Bulawayo artfully communicates how hungry Darling and her friends are throughout the first half of the book by creating vivid and enticing imagery of food. For example, when the children have gone to Budapest to steal guavas, they meet a woman who comes out of her house to talk to them. Darling narrates, "She smiles, takes a bite of the thing in her hand... I can tell form the cord thingies at the side of her neck and the way she smacks her big lips that whatever she is eating tastes really good. I look closely at her long hand, at the thing she is eating. It's flat, and the outer part is crusty. The top is creamish and looks fluffy and soft, and there are coin-like things on it, a deep pink, the color of burn wounds... The woman's twisted mouth finishes chewing, and swallows. I swallow with her, my throat tingling" (8-9). Though the language is childish and simple, Darling is almost scientific in her descriptions, trying to analyze every part of the food and relate it to colors and sensations that she understands. Just by watching, Darling and the reader are almost able to taste the forbidden food.
We are shown three of Darling's homes in the book - her shack in Paradise, her home with Aunt Fostalina in America, and her early childhood home in Zimbabwe before it was bulldozed. Particularly with the shack, Darling describes piece by piece every part of the home, describing with detail each picture on the wall and even giving the reader a kind of X-ray look beneath the bed where there is a Bible with a picture of her grandfather. This specificity draws out the contrasts between the parts of Darling's life when she looks back on her previous home or when she begins to live in America, where the main features she focuses on are food and electronics, both things Darling does not mention when looking around the shack because they are not present.
Due to her young age and her impoverished circumstances, Darling presents almost defamiliarized descriptions of some likely commonplace things and ideas to a reader. For example, when describing a picture of her father at his university graduation, Darling narrates, "I look at my father at the other end of the shack: he is dressed in a strange black dress, like a woman, and a silly square hat; there are ropes and things going around his neck and down his dress. He is carrying a paper in one hand, and a fat man in a suit is shaking the other" (24). Darling uses simple language to describe the picture, so that the time she actually informs the reader, "Mother of Bones says the picture was taken when Father was finishing university" (24), they have gone through the practice of guessing at what she could be describing, and have seen the oddness of the practice of formally graduating while wearing traditional garb to a child not even receiving a basic education herself. This kind of imagery is also relied upon to communicate how foreign everything is to Darling when she first arrives in America.
Bulawayo's portrayal of AIDS through Darling watching and listening to her father die is a vivid and harrowing image. She focuses on Darling's father's lack of control and on the sound that he makes, which outs Darling's lies to her friends and makes her wish her father was dead. Bulawayo particularly relies on repetition to make her point, for example writing, "I just stand there, sweating and listening to the cough pounding the walls, pounding and pounding and pounding... he keeps pounding and pounding and pounding until I just turn around and slam the door shut" (97). By dwelling of the effects of the disease on one man, the author makes an unforgettable image of human suffering that spreads to those around him.
We Need New Names Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for We Need New Names is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.