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Characters in In the Name of God – Jaci Borgen

11/19/2019 10:30 pm

Mohammed Moulessehoul published In the Name of God in 1998 under the penname Yasmina Khadra, and takes an interesting point of view for his characters.  The story is heavily influenced by his time in the military, and the characters show this experience through the descriptions he used, which contradicted the female penname he used, which would have created the events in a much more fictional light.  The choices he makes on the portrayal of the main characters includes various dynamics with their relationships with each other.  For the most part, these characters have grown up and live in the fictional village of Ghachimat, Algeria.  Growing up in the vicinity of each other, although not always being friends gives these characters a certain amount of complexity, for example, the relationship between Zane and the rest of the main characters is somewhat strained because of his status as a Dwarf, which creates a type of dissonance between the characters, usually to underestimate the man.  This separance helps to build the other characters through him while setting himself apart.

One interesting aspect of the characters that is explored through the author’s version of storytelling is the way that the peripheral characters help to build up the village’s demographics without using information dumps, which can easily bore or distract readers.  It also allows the writer to add a certain level of complexity, as the reader is then immersed in the world that the main characters live in, and begin to see how the seeds of dissatisfaction are sown and cultivated by a few main characters.   This type of storytelling also helps to illustrate the social constructs that drive the societal changes.  One example of this is the characters’ social classes.  The author is able to give the readers immersive context clues about how the social changes are affecting the characters in small ways, even from the beginning with Kada’s mother, who remembers her family’s wealth before the war and how the tables turned afterwards when she refers to Sarah’s mother, who previously was digging through rubbish bins, and what she thinks of the reversal of these roles.  In addition, Tej’s father is ostracized for a good portion of the book because of his actions during the war to secure a living for his family, and how the other villagers look down on him afterwards, when he no longer holds his status.  The changes, however, are not brought on by vast changes in education, however, but are portrayed more as luck and how the villagers decide to remember the events.

There are many inequalities that are associated with the changes in their statuses.  For example, Tej’s father, Issa, experiences a shift back into favor thanks to his son’s status in Abba’s main group.  This shift back also helped to illustrate a turning point for Tej, where he no longer keeps quiet about the humiliation the village has bestowed upon his father, which he sees as having been unfair, considering his father’s actions during the war and how it could have been worse.  This portrays social class as a social construction that is determined by somewhat arbitrary ideas about how people should act and what ideas they align themselves with.  The concept further demonstrates itself through the rapid succession of various mayors in a short amount of time and the disappearances of characters who question or stray from these ideals.  By deciding to portray social classes on this type of revolving roulette wheel, the author may solidify biases against the country in his readers inadvertently. 

From an outsider’s point of view, using such a technique can hinder the way readers see the modern country.  I don’t think that this is the intended affect, as it seems to be more of a historical fiction story rather than one that reflects on the current situation.  Using characters that are violent and ruthless, however, can make people think of the country like that in the future, especially if they are unfamiliar with modern issues.  I think that portraying the characters and village the way he decided to, however, also paints an image of radical ideas as being common throughout the country.  I think that toning this down could also have dramatically hindered the impact the story had.