Moral Attitueds Toward the Thousand and One Night

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The entire basis for The Thousand and One Knights is Shahrayar has become exhausted by the infidelity of his wife and that of his brother's. Scheherazade's purpose for the tales is to show the king that not all women are bad and that men can be evil sometimes too. There are many women in the tales who act virtuously (the she-demon in the second merchant's tale, the farmer's daughter in the third merchant's tale, etc.).

Of course, the societal perception of women is very different from today. In the tale of the farmer who understands animals, he eventually beats the wife black and blue, she learns obedience, and "everyone was happy." While this aspect of society is shown, the morality of women is not attacked or praised: it is shown as being variable, just like any person's.

I have not noticed any overt racial discrimination in the tales. Of course, people from different lands or regions are portrayed as strange or downright evil, but there isn't any racism the way we would consider it. The Blackamoors are simply the Arabian people from the area farther west than the setting for the tales (the name for the Moors- an Arab/Berber people comes from this). The tales of the ox and the donkey

The vizier fears that his daughter will merely suffer. True to his character and to his role, he does not say so directly, but instead tells her a story of a donkey who, proud of his intelligence, schemes to trick the master of the farm into excusing the sweet, simple ox from labor. The scheme works, but not as the donkey expected. The wealthy farmer orders the donkey driven into the field to work in the ox's place. In using a story to warn Shahrazad, the vizier engages in narrative imagining, a form of thinking before acting. In trying to change her mind through story, he unwittingly endorses the very strategy he asks her to reject--to try to change the king's mind through stories. Narrative imagining--story--is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities...
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