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Blogpost on Beginnings: Maps Part 2 and 3 (Nour)

In his chapter about beginnings, David Lodge begins his chapter with a description of a character named Emma Woodhouse. This leads to the questioning of when a novel actually begins. He states, “when does a novel begin?…certainly the creation of a novel rarely begins with the penning or typing of its first words”(4). After reading part two and three of this novel, I still completely agree with this statement. In my first post, I quoted Farah, “and the anxiety to become a fully grown man, a man ready for a conscription into the liberation army, ready to die and kill for his mother country” (109). This statement alluded to the actual beginning of the novel, which I predicted would be in part two. I was correct; the plot begins on page 181. Askar finds out that Misra was accused of betraying a freedom fighters’ camp in which six hundred men lost their lives. Now that Askar found out about Misra’s betrayal, he is torn between what to do. He says, “I felt I knew I had to betray one of them. I had to betray either Misra, who had been like a mother to me, or my mother country” (180), here Askar needs to make this very important decision that will impact his life. Here is where the novel begins in my opinion. Part one serves to portray Askar’s development as a separated identify from Misra, which leads to this point in the novel where he has to choose between his “mother” and his “mother country.

“We read a book slowly and hesitantly, at first. We have a lot of new information to absorb and remember, such as characters names, their relationships…the contextual details of time and place” (5). This statement made by Lodge brings me to the discussion of where the novel actually begins. The novel is split into two parts for a purpose, part one serves to help the reader understand the context of the novel and the conflicts facing the main character. Without being aware of these conflicts, such as the death of his parents, the question of whether he is a male or female, and the fact that Misra is Ethiopian, we will not be able to understand the plot. To further prove my point, Dietche commentary on Point View stated that part one all happened in Askar’s head, which means that part one cannot be regarded as the beginning of the novel because nothing really actually happened. Askar believed that after his circumcision he would become his own person separated from Misra, this thought was continued in part two. In part two, Askar receives his government identity card, as Askar reads this card, he treats it as if the card itself is informing him about his identity. Askar states that he loves Somalia and that the land is his, this statement is apart from Misra’s beliefs, which proves that not does the novel begin in part two, but Askar’s identity also fully develops.

 


11 Comments

  1. kbdoyle09 says:

    Broader questions might be asked about Farah’s choice to begin the story 2/3 the way into the novel. What is the effect of his choice, and how does this relate to the theme of the work? Perhaps Farah is emphasizing the impossibility of defining individual identity. From Chapter 1 of Part 1 Askar is defined before he is even conscious of himself as a separate entity. And as many of the posts have mentioned, Askar’s childhood connection to Misra is so intimate and intense that separating from her and rejecting her means losing himself as well. To what extent are the categories society, geography, culture, and politics use to define individuals reliable and supportive to development of a sense of self, and to what extent are they arbitrary and destructive?

    • nour97 says:

      Very interesting questions, I believe that the categories of society, geography, culture, and politics cannot define individuals because they are not reliable or supportive, rather they are destructive. My opinion is supported by part one of this novel. The fragmented recollections of Askar’s childhood and developmental stages portray the formation of Askar’s identity apart from his society and the surrounding culture. This book is written two years before the events in the book actually happened, therefore Farah chose to do so in order to convey his message about identity, that is, identity exists beyond culture and society. However, defining individuals through means of society, culture, and politics is destructive due to Farah’s beliefs about nationalism. Farah believes that nationalism in a sense dehumanizes the individual because they are blindly acting on ideas they do not quite believe. Therefore the individual should be defines apart from the factors listed above in order to get an accurate definition of their identity.

  2. alzahra97 says:

    Interesting blogpost nour!
    I also agree with you, i dont think the plot of the novel truly starts until the second part of the book. Another point that could be added as evidence of this idea is that the epigraph presented to us in the interlude quotes “Life can only be lived forward and understood backward.” It is as if Farah placed this quote for the reader to interpret Part 1 of the novel as the backward understanding of the context of the novel and of Askar’s life, and now we are ready to fully experience Askar’s life and live it with him through reading starting from part 2.

