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A Life Between the Lines of Arabic Literature, Essay Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1540

Essay

What is the significance of the theme of colonization in the novel Season Of Migration To The North?

The novel Season of Migration to the North written by Tayeb Salih was originally published in Arabic in 1966 at the times of the conflict within Sudan, as well as exploitation by colonization and post colonization. Therefore, this tempestuous period in history of Sudan affected the content of the novel. Britain promised independence for Sudan in 1953, however it was never given at that time which resulted in aggravation of the people. This supposedly chaotic situation in the nation did not only affect the country as a whole but specifically left particular mark on the being of specific individuals who were involved in the situation. This is the reason why the novel of Tayeb Salih calls for more than just the attention on how this specific turn in history affected Sudan but specifically in the creation of personal identification relating to the said event in the country and its being under the power of the British government. In this essay, I am going to focus on the author’s literary techniques and devices and their effectiveness in successfully developing the theme of colonization. Moreover, I am going to explore the idea of Mustafa Sa’eed taking revenge on colonization by deceiving women in England, women as images of territories, Mustafa Sa’eed’s bedroom compared to a battlefield and colonization causing the spread of disease.

Africa was cruelly colonized through force by the North, exploiting villages and people, and by devoting himself to seducing British women, Mustafa Sa’eed takes revenge for the colonialism ‘taking’ over his nation. Mustafa manages to manipulate and fulfill the exotic fantasies of the women in the ‘North’, by using sex as a form of racial vengeance for colonisation he is able to fight back the colonizers. Historically Sudan was mainly colonized by the British Empire but also influenced by Egypt. ‘ I felt as though Cairo, that large mountain to which my camel had carried me, was a European woman’ (pg.25) This compartment of the city to a woman effectively demonstrates Mustafa’s longing for revenge also in Egypt, his objective to subdue women as well as his desire to conquer new territories in the North.

‘The string of the bow is drawn taut and the arrow must needs shoot forth’ (pg. 27) this phrase is continuously repeated throughout the novel, which compares Mustafa to a weapon for revenge, a ‘heartless machine’ (pg. 25) which transforms into a colonizer and indulges in sufferings of the foreign women therefore showing dedication to fighting back.‘Mustafa Sa’eed was the first Sudanese to marry an Englishwoman, in fact he was the first to marry a European of any kind’ (pg. 55) this quotation represents the Mustafa as a pioneer, possibly encouraging other men from the South follow his steps. Mustafa Sa’eed admits his intentions to seduce women in England to avenge the colonizers, ‘ I have come to you as a conqueror.’ (pg. 60) This honest statement from Mustafa contrasts with the promise for liberation from the colonisers which was never given at the time and corroborates Mustafa’s objective to demonstrate opposition to colonization. Notably, the symbolical condition by which Mustafa brings about a sense of revenge against the British government creates a manipulative manner by which he tries to gain power.

Mustafa objectifies women and views them as minor objects, their bodies just signify territories of the North, which he must conquer in order to take revenge on the colonization. The word ‘prey’ (pg. 36) is often used by Mustafa in reference to his women and can be seen to be repeated throughout the novel. It conjures the image of a target to be killed and shows the dominance of Mustafa and his power over women of the North. Isabella is compared to ‘a city of secrets and rapture’ (pg. 37). The connection between a woman’s body and landscape appears throughout the novel, the connection points towards how the North violently conquered Africa and how Africa was the exotic land wanted by the colonizers. ‘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.’ (pg.160) Mustafa is speaking as a narrator and in this quotation he admits that he came to take revenge. ‘The icy battlefield’ metaphorically indicates Jean Morris, as an effect it makes the women in the North just territories for him to invade. Mustafa also knew that his main ambition was to conquer the women in order to avenge for his country and leave a mark, however he would not return safely. In relation to this, the author creates the atmosphere of movement and temporary places which relate to the hunger of the colonizers for new exotic lands and Mustafa’s aspiration for European women. ‘I had pitched my tent’ (pg. 24), ‘ I reach the mountain peak and implant the banner’ (pg.41), the phallic representations create an image of conquest and subjugation. ‘I’ll liberate Africa with my penis’ (pg. 120) This quote from Mustafa reflects on his actions in the North, it emphasizes his ambition to cleanse Africa from colonization by seducing women in Britain.

