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The Book “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo

The book We Need New Names tells the story of Darling, a young African girl and her mischievous gang of friends. Darling is the protagonist. Bulawayo tells of the girl’s life in violent and unstable Zimbabwe as well as her experiences as an immigrant in America. However, the ending of the book is sudden and rather disappointing. Through this abrupt ending, Bulawayo communicates the suffering and hardships in the lives of immigrants.

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We Need New Names comes to a halt as opposed to a resolution, as is common in most novels. The scenes leading to the closure of the book are specifically constructed to show that problems and suffering are not unique to Africa. Bulawayo achieves this by portraying the harsh and inhumane psychological and physical conditions experienced by immigrants in both worlds. For instance, Chipo torments Darling by asking her, “do you abandon your house when it’s burning, or do you find water to put out the fire?” (Bulawayo 288).

The statement is specially crafted to inflict guilt and psychological pain on Darling. Pain and suffering are also evident in Africa. Darling attributes this to the selfish and corrupt leaders in the country. She says, “Then something shifts inside me and I start to feel angry and disappointed at our leaders for making it all happen, for ruining everything (Bulawayo 287)”.

The last paragraph revolves around childhood memories tied to a dog. The section symbolically portrays what happens when those who leave Africa in search of greener pastures fail to find satisfaction due to the new challenges they face. The dog leaves its master and gets crushed the same way Darling leaves Zimbabwe for America and finds an unforgiving life in the country that is supposed to be characterized by freedom and opportunities (Bulawayo 292).

Furthermore, the abrupt ending is an artistic choice by Bulawayo to illustrate things falling apart. The style of the final chapter contains many seemingly random thoughts and occurrences. It lacks a detailed development of thoughts. Scenes are cut abruptly and do not discharge from one to the next. For instance, after Darling throws down the laptop, she finds herself in TK’s room. She then learns of Bin Laden’s death. Later, she is with her friends chasing a dog (Bulawayo 289).

This disjointed narrative illustrates Darling’s displacement from her homeland and the gradual disconnection from Zimbabwe in her life. With the abrupt ending, Bulawayo emphasizes that life in other countries does not always turn out as expected. Instead, immigrants who dream of golden opportunities in the U.S. can only take odd jobs to make ends meet. Aunt Fostalina, for instance, has “so many jobs that she cannot take care of Vasco da Gama” (Bulawayo 282). Bulawayo’s ending clearly shows how most people are left hanging onto fragments of their past and present with the hope of making something of the future.

In her dramatic and vivid ending, Bulawayo also clearly relays the notion that life in America is no better than that at home. As such, the novelist shows that suffering, alienation, longing, and restlessness affect both worlds. However, “There is Hope in the Despair.” The first and last chapters end with the same sensual, dizzying, and delicious smell of Lobels bread. The aroma permeates the disturbing scenes in the book. In the first chapter, Darling and her colleagues are thinking of delicious breads. They are planning to buy it using the money they will make after hawking the shoes of a deceased woman. It is the same smell characterizing the childhood memory of Darling when a dog they were chasing after was run over by a bread truck (Bulawayo 292).

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Using the smell, Bulawayo brings out hope, joy, and desire in both instances. In the first example, the smell represents the children’s hope to buy bread by selling the dead woman’s shoes. Similarly, the aroma symbolizes Darling’s hope of better days at the end of the novel. By beginning and concluding with the smell of Lobels bread, the author reveals her belief that there is still hope for a better future.

However, it is important to note that the chances of Darling fitting into the American culture are determined by her acceptance of her current situation. It is mainly because, as seen earlier, her suffering arises mainly from the desire to be with those she loves back in Africa and the need to pursue a good life in America.

In conclusion, the abrupt ending of the novel has a significant impact on the interpretation of the text by readers. A deeper look into the last scenes reveals different messages about the life of Africans living in Africa and foreign lands. Consequently, the novelist shows that suffering and savagery are not unique to Africa, but that hope still remains.

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"The Book “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo." StudyCorgi, 9 Apr. 2020,

1. StudyCorgi. "The Book “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo." April 9, 2020.


StudyCorgi. "The Book “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo." April 9, 2020.


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StudyCorgi. (2020) 'The Book “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo'. 9 April.

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