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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.


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