Tag Archives: Women

Victims and Destruction

1 Mar

In Season of Migration to the North, I was particularly interested in delving into what roles women play into Mustafa’s life. Throughout the novel we receive pieces of information on Mustafa’s relationships, but everything seems to come together once the narrator examines his locked room. In most of his relationships, Mustafa plays with the idea of being a savage, wild African man as a way to seduce the white woman. This tactic works as a means to reverse roles of colonizer versus colonized, master versus slave. Yet, the only one who doesn’t seem to fall for Mustafa’s tricks is Jean Morris. She physically destroys all the props that he uses in his false facade with women (the vase, Arabic manuscript and prayer rug). In this way, she strips him of his false identity and yet the only material object that was meaningful was the prayer rug, only because Mrs.Robinson gave it to him. Jean has control because she doesn’t look at him as a black man, but as a man. The fact that she is able to see beneath what the other women were blind to enables her to really destroy him. Her power over Mustafa makes him so angry that he is able to murder her; yet in a way Jean is also the cause of his destruction. This is especially explained when Mustafa says, “She was my destiny and in her lay my destruction, yet for me the whole world was not worth a mustard seed in comparison. I was the invader who had come from the South, and this was the icy battlefield from which I would not make a safe return” (132). Throughout his life, he has kept her memory alive through the narrator and the locked room which holds her picture. While most of the English women he seduces are Mustafa’s victims, isn’t he really a victim to Jean? Furthermore, the narrator names Mustafa’s wife Hosna another victim; he states, “for after all those victims he crowned his life with yet another one, Hosna Bint Mahmoud, the only woman I have ever loved” (117). What does it mean for Hosna to be a part of the group of white victims? And can the narrator really love her?

Additionally, I wanted to discuss the ending. The narrator swimming out to sea most obviously mirrors Mustafa’s suicide, but it is also very similar to Chopin’s The Awakening. In Chopin’s novel, the main character commits suicide by drowning because that is her only means of freedom. The narrator seems at first to consider this but then realizes that there is more to live for and that he can choose to be free of Mustafa. While the narrator realizes he has a choice, does Mustafa not recognize his own ability to choose or be free in any other way?

The Female Characters of Conrad and Salih

1 Mar

On Tuesday in class we talked a lot about the unreliability of the characters in Season of Migration to the North, as well as the novel’s connection to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. While these connections are important, I think it is even more important to recognize the different ways in which both authors portray women. In Conrad’s case, women are either inconsequential to the reality of the world, or are portrayed as animalistic and barbaric. Kurtz’s “intended” is spared the truth of his fate by Marlowe, while his lover in the wilds of the Congo is merely described as a fearsome and awe-inspiring being – inhuman, in other words. But the traits applied to his white and “civilized” fiancée give her the same inhuman qualities as well. Because she is a woman, she is not important enough to hear the truth of what colonialism has done to Kurtz.

In the case of Salih’s novel,  women are given more agency, and are seemingly left in charge of their own fates, while still nevertheless remaining under the control of the male characters. While the narrator is uncomfortable making decisions for Hosna, Saeed’s widow, his own personal desires get in the way of allowing Hosna to make her own decisions. Hosna reminds me of Kurtz’s intended: she remains fiercely faithful to Saeed even though the evidence of his many affairs with English women is prevalent. This difference is important, though, because while Kurtz’s intended remains in the dark over the true nature of his demise, Hosna takes charge of her own fate and kills her new husband and herself because she swore never to remarry after Saeed’s death. Even though the female characters in both Conrad’s and Salih’s novels function more as points of antagonism rather than actual three-dimensional characters, Salih’s characterization of Hosna eventually leads the narrator to veer from his path of becoming a mirror image of Saeed. In this way, the narrator sees the truth through Hosna, whereas Marlowe hid the truth from Kurtz’s intended in order to preserve her original feelings for him.