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Monthly Archives: January 2015

Introducing a character (Omar S)

Introducing a character is very critical in any novel, because before the character speaks or has any interaction with the reader the other characters describe him or her and give you a vivid image of the character. Lodge states that “character is arguably the most important single component of the novel…but nothing can equal the great tradition of the European novel” (67). Lodge also thinks that introducing a character is one of the most important aspects in a novel. For example when Askar began to describe Misra before she had any dialogue all we knew about her was what we had heard. Narrator said “she was the cosmos” (Farah 6). This means that Misra was the world to him and she meant everything to him. Also when the narrator says “she became a mother to you” (8). Even though though Askar was not her actual son she took care of him and cared for him and loved him just like her own. So reading about Misra before she began to talk was very important because reading so much about her gave a lot of background and helped us understand who she is as a character.

Lodge says “modern novelists usually prefer to let the facts about a character emerge gradually, diversified, or actually conveyed, by action and speech.”(68).What Lodge had said is exactly what happen in the book Maps. Farah lets the narrator in part one of the book gradually talk about Misra and goes further and further into her story until we know what had happened. For example in the beginning of chapter one we did not know how Misra had found Askar and why she cared so much about him but later in the novel we found out about what had happened to her child and that filled in that gap for us. So Farah falls under the modern novelist because he follows the way they introduce characters.

Finally Lodge says that “those green fingernails on grubby hands are what I first think of when her name is mentioned” (69). This just shows how the first thing that is said about a character before they even have any dialogue in the novel shapes up how you perceive them throughout the rest of the book. While I was reading maps the first thing that was said about Misra was “Misra noticed that noticed that your eyes were full of mistrust” (Farah 5). As soon as I read this I knew she cared for Askar and loved him just like a real mother loves there child. This stuck with me throughout part one because it was the first thing I read about Misra.

Duration (Nasser)


                David Lodge informally defines duration in literature as fictional time, or where a comparison is drawn between the amount of time taken for the actions or events to occur in reality and the amount of time they take to occur in a piece of literature. Lodge also stakes the claim that duration is a factor that dictates the tempo of the work and how the audience perceives the flow of events.

In his novel Maps, Nuruddin Farah employs duration to shift through the stages of the main character, Askar’s, life as he strives to find his own personal identity amidst the conflict riddled Somalia. Just as the point of view and time setting shift in the novel, duration does as well. This is demonstrated as Farah chooses to dwell on events and scenarios for pages, providing and creating vivid imagery and description. However, in reality, these events would occur over a short period of time. For instance, it takes Farah roughly three pages to contextualize the birth of Farah and his identity due to the unconventional nature of his entrance into the world, “you were a creature given birth to by notions formulated in heads…you searched, with your hands up in the air, for someone to touch” (3-5). Farah chooses to prolong this particular event, one that would be occur in the space of mere minutes in reality, to emphasize the development of setting and character. This is meant to foreshadow the central theme and plot of the novel, as Farah attempts to stress the struggle for identity amidst political and social chaos. Thus, Farah selectively chooses his use of duration in accordance with its pertinence to the novel and the development of Askar.

Another manner in which the technique of duration is utilized by Farah is that of the shifts in time and stages of Askar’s life with no premise or warning. This is demonstrated in chapter three which begins with a dream, “And he was running and running” (43). Farah chooses to abruptly shift from Askar describing the confusion he feels about himself and who he truly is, to a dream. The reason Farah chooses to do this is to mirror both the confusion that Askar feels about his identity, as well as the confusion and predictable nature that is stemming from the novel being set in the political and social pandemonium of Somalia. This can be inferred as the audience must read for pages of this long and seemingly arbitrary reverie that Askar is having, before even realizing that it is such.

Connecting Maps to Lodge’s chapter concerning Motivation

We hope to derive knowledge of the human heart and mind from reading novels.

We hope to derive knowledge about ourselves from reading Maps, but a persona such as the one in chapter 1 makes this very hard to do. Nurrdiddin Farah makes a few, although intriguing, strange depictions of the way Misra finds value and purpose in Askar; “She caught the look you cast in her direction the way a clumsy child grabs a ball and she framed the stare in the memory of her photographic brain. She developed it, printed it, in different colours, each of which expressed her mood.” Readers may struggle to understand Askar’s motifs for his actions, and that piece from chapter one is one example that explains why. The only action in the paragraph is about what Askar is doing (“he casts a look in her direction”), yet none of the information provides readers with insight into Askar. If you really look at that paragraph, its all about what Askar is to Misra; Askar is a foundation for which Misra builds her mood and attitude. There is no premise that readers can use to infer what Askar is reciprocating from the look he is casting. That is why readers struggle to answer questions like “What is Askar to everyone else?’” Or more importantly, “to himself?”

-One could say that the compensation for this lack of information is that readers can understand Misra’s motifs instead, and that one is capable of deriving meaning about the human heart and mind from Misra; but anything obtained from Misra could not be validated as a natural act of the human heart or mind since the narrator isn’t Misra, and it may not Askar either.

