Seasonof Migration to the North
Whatdid Mustafa Se’eed’s relationship with the women in the novelrepresent? And how did the novel portray the postcolonial strugglesthat Arabs had to face?
Thenovel “” narrates about aSudanese prodigy, Mustafa Se’eed. The unnamed narrator returned tohis native home, Nile in Sudan, after studying in England for sevenyears. He encountered a new villager by the name Mustafa Se’eedamong the people who came to welcome him. Most people praised hisachievements, and the narrator became more interested in him. Helater learned that Mustafa was a well-known economist and an activemember of Sudanese Independence Movement. He also learned that he wasan intelligent student after studying in the western countries.However, Mustafa had a violent and complex relationships while inEurope, and especially with the British women. The novel centers onthe Mustafa’s love affairs. This paper discusses what Mustafarelationship with the women, and how the novel portrays strugglesthat Arabs faced.
Accordingto the narrator, Mustafa dominated the white women. He did notembrace his culture, and he believed he was not part of it. Hebelieved the only way to became part of it was superficial. This madehim easy to embrace “Orientalism” when he moved to the North. Hewould fit in the lies that the northerners had made against theArabs. This enabled him to embody the stereotypes, as well as getrevenge against the former colonizers. To make them feel the pain,Mustafa would hurt what they most treasured, their women. Likewise towhat the colonizers did to the Arabs, he was as well raping theirmost sacred elements. According to Mustapha, colonizer changed themost sacred things of Arabs including their way of life, theircountryside, their language, and most important, their women. To makea reverse colonization, Mustapha engaged in love affairs with theBritish women. He would have sex with them, and later leave themheart-broken. He spread rumors that women were infected with a“disease” yet he did so to his advantage. Takieddine-Amyuni(26) states that whenever Mustapha “consumed” a woman, the womanwould be left in a suicidal state because they believed that the“disease” destroyed them. As a result, several women committedsuicide due to the Mustapha’s lies and empty promises.
The“” is greatly featured theposition of women in the society. Normally, the Arab cultureconsidered women as inferior to men and as a sex object. Forinstance, Hosna, Takieddine-Amyuni(30) wife, was forced in marriage and was exploited in every aspectof life. Surprisingly, she is even condemned by her fellow women whenshe refused to marry Wad rays after Mustapha disappearance. Hosna isa representative of the modern Arab woman, and her revolt signifies anew phase of Arab women.
Thenarrator portrays progressive political views in the novel. He is agreat advocate of women rights, and he believes that people should beacquitted with cultures. Nevertheless, he does not intervene incorruption either at the national level or the personal level. Forinstance, he does say anything about Hosna bint Mahmoud forcedmarriage. At his workplace in the Ministry of Education, thenarrator does not speak out about his rampant corrupt workers (Salih56).On the other hand, Mahjoub and Mustapha talk about the responsibilityof the educated people and how they can help Sudanese citizen to maketheir country a better place. Unlike the narrator, Mahjoub isintensively engaged in Agricultural Project Committee, and he is alsoa village leader. Further, Salih believes that to serve in acommunity is to be active, as well as speak out against any kind ofinjustice.
Thenarrator blames the Europeans for the damage in Africa. Likewise, healso blames the Sudanese politicians due to their corruption. Salihurges that European and Islam are more similar than they aredifferent. He bases his argument on the fact that the Sudanesepoliticians and their predecessors are all corrupt. The narratorbelieves there is ultimately an insignificant difference betweenEurope and Sudan. In the novel, the narrator tried to elaborate howthe colonial subjects were forced to duplicate their colonizerslanguage, manner, and mentality. Similarly, Salih(63) explains how the colonizers encourage their colonial subjects toadopt their cultural habits, values, and assumptions. In this pointof view, Mustapha tried to transcend his colonial values and replacethem with Western values. Mustapha and Meheimeed rejected thecolonial culture and struggle and instead subverted oriental point ofview. The western culture strived to survive between the North andSouth, East and West, old and new, black and white, modernity andtraditionalism in the Arab world to make new culturaltransformations. Mustapha participated fully in the English societyand tried as much as possible to fit in the community. He desired tobecome one of them. On the contrary, Meihemmed did not feel like awesterner.
Mustaphatrip to the western countries is considered as a form ofcolonization. He seduced independent western women to fulfill hissexual desires. He dominates the relationship and treat women as asex object. Unfortunately, these women see him as exotic andexciting. As one time, he engaged in a colonist relationship withJean Morris, and when things come to the worse, he stabbed her todeath. Salih explains the British contradiction attitudes toward thepeople they colonize. For instance, they subjugate their countriesand treat them like animals while at the same time they mythologizethem through Orientalist. Salih(56) states that British never tried to consider Easterners as theirfellow humans. While in Britain, Jean Morris scorns Mustapha whileIsabella Seymour would worship him. Nonetheless, none of therelationships is healthy. Generally, the westerners were eitherdehumanizing or romanticizing the easterners such as Richard, theanalyst and Robinsons respectively.
Throughoutthe novel, colonization process is reversed. Mustapha states “I’llliberate Africa”. As a lecturer, Mustapha managed to gain powerover his European counterpart through his sexual conquests. Hemanaged to colonize them both physically and psychologically, andthey would submit to his wishes. At one time, Mustapha even declaredhimself as “colonizer”. After releasing they were “colonized”these women felt disappointed, cheated, and some resulted incommitting suicide. As a postcolonial text, Mustapha is too “English”for the Sudanese and too “Sudanese” for the English (Salih63).He exposes the colonialism perils by exploiting western women. Thenovel criticizes colonialism and explains how it handles violencecaused by people against colonialism. Considering “Season ofMigration to the North” from a postcolonial perspective Mustaphaand the narrator were an attacker and a passive defender of westernculture and eastern culture respectively. Towards the end of thenovel, both characters strive to improve their world with by rebirthor death on the verge of modernization.
Salih,Tayeb. Seasonof Migration to the North.New York Review of Books, 2009.
Takieddine-Amyuni,Mona. "Images of Arab Women in Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz,and by Tayeb Salih." InternationalJournal of Middle East Studies 17.01(1985): 25-36.