In the novel, the phrase ‘deadly disease’ (pg.95) is repeated to expose the significance of spread of destruction, demolition of self-identity, infection and corruption due to colonization in the South. ‘The ships at first sailed down the Nile carrying guns not bread, and the railways were originally set up to transport troops’ (pg. 95) This image of colonization in the South reflects the metaphorical ‘disease’ the colonizers brought with them. The concrete imagery also emphasizes the corruption and deprived motives of the colonizers. ‘They imported to us the germ of the greatest European violence, as seen on the Somme and at Verdun’ (pg.95) by referring to history this quotation portrays the significant destruction of the colonization, the reference to the European wars the quote creates the mood of sorrow and death.

The word ‘ germ’ as well as ‘disease’ creates an atmosphere of death and inescapable disaster. In compartment Tayeb Salih establishes the aggravation of the people in Sudan and the longing for revenge, ‘My bedroom was a spring-well of sorrow, the germ of a fatal disease.’(pg. 34). Mustafa is now the carrier of ‘disease’ and by poisoning the women in the North, he ‘would make his mark’ (pg. 54). His bedroom is a symbol for fighting back colonization; it is a weapon for oppression. In the novel, the theme of colonization establishes the domination of the North over the South and exploitation within the colonized areas. ‘My bedroom was a spring-well of sorrow, the germ of fatal disease.’ Mustafa Sa’eed is now the carrier of disease, his bedroom is the source of seduction and destruction for European women. The bedroom can also represent the clash of cultures and the loss of self identity. Similarly, the scene where Jean Morris destroys valuable, cultural objects of Mustafa Sa’eed metaphorically signifies the destruction of the culture and the violence transported by colonization. ‘Taking up the vase, she smashed it on the ground and began trampling the pieces underfoot.’ (pg. 157) This violent act metaphorically shows the destruction of culture, self identity that resulted in bitterness and anger of the South.

In the conclusion the author establishes a powerful significance of the theme of colonization, which is mainly portrayed through the main protagonist of the novel, Mustafa Sa’eed. His relationships with women in England express the vengeance of Mustafa Sa’eed against colonialism performed through ‘rituals’. Orientalism is a powerful theme in this novel contributing to the theme which is explored in this essay, colonization. The west used orientalism to suppress the colonized countries such as Sudan by the pressure from Western education, language, culture and Western consciousness which is a form of ‘fatal disease’ (pg. 34). One can argue that Tayeb Salih shows the discourse of the colonization as Mustafa, the Orient asserts domination over the women in England using the same strategy in a form of orientalism.

History specifically points out the existence of events that involve the powerful and the oppressed ones. This is specifically true when it comes to defining the culture of exercising power that identifies well with the inner desire to control. Relatively, such condition of desire made it possible for the British empire to conquer different regions around the globe. Nevertheless, even though for the conquerors, this was a mere display of their power, to those who they have conquered, this was more than just a sense of being under the control of another, it meant more of controlling their lives and suppressing their freedom to remain liberated from any particular hindrance to their growth and development as a nation. As a result, the novel presented herein, provided a better sense of defining the actual situation that individuals who had to undergo such events in their lives had to deal with especially when it comes to developing personally.

References

Johnson-Davies, Denys. (2006). Memories In Translation: A Life Between The Lines Of Arabic Literature, American Univ in Cairo Press.

Makdisi, Saree. (1992). The Empire Renarrated: Season of Migration to the North and the Reinvention to the Present. Chicago Journals.

Shaheen, Mohammad. (2010). “Tayeb Salih and Conrad.” Comparative Literature Studies 22.1 (1985): 156-71.

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