Pigeon English

by

Stephen Kelman

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Heaven Symbol Icon

In Pigeon English, heaven symbolizes stability and safety. Harri and his family are very religious, and Harri spends much of the novel imagining what heaven is like. Harri is especially fixated on the question of whether change takes place in heaven, including whether babies grow up in to adults. In this sense, heaven represents a foil (direct contrast) to his life on Earth, which has been governed by extreme change ever since he moved to London. Not only does Harri have to adjust to an entirely new country, culture, and community, but he must deal with the dramatic events that take place within that community—mainly the murder of the dead boy. At the same time, Harri is also facing the internal changes of puberty and the transition from childhood to adolescence, along with the peer pressures that this entails. Because of all these changes, Harri finds comfort in the idea of heaven as a fixed, unchanging state, a “home” that does not exist in a particular geographic location. He imagines his late Grandpa Solomon playing rock, paper, scissors with Jesus, just as he used to do with Harri himself on Earth. At the same time, Harri is also disturbed by the idea that things do not change in heaven. He is relieved to learn that people who have lost limbs have their limbs grow back in heaven, and that babies who die grow up there. Harri admits: “I’d hate it if I had to stay a baby forever.” This statement foreshadows Harri’s death in the novel. Although the pigeon makes it clear that heaven is real and that Harri is going “home,” the tragedy of children’s deaths is that they do not get to grow up on Earth—even if, at least in Harri’s mind, they do so in heaven.

Heaven Quotes in Pigeon English

The Pigeon English quotes below all refer to the symbol of Heaven. 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.
June Quotes

I wonder what Heaven is really like. Is it different for kids than for grown-ups. Like would there still be somebody there telling him to come in

from playing football when it got too dark. The dead boy could do the most tricks, he could flick the ball up with his heel and keep it up for donkey hours with both feet. He always aimed his shots for the corners like you're supposed

to and he was even good at heading. He was good at everything. I wonder if there's dogs like Asbo who steal your ball. That would be funny. I hope in Heaven the animals can all talk, then they can tell you when they're happy so

you don't have to guess. You can usually tell from the eyes but it only works on bigger animals, not pigeons or flies. Their eyes only look sad.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), The Dead Boy
Related Symbols: Pigeons, Heaven
Page Number: 169
Explanation and Analysis:

If Agnes dies I'll just swap places with her. She can have my life. I'll give it to her and I'll die instead. I wouldn't mind because I've already lived for a long time. Agnes has only lived for one year and some. I hope God lets me. I don't

mind going to Heaven early. If he wants me to swap places, I will. I just hope I can try Haribo Horror Mix first (they're my favourite of all the Haribo styles. The sweets are all crazy shapes, like bats and spiders and ghosts. Mamma says it's against God but she just worries too much).

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Agnes
Related Symbols: Pigeons, Heaven
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:
July Quotes

Pigeon: 'Don't worry, you'll be going home soon. When it's time to go I'll show you the way.'

Me: 'Can't I stay here?'

Pigeon: 'It's not up to me. You've been called home.'

Me: 'It hurts. Do you work for God?'

Pigeon: 'I'm sorry if it hurts. It won't be long now.'

Me: 'I like your feet. They're nice and scratchy. I like all your colours.'

Pigeon: 'Thank you. I like you too, I always did. There's nothing to be scared of.'

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Pigeons, Heaven
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:
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