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?