-One could also accept the idea that Misra is in control of both what Askar is to her and to himself because of the idolization Askar seems to have for this Ethipian woman. The problem here, though, is that when Askar puts his mind in front of Misra to build upon and create something out of, she does not see herself as worthy enough to do: “when it came to how to help your brain develop, she said she couldn’t trust herself to deal with that satisfactorily.”

Although one may struggle to infer the motives of obvious characters, this does not leave him/her with nothing to learn about the human mind and heart. Nurridin Farah is an artistic writer whose subtle words communicate big ideas. Although the entire paragraph was talking about the implications Askar’s look had Misra, it did so by portraying themes of human behavior. These themes include a tendency of children to be clumsy. Although the reader is not aware of whom the narrator might be, he/she can assume that they are one that is infatuated by and analytical of human nature; and that may be something of greater concentration than Misra or Askar,

Motivation is illustrated differently in different kinds of novels. In some novels, the novelist aims to convince us that the characters act as they do because of a combination of internal and external factors. In others, such as traditional romance, a single cause can explain behavior; the hero is always courageous because he is the hero.

Readers often feel inclined to figure out why characters behave the way that they do probably because that it what we do in real life. The difference between real life and Maps, though, is that in the novel the behavior upon which we base our judgments comes from an unknown identity. Readers do not know who is speaking in the first chapter of the novel, and are therefore forced to rely and accept any information given.

On the first page of the novel (technically page 3) Nuruddin Farah illustrates the idea that your own mind may not be entirely be your own. For instance, Askar “doubt[s] , at times, if [he] exist[s] outside [his] own thoughts, outside [his] own head, or Misra’s.”

Misra, however, believes that Askar “had made himself”. This contradiction of beliefs presents the reader with an option to choose whom to believe, or accept both definitions. This is an illustration of how Maps is not a novel of structured “heroes” and “villains”; all the characters stand for something different than the one before. Even more, the reader is given no choice but to believe in the ideas presented until they are contradicted at later points in the novel.

Lodge explores the idea that the novelist has the power create and explain thoughts of the characters in his/her novel. This provides readers with insight into why the character behaved the way they did. Lodge illustrates that this power that the novelist has is one that is not found in a biographer, or historian.

The novelist, Nurridin Farah uses this power strategically. Farah doesn’t tell readers all about the characters in simple terms, or through a clear medium. Instead, he makes things complicated and he changes points of view repeatedly. As explained in the blogpost on Point of View by Amina, this may be beneficial to the thematic development of the novel; it , however, is not so helpful in understanding the character of Askar. Defining Askar is accompanied with many complications as the external social forces of the novel and his internal thoughts do not run parallel to each other.

As discussed earlier, Lodge’s ideas that a character will act a certain way because that is their defined role. The novel exhibits this same idea, only it is exhibited from the perspective of Askar and not from the narrator. Askar explains early on in the novel that he did not always call Misra “Mother”. He actually didn’t call Misra mother until he “met the larger world which consisted of a large number of children”. Askar later decides to refrain from calling Misra anything until they are in the privacy of their own home. This is representative of how the social world can impact personal relationships, define identity, and shape our actions.


Lodge’s ideas applied to Part 1of Maps

Loge said “Irony consists of saying the opposite of what you mean, or inviting an interpretation different from the surface meaning of your words” and the way it applies to part one of Maps is that Maps is supposed to be about finding yourself- who you are- your identity, but it’s the opposite of that. The big irony in this book is Identity, because Farah is using more than one perspective to tell the story also he uses them to Identify the character, but you really can’t tell anyone who they are you have to find that out on your own, because no one know who you truly are but yourself. When Farah uses the three perspective he is confusing the reader and that’s irony right there because, the theme of the book is Identity, but when Farah is confusing the reader then it’s the opposite of books theme.
There are three types of Irony: 1) Verbal  2) Situation 3) Dramatic.
Verbal Irony is when it’s distinguished from literal statements by any peculiarity form.
A dramatic irony would be when the reader would know something that the character didn’t.
Lastly a situation irony is what is expected to happen and what actually happens. “It has been said that all novels are essentially about the passage from innocence to experience, about discovering the reality that underlies appearances” this could relate to Askar and how he is still considered innocence, because he hasn’t yet found himself and he hasn’t discovered himself. Also I believe that Askar represents Somalia in this book, because he is trying to find out his Identity, and the time that this book was written in Somalia had been taken over and it too was trying to find it’s true meaning and its Identity so Askar is really the country and his people and he is representing how the people of Somalia are trying to find them self through that hard time. Irony plays a big role in this part of the book and as I said the biggest irony is Identity and finding your voice.

-Manal Al-ghamdi
12th grade
English A SL

Aporia (Abdullah)

In David Lodge’s chapter on aporia, Lodge states that aporia is used to “denote real.. doubt about an issue, uncertainty as to how to proceed in a discourse.” (219)

In the novel, Maps by Nuruddin Farah, the events and actions of the main characters revolve around the doubt that is prevalent throughout the novel. The characters base their actions on doubt and so doubt in a way is a theme of the novel. The first significant occurrence of doubt in the novel that the reader encounters is of whether Askar’s mother breastfed Askar before her death. On page 9, the narrator states that “Misra is ‘obsessed’ with the thought that you were breast-fed by her. When pressed, she would insist, ‘I know, i know for sure that she did’”. The idea of whether Askar was breastfed or not later becomes a major factor of Askar’s life, as it is what determines whether Askar killed his mother or not. If his mother breastfed him then that would mean he did not kill her. Askar believes that he did kill his mother and Misra tries to persuade him otherwise by stating that his mother breastfed him. However, Misra herself is completely certain about that.

