11/20/2019 4:20 am
The Social and Historical Context
This novel is set after the Algerian War of Independence and at the beginning of the rise of the Algerian Civil War. After they gained their independence, Algeria’s economy was unstable, and Algeria no longer had an identity. The resources and wealth from the land were not being used to benefit the country as a whole. In an attempt to Arabize and return to a more ‘authentic’ Algeria, religious extremists rose up in order to overthrow the governmental forces. Resulting in all out war between neighbors and brothers.
The author uses a lot of metaphors and similes to create his novel. He often uses these techniques in order to compare his character’s behaviors to animals. By using metaphors and similes, he paints a picture for the reader to unpack and give insight to not only the character, but how they will impact the ending.
Gender, more specifically masculinity, is a social construct that is created within this time period and place. One of the ways that this novel assigns masculinity is based on the careers of the male characters. In the beginning, every time a character’s name would be mentioned, their career would be attached to it and the characters could easily be identified by their job. A job is how one provides. The idea that the man is a provider of a household is widely accepted as a masculine attribute. Not only that he works, but the type of work that he does can define his masculinity. Tej, for example, owns his own auto shop and is a mechanic. This is a job where he would use his hands a lot, it can be seen as very manly. Kada is a schoolteacher. This isn’t a particularly physically demanding job, which can make it effeminate. Another way that masculinity is portrayed is through appearance. While, the way that males dress and the size of their beard is significantly important in this text and the religion portrayed, I believe the best example of appearance creating masculinity is shown through Zane. With his disability(dwarfism), Zane is continuously seen as less than a male. He cannot perform the jobs that a normal man can do, he cannot fight like a man, and he cannot be with a woman like other males can.
Even in the examples of constructed masculinity above, we can see the effects they have on hierarchy. Jobs in the government are obvious signs of power. We can see this power being exerted on page 45 when the mayor is speaking with the cabdriver who is trying to warn him of the outbreaks of civil war. The Mayor asks things like “are you an official like me?” or “are your concerns national, as mine are?” in order to blatantly show that cabdrivers concerns weren’t valid or necessary to someone as important as the mayor. Though he is in a position of power at that moment, over the course of the novel, the tides change, and that power is taken away.
The way that these ideas of masculinity are presented makes it seems like a ‘real’ man is what they do or how they look. The problem with presenting masculinity this way is that jobs and appearance aren’t remotely close to the only ways to achieve masculinity. It also makes it feel like you are preforming your gender for approval, like so many characters in the book are.
I don’t agree that masculinity is dependent only on what you do and how you look because that leaves out so much of who a man is and can be. Society has a habit of putting people into boxes in order to create organization, however, people are rarely that simple. This reminds me of “Reflections of Loko Miwa” because the males, though they play a significantly smaller part, are placed in positions of power because of their jobs and status. I think anyone can relate to this because we are all working to become the people we are meant to be, and cultural restrictions are ever present.
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