  3. danamnajib says:

    I found the idea of the novel beginning when Askar begins to fully develop his identity in part 2 of Maps quite interesting. I’ve heard multiple predictions such as: “The novel began when Askar left to live with his Aunt and Uncle” where he is still struggling to pin point who he is..”The novel began on the very first page as Askar began questioning his identity”, etc. However, I have not yet heard of the concept which states that the novel began at the end of the journey, the end of Askar’s “Who/What am I?” expedition. It may be rash to say, but maybe the story truly does begin at the resolution? However, does that mean one should tend less attention towards Askar’s journey beforehand?

    Great Job, Nour! Really interesting stuff.

  4. Good job nour I enjoyed reading this blogpost! Once more I totally agree on the lodge’s view that a story doesn’t necessarily have to being from the start but rather when the concept of the story is presented to the reader. I also agree with Zahra’s comment. I mention that quote previously and again in my blogpost and the significance it shares. I feel that Faarah chose to include this quote to show to the readers how someone can be trapped in the past but can later live up to the future by the experiences gained along the journey, just like in maps we are discovering new details about Askar’s life as he discovers them with us. I truly believe that the story begins in part two mostly due to the content and the structure it carries on.

  5. noraalmuhanna says:

    Nour, good job!
    I totally agree with you, I feel like Farah chose to do it this way to further emphasize the theme on Askar’s identity crisis. And I feel that with the structure of the story, we can truly find a connection between Askar and ourselves.

  6. manal201596 says:

    great blogpost nour!
    I agree with you that the beginning of a book truly does not start the character is faced with a dilemma in which he/she have to decided upon. The beginning of the book is always interesting to me because you never know when the actual plot of the story beings. That’s what I like about those types of books they keep you guessing and questioning and have that mystery feel to it. which I really like a book to have to keep it interesting. over all great blogpost.

  7. denagarada says:

    I agree with Nour’s blogpost, i think that the book’s true beginning is in Part 2 when Misra seeks Askar’s approval/ tries to reunite with him. We read in the Dietche commentary that the book is split into two parts, Part 1 is mostly presented as fragments of Askar’s mental state and thoughts, like a monologue of his recollections and remembrances. Part 2 is more external, containing the present day events and how his past influences his choices in present day. I think this backs up what Nour is saying. So in Dietche’s part 1, it could be the context/ backstory of whats actually happening, indicating that it is not the beginning of the book. Then when the reader is debriefed and caught up to date the book actually begins with the Askar’s conflict on whether to accept Misra or his homeland.
    Nice blogpost nourie 🙂

  8. lanahasan8 says:

    Good Job Nour!
    I agree with you when you said that the plot of the novel doesn’t start until part two. Farah probably chose this way to start the plot of the book until the 2nd part of it is to see how he reacted in the beginning to Misra and also the fact of him having flashback of his childhood and what happened to him as a child could help the reader understand Askar’s character.

  9. eabulhawa says:

    Very interesting post but I respectfully disagree with you. I personally do not believe that the beginning of the novel is in part 2 but it starts on the very first page. I believe that Farah wanted the reader to go through Askar’s character development as Askar is finding himself then introducing the story in the second part so the reader can understand the decisions Askar made in part 2. Evidence of this is that in part 2, Askar has developed an identity, but in part 1 Askar identifies himself as an extension of Misra

  10. kbdoyle09 says:

    I also understand the scene at the very end of the novel as one that leaves the question of who Askar really is unclear. In dream-like prose, policemen come to the door of the apartment where Askar lives with his uncle and aunt. Some critics interpret this ending to mean that Askar actually did kill Misra, and the police are coming to arrest him.

    I interpret it very differently, however. Hilaal and Salaado are very secretive and protective of Askar, and try their best to conceal his connection to Misra, especially after her disappearance. I believe Misra was murdered by the Somali police, and that they now suspect Askar (and perhaps Hilaal and Salaado, who don’t exactly conform to their society’s expectations of male and female roles), just as Askar suspected Misra of being a traitor based mainly on rumor and hearsay, merely because she was “Ethiopian” and he was “Somali.” At 17, Askar has been separated from her for years, and he leans toward relying on his identity as a Somali as a basis for decision-making.
    If one views Askar as a symbol for Somalia (as I do), the ending can be seen as a warning of what might happen if blind nationalism continues to guide Somalian government policies and public life. In the brutality and oppression that comes with trying to destroy the “other”, one may well end up destroying oneself.

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