Later on the in the novel on page 59, Askar states that he will kill Misra in order to survive. Whether he meant the statement to be literal or metaphorical is not the issue, but the issue is the fact that he has decided to take a plan of action based on knowledge that is doubtful.

Lodge later on states that the discourse that is created due to the usage of aporia does not “proceed” but “accretes”.

The accumulation of discourse can be seen when Askar learns about Misra’s betrayal and her arrival at Mogadishu. Due to Misra’s betrayal which generates further aporia, Askar does not know what to believe about himself and does not know what to do: to seek out Misra or isolate her from his life.

Also, the entire plot of the story revolves around a Somali boy who does not have a full grasp on his identity and so in this sense aporia shapes the novel. It is possible that Farah uses aporia in the novel in order to create the same feeling of doubt and uncertainty in the reader that Askar is feeling (similar to the disorienting structure of the novel). The sense of uncertainty that the reader feels is similar to Askar’s sense of uncertainty in that both he and the reader cannot confirm or be sure of any events, such as Askar killing his mother, Misra being a traitor, whether to send letters to Misra, etc.

The way that Farah switches between second person point-of-view to first person point-of-view and vice-versa and the way some of the information given by Askar and the narrator contradict convey the doubt and uncertainty that Askar lives in (this can be seen as a type of aporia). Due to the switches between the different points-of-view, the reader is able to experience Askar’s uncertainty: what should the reader believe and what should the reader discard as false?

This method of utilizing aporia, I believe, makes the reader more sympathetic towards Askar and more understanding of his predicaments.

Ending: Lodge’s Ideas Applied to Part 1 of Farah’s Maps (Mariam)

In David Lodge’s chapter about endings, he begins by stating that “conclusions are the weak points of most authors” and that “to victorian novelists endings were apt to be particularly troublesome, because they were always under pressure from readers and publishers to provide a happy one.” Lodge then proceeded to say later in his chapter “As the novel progressed I became increasingly conscious of the problem of how to end it in a way which would be satisfying on both the formal and the narrative levels.”

I agree with these statements as they are evident throughout Farah’s novel. “Maps is a story about Askars coming of age. It does not have a definite time. So the reader does not know when the beginning or the ending occurs. The novel was published in 1986, which was two years before the events supposedly occurred. “Maps” is an ongoing of a series of events that has no resolution.

As stated in a previous blogpost abut beginnings, there are two parts of this novel for a reason, and that is the development of the theme of self identity. The ending of the first part doesn’t give the reader any satisfaction, because it is not meant to end there. the purpose of an ending is to satisfy the reader/ audience. The scenes of the novel end unexpectedly. This suggests that the narrator feels there is a heavy burden as he seeks to recall events from his memory.

There isn’t a resolution or definite ending because the main focus isn’t a beginning, middle, and ending, but the journey of self discovery. Askar has intense emotions. He wants to find his identity, but is afraid of failing. This is evident when the narrator states:

” He acknowledges this stress” (pg. 40).

” My head, I feel sometimes, will explode.”

The Post Modern Family

“A familiar pattern of activity and emergence of new areas of endeavor whose activities are unclear and whose meanings and implications aren’t yet well understood” (page 1)
In the book Maps by Nurddin Farah Misra’s relationship with Askar which is her somewhat son, are unclear and not understood because he is basically her son but she doesn’t treat him as a son which confuses the reader and makes everything unclear through his childhood years.

“The dramatic shift from mothers caring for young children in the home to the use of paid providers occurred soon after in the developed world, reflecting mothers’ increasing workplace participation” (page 1)
After Misra gives birth to her own child and gets motherly attached to him, but losing him after seeing him and holding him, then she finds Askar which know replaces her son. Misra in Askars early years of life put him through things that he wasn’t suppose to be exposed to as a young child and Askar growing up and having flash backs is unhappy with what Misra had done to him.

“Parents in the post modern family may relinquish their roles as educators” (page 2)
Misra as a single mother that had lost her own son and found Askar not to long after losing her child has the role of an educator but is not able to have  done the role of an educator since she feels like an outcast un the society at the time since she does not have a male figure in her life and is raising Askar as a single mother which was unusual during that time period.

“The family has been described as an intimacy sanctuary and a zone of stability while daycare centers develop the child’s capacity to exercise self-control with respect to affective behavior” (page 2)
From the beginning of Askars childhood he felt instability ever since Misra had taken him into her arms. Misra herself felt instability after she lost her own child child which affected the way she had acted with Askar. The way Misra had acted with Askar had traumatized him and has constant flashbacks of what happened even after she had promised to not do what she has done.