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Narrative Structure: Lodge’s idea applied to Part 1 of Farah’s Maps

Lodge’s states: “ The structure of a narrative is like the framework of girders that hold ups a modern high-rise building: you cant see it, but it determines the edifice’s shape and characters” (216).

I completely agree with this concept that Lodge presents on narrative structure being the framework of the story. Narrative structure gives a piece of work its backbone that creates an infrastructure of meaning and purpose that forms an overall shape to the character and produces a theme. The narrative structure affects the process in which the characters evolve in the storyline, such as Askar. The story bounces around between flashbacks and flash-forwards of Askar’s life. For example, the first few pages of the book present Askar as an 18-year boy living with his Uncle. We can see the overlap between the flashback and flash-forward when the storyline switches into memories of his childhood in Kallafo spoken in a second-narrator tense. On page 17, Askar is receiving appraisal from both Salaado and Hilaal, instantly the storyline presents a flashback of him being seven just arriving to Mogadishu for the first time, and him trying to write a letter to Misra. After a long letter cuts into the flashback, throwing us right into a flash-forward of the letter written by Hilaal to Askar when he was 14 and considering running away from his home to fight for his country in war (19-22). The relationship between the flashback and flash-forwards exemplifies a disorientated chronology of the story, and the narrative structure as a whole because of the lack of a focus point in story but the empowering message shown through Askar’s character on how once truly can struggle to construct meaning in life, and find true basis to self- discovery. This mixing of flash-forwards and flashbacks reflect the narrative structure contribution to the central themes of the novel, that is, Askar’s ambiguity as to who he is.

“The narrator is wrestling with his own conscience” (217)

            This concept relates strongly with Maps, because we as the readers can see how Askar struggles to connect with himself forcing a story of overlapped events from his past and future. Using the flashback and flash-forward technique contributes to the distinctive narrations that are conveyed throughout the novel.

“ Yes. You are a question to yourself” (Farah 3)

“ I found it extremely difficult to explain myself” (Farah 38).

“ He couldn’t tell how many hours it taken him to get to where he was or whether he had been running in circles” (Farah 43)

These different narrations help distinguish the multiple events that occur at random times as Askar remembers. At first we are under the impression that Askar doubts himself leading to confusion. Then it overlaps his difficulties on his capability to express freely because truly he doesn’t know who he is deep inside. Finally, we can assume the Askar understand his fragmentation to connect both his past and future and feels that his live has evolved in him running from the truth that appears through reality. It is through narrative structure we understand the complexities of self-confliction that drives Askar in circles in his rigid journey to discovery of one-self. Farah mentions a quote in between the two parts of the novel, the interlude, a pause in which we can assume Askar takes to settle in finding a deeper meaning and answers to his problems. “ Life can only be lived forward and understood backward” Kierkegaard, This reflects the flashback and flash-forward technique that is used to construct a message that I believe Farah is trying to convey. To overcome the hill of doubt one must accept the past to truly understand the future and what it holds. Reliving the moments in the past and finding a bridge between the flashbacks and flash-forwards can lead to a resolution of Askar’s self-discovery that he thrives to grasp from the start. It is narrative structure that provides an overall symmetry to the plot of the story.


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