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Friends to Enemies: An Analysis of “In the Name of God”

11/20/2019 12:27 am

In the Name of God by Yamina Khadra uses his characters to further the plot within this novel to show us the volatility of this time period in this fiction village of Ghachimat in Algeria. During this time where the setting takes place in the 1980s, there is political and social unrest in Algeria due to independence in the ’60s. Khadra illustrates that unrest through these characters which begin with but is not limited to Kada, Allal, Zane, Jafer, Tej, and Sarah to name a few. The characters that are listed would be considered our main cast of characters that we follow throughout this story. Something that sets this book apart from most books is that none of these characters are truly the main protagonist. The reader gets the know the backstory of almost all these characters and we are not privy to much of their individual inner dialogue. This novel’s focus is not on the characters themselves but who they represent within the theme of the novel. It is their actions that we should be looking at and not necessarily be rooting for one character over another even though there are characters who are depicted as monsters and do monstrous behavior. The focus is on the community that Khadra builds and the deterioration of that village that the reader becomes familiar with within the first half of the novel. These characters are friends but throughout the novel, those friendships deteriorate through their actions and where their loyalty lies within the divide.

            A common technique used throughout the novel was Khadra’s use of diction and imagery. These techniques are seen in how they are used to describe the characters in the novel especially Zane and Sarah in particular. They are often describing these characters with animalistic qualities which emphases what they mean to the other characters. Sarah is one of the women in the story is the subject of affection for most of the men. Many of the men in this novel are infatuated with Sarah yet Sarah has rumors surrounding her even so that doesn’t stop them from loving her. This causes a wedge to drive between Kada and Allal since Kada is devoted to Sarah and wants her as his wife but loses her to Allal who marries Sarah. While this quote is to be seen as a good thing it depicts Sarah as animals but also animals that are pets and are typically owned by someone, “Oh Sidi Yacub, may our daughter-in-law be as loving as a she-cat, as fertile as a rabbit and as faithful as a bitch.” Zane is also subject to much of the animalistic depictions which are fitting for his character because of the monstrous things that he does. He is often described as a vulture or a bird of prey. Also through the word choice, he is constantly referred to as the “Zane the dwarf” which constantly sets himself apart from the rest of them as a possible attempt to make him our main “monster” in how unbiased he is just overall bad to both sides and is fueled by his own revenge.

            A social construct made throughout the novel I believe would be the strain put on the social classes which cause riffs between these characters relationships where friends become enemies or even at times worse family becomes your enemy within this civil war. The strain that this civil war puts on the structure of the village and the interwoven lives take a toll which is depicted in the way the Khadra illustrates the details of people’s deaths and what these characters see. Some of the many horrors can be seen through, disappearances (Lyes), heads found in bags underneath a bridge, or the slaughtering of Allal’s entire family including his wife Sarah which is implied that she was raped and tortured. A common theme that runs throughout this novel is revenge and the types of revenge taken by some of the characters. Kada exacts his revenge on Allal by taking Sarah away from him as Allah did to him. Tej has his revenge by avenging his mother and the people that humiliated him. Zane also has his revenge on everyone, Zane’s plan was to have revenge on everyone who had ever wronged him so he could finally be on top. All these actions are used to the reader can understand the violence of the time and within the book. The violence was for violence’s sake or to uphold a sense of power for the specific character. This is to simulate what it was like Algeria. The two parties that split and become their own sense of hierarchies. There is a natural hierarchy within the social classes between the men who are economically stable and the ones that struggle. However, whether the character joined the conservative Algeria side of them or the side created after the independence of Algeria. These groups don’t care about your background as seen in that Tej in on the conservative side while having a successful job as a mechanic, while Allal, a police officer, actively fights Tej and his party. These parties are not always based on socio-economic power but on your ability to lead the party and be an effective leader. This can be seen in how Kada is slowly pushed out of leadership by Tej who becomes a better leader for their party. A potential message that Khadra is trying to send is that in dire situations friends can turn to enemies that even the closest friends can do monstrous things. I think this can be dangerous because it can evoke a sense of fear and unrest amongst neighbors and there will never be a sense of comradery. However, it can also be influential because it can show people that while they are friends or even family their monstrous actions are not to be excused and ignored.

            I think this novel does a great job with its theme and being immersive in this world that most people do not know of us are fully aware of what happened during this time in Algeria. My only critique would be that it is not the easiest to read because the lines are blurred so heavily between the characters. However, that can also be used to the author’s advantage because it shows the unrest and the uncertainty that these characters feel throughout the novel to create that experience for the reader.