The Clay Marble by Minfong Ho (Quotes)

This is a children’s novel set in war-torn Cambodia during the 1980s. Wars reveal the fact that humans are basically the same, despite having different nationalities or physical features, since the sufferings that we experience during difficult times like these make us forget the illusion of separation. In the end, we can only count on other human beings during times of desperation since wars force us to swallow our pride, forget superficial things, and value every individual’s life. Here are some good quotes that I have gotten out of the book:

“Over and over again we have been told by the Khmer Rouge soldiers that Cambodia was one big family, and that the Communist Party was our parent. And yet, in trying to create a new ‘family,’ the Communists destroyed my own family, ripping apart parent from child, brother from sister, husband from wife. It made no sense to me, since I could not understand how these shrill young soldiers could be my parents, but I did not dare ask.”

“I looked around in wonder. Even though many people seemed to be only fragments of a family – a frail grandmother with several young toddlers, a group of young boys clustered around a few old men – they were a family just the same. Like a patchwork blanket, I thought, the people here were survivors of families who had been ripped apart and then joined again.”

“I flushed. I had never thought of myself as pretty, but nobody had come this close to telling me I was actually ugly, either. I knew my sarong was muddy, and my hair uncombed, but another few buckets of well water would change all that.”

“Don’t you know about the story about the family of deaf men? Four deaf brothers, she said, were living together quite happily until a crocodile wandered into their house. The oldest deaf brother shouted out a warning, pointing to the crocodile. The second deaf brother, seeing his elder brother with the crocodile, thought they were going to attack him, and grabbed a stick to defend himself. The third deaf brother thought the other two were planning to kill him, snatched up a knife, and brandished it around. When the fourth deaf brothers saw his brothers waving their weapons at the crocodile, he threw a rock at it. The rock bounced off the crocodile’s hide and hit one of the brothers. Within seconds, all four deaf brothers were screaming and fighting each other as the crocodile slipped out the door. You see? The leaders of Cambodia are just like those four deaf brothers, fighting among themselves because they cannot hear one another.”

“You try to hang on to older people – parents, uncles, grandmothers – and they disappear. You make friends, and they go off in different directions, never to be seen again. Everything crumbles, so easily.”

“Things that can break are not worth taking. It’s only what you can bring inside of you that really matters. How do you think I was able to say goodbye to my mother and father? When they died, I stored it up – everything I remembered about them, loved about them. That’s what I bring inside with me. They’re inside me now. Part of me.”

“Now it was gone. I thought of the small world of our clay dolls, and sighed. How senseless it was, to have cared about something so unreal.”

“So that was what it meant to be a refugee. We were farmers who had been displaced from our old land and yet prevented from settling on any new land. Would we always be on the move, people who only didn’t have a home but weren’t allowed to build a new home anywhere?”

“Life isn’t fair.”

“I looked at it, and for the first time I saw it for what it was: a lump of clay. There was no magic in it, I realized. Not in the one Jantu made, nor the one I made. And then I finally understood what Jantu had meant when she said the magic is in the making of the marble.”

“I tossed my head back and laughed out loud, in sheer joy. I’m going home, I thought, and I don’t need magic marbles anymore. After all, the magic isn’t in the marble. It’s in me!”


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