This book is the complex journey back in time to 1940’s Cairo, in a little dead end alley where not much happens and community is very important. The story mostly details the lives of Abbas, Hussain Kirsha, and Hamida as they break away from the community and each end up in some sort of trouble. Naguib Mahfouz clearly illustrates in this novel that relationships such as inter-community relations, like marriage and religion are becoming less important due to the British imperialism. The results of elevating the individual ends in the death of Abbas and mutilation of Hamida, showing Mahfouz’s feeling on the individual as opposed to the community.
In Midaq Alley Mahfouz addresses the often dysfunctional relationships in the alley that constitutes as marriage. Since the arrival of the British, women have had a bit more options besides the traditional arranged marriage, as illustrated by Hamida’s decisions to become a prostitute, her love of wealth, and her disdain for the simple marriage offered by Abbas.
They were girls from the Darasa district, who, taking advantage of wartime employment opportunities...and now worked in public places...Some even used unaccustomed language and did not hesitate to walk arm in arm and stroll about the streets of illicit love. They exuded a boldness and secret knowledge
As for Hamida, her age and her ignorance had deprived her of their opportunities... she did not hesitate to criticize them, even in fun. (Mahfouz 40, 41)
Her feelings toward [Abbas] were strange and complicated. On the one hand, he was the only young man in the alley who would make a suitable husband for her, while she...dreamed of a husband like the rich contractor her neighbor had married. The truth was she neither loved nor wanted him; at the same time she could not dismiss him. (42) As well as the disdain the individual has for marriage, there are instances in the book that seem to reveal that marriage is not as great as it seems. There are...
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