The Bite of the Mango Summary and Study Guide

Mariatu Kamara

The Bite of the Mango

  • 45-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 22 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a PhD
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The Bite of the Mango Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 45-page guide for “The Bite of the Mango” by Mariatu Kamara includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 22 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Disability and Independence and The Will to Live and the Desire to Die.

Plot Summary

Eleven-year-old Mariatu lives in a small village in Sierra Leone. There are growing reports of rebels attacking villagers nearby but, for over a year, the villagers avoid attack by hiding in the bush.

One night, Mariatu dreams of palm oil—a sign that blood will be spilled the next day. Sure enough, the following day, Mariatu is captured by rebel soldiers. She prays for death but instead has her hands cut from her body by child soldiers almost as young as her.

Mariatu wakes up on the brink of death but manages to make her way to the hospital. On the way, she meets up with her cousins, Ibrahim and Mohamed, and learns that they too have lost their hands.

At the hospital, Mariatu discovers that she is pregnant. At first, she cannot understand how this has happened but once her aunt talks to her about sex and men, she realizes how she became pregnant.

A month before the rebel attack, Mariatu was raped by Salieu, a family friend, and now she is carrying his child. This knowledge horrifies her and she attempts to take her own life. Mariatu’s aunt stops her, but Mariatu is left depressed and desperate.

Shortly after, Mariatu learns that her cousin Adamsay survived the attack but also lost her hands to the rebels. Other relatives join them and they move to a camp for war amputees, where Mariatu and her cousins support the family by begging.

Mariatu has her baby and names him Abdul. Although her family help her with the child, she does not bond with him and suffers severe bouts of depression. When foreign journalists ask to interview Mariatu, she agrees, hoping that rich foreigners will send money or even offer to bring her over to live in their respective countries.

When Abdul dies of malnutrition, Mariatu sinks back into a depressed state until she is encouraged to join the camp’s theater troupe. Acting, singing, and dancing with the group allows her to mourn for her baby and reconnect with her own lost childhood.

A man named Bill from Canada begins supporting Mariatu financially, having seen her story in a newspaper. She hopes that he will offer to adopt her but does not do so. Instead, she gets an offer to fly to England to get fitted for prosthetic hands.

Mariatu does not enjoy England, with its gray vistas and endless rain. She also does not like using her prosthetic hands, and instead becoming increasingly competent at performing essential tasks without them, using only her arms and teeth.

While in England, Mariatu also becomes increasingly independent, confident, and capable of speaking out for what she wants and needs. When she finds out the Bill does want to fly her out to Canada after all, she draws on her new self-belief to insist on leaving England and traveling to Canada.

When Mariatu reaches Canada, she knows that it is the place where she is supposed to be. She soon ends up in the care of a Sierra Leonean couple, Kadi and Abou. Kadi urges Mariatu to start studying English and attend high school with her nieces. After initial difficulties, Mariatu begins to thrive in this setting.

When her fellow students organize a benefit concert to buy Mariatu a new pair of hands, she is interviewed by several journalists. One of them later requests a follow up interview and, eventually, they start working on a book about Mariatu’s experiences.

Several years after losing her hands in a war she did not understand, Mariatu returns to Sierra Leone, to fact-check her book. Her life has changed remarkably and her experiences have changed her perception of the place where she was born.

Returning now, she sees the poverty and suffering of her family and her people and the lack of support they receive from the government and commits to raising awareness of Sierra Leone’s problems. In doing so, she finds a way to embrace her old and new lives, her adopted country and the country of her birth.

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Chapters 1-3