On one trip into Budapest to steal guavas, the children run into a woman who comes outside to talk and take their pictures. Godknows tells the woman that she looks fifteen years old and, to Darling's surprise, the woman is pleased and says "I just came off the Jesus diet" (10). In response, Darling thinks, "What is a Jesus diet, and do you mean the real Jesus, like God's child?" (10). Darling's relationship with religion throughout the first half of the book is fraught, and this light treatment of Jesus in comparison with the piety of Darling's caretaker Mother of Bones, along with the idea of being purposefully skinny when Darling and her friends have just almost rushed after a piece of food the woman threw away, gives the scene a darkly humorous irony. This irony returns at the end of the story when Darling laughs at Eliot's daughter Kate for eating so little when she has such access to food.
The Cornell T-Shirt
As can be seen on the first visit from the NGO, the children of Paradise are intermittently provided clothing, toys, and food by outside agencies due to the impoverished state they live in. Bulawayo creates irony throughout the first half of the book by contrasting the situations and conversations of the children to the clothing they wear, particularly T-shirts with slogans on them. For example, one of the young boys ties a Cornell T-shirt around his head while playing roughly outside, and another child wears a T-shirt urging people to "Go Green" when they hide in a tree while trying to steal guavas. The Cornell T-shirt is especially significant as it reemerges late in the story, worn by a rich girl living in America who actually attends the school and is an ironic character in herself for being so troubled when Darling believes she has everything to make her happy.
The Africa Necklace
While talking to the woman whom the children meet while attempting to steal guavas in Budapest, Darling notices that the woman is wearing a gold necklace with a charm in the shape of Africa. The woman says that this is her first time visiting her father's country while touching this necklace, making it clear that she feels she has some connection to the place. However, it is clear from the entire interaction that she has no idea what kind of life many in Zimbabwe live, including Darling and her friends, who rely on outside sources for clothes they wear down to shreds; to see this woman in a necklace and purposefully going without shoes is clearly shocking to Darling. This scene is both ironic and provides important foreshadowing, as it touches on the idea of one believing they have a relationship to a place that others doubt, something that becomes very important after Darling moves to America.
One of the biggest ironies in the book is the name of the shantytown in which Darling and her friends and family live. It is unclear where the name Paradise came from, but the collection of hastily constructed shacks is undoubtedly far from any paradise the people living there had ever imagined. However, once Darling leaves for America later in the book, she will come to realize that her home there was indeed a paradise in some senses due to the freedom and friendship that filled her childhood.
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.