Pigeon English

by

Stephen Kelman

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Fingerprints Symbol Analysis

Fingerprints Symbol Icon

In the novel, fingerprints symbolize the fear of exposing one’s identity . This symbol is most closely associated with Auntie Sonia, who is an undocumented immigrant and burns off her fingerprints in order to avoid being detained by border control. Harri explains: “Your fingerprints tell them who you are. If you have no fingerprints, you can't be anybody. Then they don't know where you belong so they can't send you back.” Although Auntie Sonia has never harmed anyone, she is treated as a criminal due to strict immigration laws. This compels her to engage in a major act of self-harm and to destroy her own identity simply in order to be able to travel and live in different countries. Fingerprints are also important in the context of Dean and Harri’s mission to apprehend the dead boy’s killer. Dean has learned about the significance of fingerprints in criminal investigations from watching the TV program CSI and decides to imitate the detectives he sees on TV and gather fingerprints himself. As he and Harri are only able to use sellotape to gather the fingerprints, it does not seem likely that they will be able to use these as real evidence. However, when the pair gather Killa’s fingerprints, it makes him extremely flustered and later demands them “back,” which helps convince Harri and Dean that he truly is the murderer.

Fingerprints Quotes in Pigeon English

The Pigeon English quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fingerprints. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of Pigeon English published in 2011.
April Quotes

Auntie Sonia burned her fingers to get the fingerprints off. Now she has no fingerprints at all. It's so if the police catch her they can't send her away. Your fingerprints tell them who you are. If you have no fingerprints, you can't be

anybody. Then they don't know where you belong so they can't send you back. Then they have to let you stay.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Auntie Sonia
Related Symbols: Fingerprints
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Auntie Sonia hasn't even done anything bad. She's never killed anybody or stolen anything. She just likes to go to different places. She likes to see the different things there. Some of the countries won't let you in if you're black. You have to sneak in. When you're in you just act like everybody else. Auntie Sonia only does the same things as them. She goes to work and shopping. She eats her dinner and goes to the park.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Auntie Sonia
Related Symbols: Fingerprints
Page Number: 93-94
Explanation and Analysis:
July Quotes

Fingerprints are just for feeling with and to help you hold onto things when they're wet. They don't really mean anything. If you didn't have fingerprints you could be anyone you wanted.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Auntie Sonia
Related Symbols: Fingerprints
Page Number: 219
Explanation and Analysis:
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