12, Page 119) Mariatu’s involvement in the amputee camp’s theater troupe is beneficial for her in several ways. Watching this moment from a play about the war, she begins to see another side of child soldiers like those who took her hands. Starting to recognize the rebel boys as another type of victim becomes part of her path to forgiving them and aids her path to recovery.
12. “When it was my turn to be in the center, I closed my eyes.My knees bent. My torso moved down toward the ground and up again, then side to side. I repeated the pattern, immersing myself in music. I felt really alive for the first time in ages. ” (Chapter 12, Pages 199-200) One of the most significant moments in Mariatu’s time with the theater troupe is the first time she dances with them. Dancing was a central part of her childhood and an activity she performed most nights before the rebels attacked. By dancing again, she not only begins to reconnect with her body but also learns to reconnect with her lost childhood.
13. “[W]e can’t go on unless you are with us. We are a group, a family, we won’t be separated because you’re nervous. It’s natural to be nervous. If you weren’t, I’d think there was something wrong still with you. ” (Chapter 13, Page 130). Victor’s response to Mariatu’s nerves not only reassures her that she is part of a surrogate family who will always support her but also subtly suggests that she has recovered from her trauma and depression and no longer has “something wrong” with her.
14. “I was used to sleeping with someone on both sides of me.At night, I’d felt safe listening to their breathing. In my London bedroom, all I could hear in the dead of night was the hum of the refrigerator and the electric wires. ” (Chapter 15, Page 145) Moving to London is a difficult experience for Mariatu and reminds her of many of the things that she has left behind in Sierra Leone. A big part of her sense of belonging to the country of her birth is the communal lifestyle she shared with her family and friends. Sleeping on her own is symbolic of this loss, making Mariatu feel isolated and alienated.
15.“‘Why do I have to wear these things? ’ I demanded, holding up my metal hands. ‘I hate them! I can do everything I need to do without them, and better. I want to go somewhere else. I want to go to Canada! ’” (Chapter 15, Page 154) Mariatu is fiercely determined not to allow her disability to make her dependent on anyone or anything, and that includes prosthetic hands. Increasingly knowing her own mind and speaking out for what she needs, she finds her own ways of performing essential tasks with her arms and teeth and, here, finally gains the courage to announce this.
16.“‘All right, Mariatu,’ Yabom said. ‘I will trust you. After all, it is your life. I will help you whatever way I can. ’” (Chapter 15, Page 156). After Mariatu manages to develop the self-confidence to say what she wants and needs, Yabom does not argue with her. Instead, she becomes the first adult to trust Mariatu to make her own decisions and govern her own life.
17. “‘You’ve become a movie star! ’ ‘A what? ’ he asked. ‘Never mind,’ I said, embracing him. I had forgotten for a moment that Mohamed had never seen a television program or a movie. ” (Chapter 16, Page 162)
Mariatu’s time in England introduces her to new cultural experiences and when she returns to Sierra Leone she feels alienated from the inhabitants of the amputee camp. Even her attempt to jokingly reconnect with Mohamed ends up falling flat as she forgets how much their worlds have moved apart.
18. “When I’d hidden my arms and walked around London in those tall black boots, I’d felt stylish, like I belonged in the city. ” (Chapter 16, Pages 163-164) Feeling like an outsider in the amputee camp, Mariatu longs less for the step back into Sierra Leonean life and more a sense of loss for a place where the clothes she loved made her belong.
19. “A grin crossed my face as I stepped inside. I was back home, or so it seemed. Kadi and Abou Nabe’s house was full of Sierra Leonean wood carvings and paintings, and photographs of people wearing traditional Africana outfits and headpieces. As they led me through their kitchen, I smelled the rich, spicy aromas of simmering Sierra Leonean dishes. In the backyard, I could hear children laughing. ” (Chapter 17, Pages 170-171) Kadi’s influence on Mariatu’s life in Canada is considerable. However, it is not only her love and support, nor her firm pressure to address her fears, that helps Mariatu.
The simple presence of the sights, smells, and sounds of Sierra Leone help her to feel like less of an outsider in her new country.
20. “I imagined I was that snowflake in the big sky of so many others, and I tried to guess where I would land. ” (Chapter 18, Pages 176-177) Before Mariatu moves to Canada, snow is symbolic of the new country and the new life she hopes to build there. However, when she sees snow it is at a time of confusion and uncertainty. Watching the snow comes to symbolize her own life and her confusion about where she is heading.
21. “‘No,’ she interrupted. I could see her dark brown eyes in the rearview mirror. Her face was solemn, her expression no-nonsense. ‘It’s time to get moving, girl! ’” (Chapter 18, Page 180) Kadi is a loving and supportive maternal figure for Mariatu. However, she is also tough. When Mariatu has spent too long avoiding starting school, becoming more withdrawn and depressed, Kadi books her onto an English language course. When Mariatu tries to wriggle out of it, Kadi refuses to listen to her excuses, forcing her to confront her fears.
22.“I was scared that if people knew the truth about my rape or my dislike of prosthetic hands, they would abandon me. ” (Chapter 21, Page 194) Although Mariatu believes that she belongs in Canada and feels accepted by the people she meets there, she still does not feel entirely secure. Because there are many half-truths circulating about her in the Canadian press, she is afraid that she is only accepted because these stories portray her in a certain way that makes her look like their idea of a refugee.
23. “‘You know, the kids round here play war games.They pretend to shoot and kill the rebels who cut off their parents’ hands. Turn around, Mariatu,’ he said softly. ‘Return to Canada and don’t look back. ’” (Chapter 22, Page 209) Mohamed has always been a joker, always happy in even the grimmest situations, so Mariatu is surprised when he turns uncharacteristically bitter when talking about conditions in Sierra Leone and the government’s lack of support for victims of the war. Mariatu, ultimately, ignores his advice to simply leave the country behind, but his angry discussion of conditions helps inspire her to speak out.
24. “I knew then what I had to do. I may not have hands, but I have a voice. And no matter how nice my home in Canada is, my first home will always be Sierra Leone. ” (Chapter 22, Page 211) Throughout much of the book, Mariatu struggles to overcome the limitations placed on her by her disability and to come to terms with the pain and suffering that is rife in her country of birth. Having witnessed the conditions in the country with fresh eyes, she resolves to make a difference, accepting that her disability does not excuse her from working for change.
25. “Something in me had changed. I knew now that I could look forward and back—without any regrets—at the same time. ” (Chapter 22, Page 212) At the end of the book, Mariatu finally resolves the conflict that has shaped her life for several years. Accepting that she can live in Canada and work to improve the lives of those she left behind in Sierra Leone, she comes to terms with her identity and sense of belonging and finds a way to embrace her new life while honoring her old life.