Salih writes about characters from poorer parts of northern Sudan while Ghali writes about city people in Egypt. The main characters in both of these books are male. The men in the books also meet a number of women and from time to time there is discussion of gender relations in British society and in their homeland also. Contact with Western society, and with London in particular, makes the authors think about potential changes to local family and social relationships, and especially to gender roles.
In the first novel it is quite difficult to work out what the author’s views on the topic of gender are, because the male narrator has quite a different perspective from the other main character, Mustafa Sa’eed. The village in which they meet is rather traditional which means that life runs on the basis of Islamic law. The narrator describes his family, with emphasis on his grandfather who is a good male role model for him. There are also a number of elderly males who make a lot of sexist jokes about women. One of these characters, Wad Rayyes, seems to represent the dominant view :
‘He had been much married and much divorced, taking no heed of anything in a woman except that she was a woman, taking them as they came, and if asked about it replying “A stallion isn’t finicky”.’ (Salih: 66)
The narrator observes this behaviour and repeats the animal comparison when he says (Salih: 81) “Wad Rayyes, who charged women as he charged donkeys”. This kind of womanizing behavior is also displayed by Mustafa Sa’eed who goes after several different British women when he is in London. He actually marries Jean Morris and she compares him to “a savage bull that does not weary of the chase” (Salih: 33). The fact that Sa’eed kills Jean Morris and drives several of his lovers to suicide underlines the aggression that this character feels in his romantic relationships. At one point Sa’eed describes his bedroom in ...
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