[Solved] midaq alley 2

To what extent is Midaq Alley an “Arab” novel? Does this add to or detract from the novel’s overall impact on an international audience. The work of literature “Midaq Alley” by Naguib Mahfouz introduces the audience an Arab culture through his descriptions of different characters. Each character is used as an analogue, representing people in the alley with different beliefs and ambitions. Moreover, the characteristics of Mahfouz’s characters also draw international readers’ attention concerning how westernization takes place.

The novel often talks about the setting, time and theme in Egyptian culture through stories of various characters. The culture describes in the novel restricts the readers’ views on each character on the account of the limitations of their knowledge about Arab belief and culture. Religion is a huge component of Egyptian life and Radwan Hussainy is a good example. The alley’s community often turns to him for counseling and everyone respects him because he is a man of morals and uses religion as a centrality. Religion is a big part of Radwan Hussainy’s life; he still believes in God, despite losing his children and the hardship he endured. Moreover, he blames himself for what happened to Zaita, Dr. Booshy (go to jail) and Hamida who prostitutes herself, because in his mind, he believes that he is responsible for what happened in the community. This idea suggests that he really respects his culture and religion which is shown through, “Radwan Hussainy’s opinion drew objections based on both the literal texts and the scholastic interpretations of Islam (272).” All in all, some of the main plot of this Arab novel limits some impacts on an audience in other culture due to the specific concepts of its culture.

Marriages and relationships display in the novel play an important part in reflecting Arab culture. Different couples show different aspects of marriage in the alley. Radwan Hussainy’s wife’s role as a married woman is very different from those of other women in western country. In the alley, Radwan is considered to be a very good man who would always help other people. But his good characteristic cannot overcome the cultural statement of the setting. Mafouz states that “We must not underestimate the power of the traditions of the time and the place” (52). This statement defines the traditions, gender roles and how people are meant to behave especially women. Radwan has been tyrannical towards his wife because she is the only person that would allow him to do so. However, Ms Hussain “does not have anything to complain about” (52) and still thinks she is a “fortunate woman” (52). Another character that shows readers about the alley is Zaita. Even though, he is only a minor character in the novel, readers are able to obtain hints about Egyptian traditions and culture. Zaita is a cripple-maker who benefits from making both emotional and physical cripples for people who want to become beggars; it is evident through “people came to him who wanted to become beggars” (55) and he will cripple each of his customer “appropriate to his body (55)”. This idea shows that in Arab culture, people could become a decoy bagger without negative reactions from the society. This concept also shows through Kirsha, the cafe owner who has a taste for young boys. This problem is very common because in the Muslim culture, women don’t go out unless they’re with their father, brother or husband with, so there is a lot of homosexuality amongst men.

Mahfouz is not a big promoter of the Muslim’s beliefs and his novel, “Midaq Alley”, talks about more than the alley and its culture. Westernization plays an important part in adding the overall impact on international readers. For example, a movie based on Mahfouz’s novel, “Midaq Alley”, takes place in another time period and setting but the overall idea is about how Mexican people cope with westernization and how they react to certain situations which is the same as “Midaq Alley” plot. In the novel, there are 3 types of characters who are happy in Midaq Alley and others who are discontent; who are desperate to get out and go somewhere better mostly through different opinions of what is ‘better’. Hamida is the character that represents the people who yearn for a change. Often, she feels as though she is worth more than just living in the old alley – and she calls it a “Nothing Alley”(27) and asking herself “Oh what a shame Hamida, what are you doing living in this alley? (27)”. During World War II, many people in Midaq Alley go to work for the soldiers in the hope of earning more money and living in a more comfortable life. Hamida is one of those people who
sacrifice themselves and everything that they have in an exchange for the wealthy life they always have dreamed of. Hamida is not a religious person and has a different perspective from the people in the alley because she sees a better life in the modern world. In the end, she decides to become a prostitute for pretty clothes and jewelries. She does not regret choosing this life as she is able to have an opportunity that gives her “desire for life and adventure (186)”. The older generations are the people who do not get affected by the new culture replacing their old one as it is hard to break their habits and traditions. Furthermore, they do not have the desire for adventure and leaving their homes behind. The last group of the three categories would be Abbas. He is the person who could not leave the alley behind and does not want any change in his life. He goes to the army in the purpose of making Hamida, his fiancé, happy by earning more money than what he used to. Abba says that “Our alley is wonderful. I never wanted anything more than to live in it peacefully.”(252)In the end, Abbas died because of the British soldiers, in the hands of westernization. To sum up, Mafouz is trying to define the three different outcomes resulting from westernization. If a person is able to forget everything, good results will come and the opposite will happen to the person who cannot cope with changes in the existing culture.

Some ideas detract from the novel’s overall impact on an international audience but the main plot of the story contributes to other culture and setting where westernization takes place. For instance, the reciter has been at a café for twenty years which is the last café that he is able to get anything from. But since the alley is westernized; he lost his job because people would prefer new technology and development. This is evident through “people today don’t want a poet. They keep asking me for a radio (6)”. Mafouz is trying to make a point that westernization isn’t going to be anybody’s immediate solution to people’s poverty problems and desire to have a better life.

Even though Mafouz describes the scene and culture in a certain time period in “Midaq alley”, the overall idea about westernization adds an overall impact on an international audience. People from many countries are able to understand Mafouz intentions in portraying the idea how changes could affect a country especially where culture still plays a significant role in people’s minds.


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