HITTING BUDAPEST By NoViolet Bulawayo - Memories we Lost and Other Stories Study Guide

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The short story "Hitting Budapest" by NoViolet Bulawayo follows six African children on their trip to steal guavas from a rich neighborhood. The author has structured the short story in three scenes marked by suspension points. The first scene presents the trip to Budapest; the second focuses on the way back, while the third marks a strange incident when the children discover a hanged woman in the bushes of Paradise.

The story also follows the plot elements, having an exposition, a rising action, a climax and a falling action.

NoViolet examines convoluted issues of social inequality and inadequate access to resources in such an amazing way through her creative determination and imagination to improve the material conditions of her characters. Africa is the richest in the world in terms of natural resource endowments, despite this poverty wreaks havoc in most, if not all, parts of the continent where apparently children and women are the most affected.


The story is about five young girls, mostly pre-teen, moving from their shanty town of Paradise to the estates of Budapest in search Of guavas and anything that matter. As they make their Journey towards Budapest they converse as all children do. It is through this that we get to know that Chipo, a girl of ten years, has been impregnated by her grandfather.

At Budapest they met a white woman of 33 years who had just come from London, eating ice-cream. They looked longingly at this icecream only for her to throw what is left of it into the dustbin and take a picture of them. On their way back they shared their dreams with each other: to travel to America, get big houses and cars. Whereas IMF is a street at Budapest, AU is a street at Paradise, the shanty town. The kids steal, eat and go back to the shanty to meet a dead woman dangling from a tree. Their hunger allows them to conquer their fear of death and they steal her shoes so they can sell them in order to buy bread. But the real story is in the class divide, in the loss of innocence, immigration, violence, defilement, poverty, extreme hunger, and dejection.

Initially, this story reads as a metaphor where some Africans in search of better lives travel abroad. Again, Paradise and Budapest represent the economic duality that we have in most countries where extreme poverty exists side by side with all the skyscrapers and glass-houses. However, as the story unfolds, the metaphorical view changed.

Back at Paradise, the children went to ease themselves in the bush where they saw a woman dangling from a rope-a possible suicide. The children decided to remove the shoes the dead woman was wearing and sell them for bread.


Published in 2010, the short story "Hitting Budapest" by NoViolet Bulawayo is set in an African country, most likely Zimbabwe, the author's native country.

The time setting is during guava season and the action spans over a day in the lives of six children. The main physical setting is the rich neighborhood Budapest, but also the way to Budapest from the shanty town called Paradise.

Budapest is depicted in detail by the narrator to show the between the poor area they come from and the richness of nearby neighborhood.

But not an ordinary country – it looks like everybody woke up one day and closed their gates, doors, and windows, picked up ther passports, and left for better countries. Even the air is empty; no burning things, no smell of cooking food or something rotting just plain air with nothing in its hands. Budapest is big, big house; with the graveled yards and tall fences and walls and flowers and green trees, heavy with fruit (p 98)

The social setting in "Hitting Budapest" presents several aspects related to African society and the world society in general.

The interactions and conversations between the children show their lack of education as they have no knowledge about human reproduction, but also the commonness of incest and rape among poor Africans (Chipo is pregnant with her grandfather) (P. 98)


The main theme of the short story "Hitting Budapest" by NoViolet Bulawayo is poverty and its dehumanizing effects, which is enhanced through the motif of the gap between the rich and the poor. The author's intention was to show the consequences of poverty experienced by African children and to bring a critique to those who turn a blind eye on the gap between the rich and the poor, hinting at the idea that it is Western states and organizations who bear most of the responsibility for it.

Effects of poverty.

The short story explores the dehumanizing effects of poverty through the setting and characters. The action takes places in a poor African area (probably Zimbabwe) and shows through symbolical setting elements the crude reality of the gap between the rich and the poor. The characters are African children (Basta, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho, Stina, and Darling) who have no other option to calm their hunger but to go to neighboring rich area (Budapest) and steal guava fruits (p 98)

The fact that the children go there frequently suggests that stealing for survival has become something very common, part of their everyday lives.

Poverty makes these children to steal even to a dead woman, on their way back to paradise.


To defile is to violate chastity of a person. Defilement is a major burning factor in most African states today. Defilement becomes a bee sting in that case where the molesters go for children under the age of eighteen years. It becomes a child sexual abuse when an adult or older adolescents use a child for sexual stimulation. This indeed ruins the Childs life and is against the children rights in many countries of the post colonial Africa.

NoViolet Bulawayo did not demean the fact of existence of such people in the society, People who are child molesters. Chipo, a girl of ten years, has been impregnated by her grandfather. Chipo, a young efficacious girl who used to outrun everybody in Paradise, has something in hers stomach, put there by her grandfather (P.97)

However, indiscipline and immoral behaviors in the society should not go unpunished. Hitting Budapests victim does not go unpunished. He becomes a guest of the state.


To avoid harsh circumstances at home, Africans cross borders and dangerous water masses to go to the west. They do low paying jobs or even sometimes illegal ones.

