Chance and Coincidence in Little Bee

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In any moment, anything can change. Literature often contains decisions or change meetings without premeditation or the process of forethought. In Little Bee by Chris Cleave, Little Bee, an African American woman, runs into British editor Sarah O’Rourke on a beach on Nigeria. In this fateful place, their lives accidentally “collide” without either of them planning the encounter; however, when this chance meeting occurs between O’Rourke and Little Bee, their lives are altered forever as well.

The encounter between Little Bee and Sarah O’Rourke was entirely dependent on chance. Prior to such an encounter, neither had known the other existed, and were at the beach for different reasons. However, to fully develop the plot, Cleave takes advantage of the unexpected encounter to sow the seeds of a potential friendship and bond between two women of different races. He later exploits the plot by using the accidental confrontation as a reason for Andrew O’Rourke’s suicide as well. The encounter between Little Bee and Sarah O’Rourke proves significant when the O’Rourkes were given a decision whether or not Little Bee and her sister would live. Sarah obliges to the armed terrorists’ ransom for Little Bee’s life but Andrew allows her sister to die. When Andrew refuses to give up his finger, Sarah pleads with him, saying, “Just a finger, Andrew, and then we’ll walk back again” (114). Though the first encounter at the beach impacts the plot, the encounter was arbitrary. The undesired ramifications of this confrontation again underscore Cleave’s clever use of coincidence to manipulate the novel.

Cleave uses coincidence to further develop his story by placing Little Bee at the O’Rourke’s house two years later, the second encounter between them. The timing was unprecedented and for Andrew, undesirable, for it directly led to his decision to commit suicide. Andrew clearly did not want to see Little Bee again, for he still felt guilty for what happened at the beach and refused...
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