Godknows' uncle left for London long time ago. Now, he does not even write (p 1 01) Basta dreams of going abroad after school, actually to Paris. Darling too, dreams of going to America once she grows up. These children have been fed with the societal believe that West is good, not knowing that Africa is rich enough to sustain its people, in terms of resources, once utilized well.

Today, Africans are not captured by the slave traders but by the colonial and post independence governments. These governments have created conditions that forces Africans to go abroad.

Techniques and Language Use

First person narrative voice child narrator.

The author uses first person point of view by a girl called Dari, who is also part of the actions unfolding.

As a result, the narrator has limited knowledge on the events and the other characters, and only depicts what happens, based on what she observes:

And there, squatting and screaming, is Godknows. He is also pointing ahead in the thick trees, and we see it, a tall thing

"What's that?" somebody, I don't know who, whispers. Nobody answer (P. 104)

She tells the story as an eye witness, this making the rider to make the episodes in the narration more immediate to the reader. This allows the author to keep aesthetic distance and give the story an illusion of objectivity.


The language of "Hitting Budapest" by NoViolet Bulawayo is simple and easy to follow, though it initially is ambiguous due to the contrast in the names and places which do not seem to match. The names Of the characters suggest an African setting, while the names of place suggest Western places. However, as the story unfolds, the meaning become clearer.

People living in the Budapest are very rich. Mello looks pretty, jewellery, smooth brown skin and she does not have a scar to that she is a living person. They have enough to eat. The houses clean and big (P. 1 01)

The children are leading a shanty poor live in their village, paradise

Theirs is to steal Guavas from the villagers. They even steal shoes from a dead woman.


NOViolet Bulawayo uses dialogue richly, intertwined with narrative, Making the story more appealing and dynamic. Many passage, times, the dialogue is simple and humorous:

"What's one day? Tomorrow? Thursday? Next week?"

'Can't you see her stomach is still small? The baby has to grow "

"A baby grows outside. That's the reason they are born. So they grow "(p 97)

The narrative passages, on the other hand, are quite detailed and descriptive, helping reader's better grasp of what is happening nd there, squatting and screaming, is Godknows. He is also pointing ahead in the thick trees, and we see it, a tall thing dangling in a free.

"What's that?" somebody, I don't know who, whispers. Nobody answers because now we can all see what it is (P. 104)


Despite the seriousness of the incidents presented, the story is executed with a lot of humour it is effective as a means of satirizing social foibles such as poverty.

The worst thing about guavas, all those seeds gets you constipated when you eat foo much. When it comes to having a natural call, we get in so much pain, like trying to give birth to a county (P. 7 04) the woman's twisted mouth finishes chewing. I swallow with her. (P. 107) do not remember my feet ever looking like that, maybe when I was born (P. 00)

Characters and Characterization

The most important characters in the short story "Hitting Budapest" by NoViolet Bulawayo are the six African children, Darling — the narrator, and the British woman. In what follows, we will look at the narrator and the British woman separately and then at the all six children as a collective character.


Darling is the child-narrator of the short story and one of the African children. From her outer characterization, we only find that she is nine years old and has an aunt who lives in America.

Though we do not know how she looks like, we can assume that as poorly dressed as the other children and equally needy.

The girl's inner characterization is built through her narrative and her perspective and attitude towards the events she is experiencing.

Darling comes across as a simple girl who has gotten used to the reality of her poverty which pushes her and the other children to steal.

She is depicted as being remorseful in the way she decides to write a apology letter to Mello while in the correction centre. She is a determined girl who learns very fast how to read and write. Being comical can be senseless without her. She is the kind of a girl who gets soo much pain after eating guavas as if she is giving birth to a country.


She presents the poor and down trodden in the society. She knows nothing, but oppression and poverty.

The British woman

The British woman is an episodic character in the short story. Her name is Mello.

 From her outer characterization, we find out that she is 33 looking and wealthy and that her father is a native, good-

Her inner characterization is constructed through her interactions with the children. Initially, she comes across as curious when she approaches them. Then she proofs to be friendly, and social. She decides to even take the children a photo. She seems egocentric in the way she eats alone, as the children stand there gazing at her admiringly.

The African children

The African children form a collective character in the short story, as most of their actions are done in group, although their different identities are also indicated.

The outer characterization of the children indicates their names and ages and the fact that they are Africans (through the names):

In terms of inner characterization, all the children share some common traits. They are all forced by hunger and poverty to resort to stealing.

They are depicted as being immoral. They have stolen all the guavas in paradise and now, they've gone to Budapest to do it again. They are careless in the way they spit guavas everywhere on their way back to paradise. They make the place to be dirty all round.

Poverty lacks meaning without these children. They resolve to go stealing guavas for their satisfaction. It is through these children that we get to learn about other themes like immorality, immigration, social class and marginalization.


  1. Bad company ruins a child's good reputation. Discuss with reference from Hitting Budapest by Noviolq Bulawayo.
  2. Identify and explain the use of the following styles:
    1. Rhetorical question
    2. Vivid description
    3. Hyperbole
  3. Peer pressure can lead to bad behavior. Identify some of the bad behavior that students in school can engage on, as a result of peer pressure.
  4. Discuss the recurrent motif in the text.
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