While reading Maps, we can see that it is a story mainly about occupied and mutilated Somalia. To explore and illustrate that idea, Nuruddin Farah uses the character of Askar, a little boy who does not know who he is or where he belongs to. When his mother died, that was Misra, whose national identity is questioned, who kept him. She actually becomes almost his mother. The passage we are going tofocus on is quite interesting because it illustrates a major event in Askar’s evolution as a grown-up and also as a Somali citizen. Indeed, Askar is finally separated from Misra and he enters now the world of Hilaal and Salaado. We shall then wonder in what way does this passage embody a relevant step in Askar’s construction of an identity. Dealing first the unique set-up and the shifty genderroles of Hilaal and Salaado, then we will focus on Askar’s relationship with Salaado as a substituted mother, finally we will analyze the notion of Askar’s personal and national evolution.
When Askar arrives in Mogadiscio, Salaado and Hillal take care of him and contribute to his intellectual and physical formation. They form a modern and unconventional couple, with a “reversal of male andfemale role” as Askar underlines it. They are both intellectual and teachers, but while Salaado is teaching things to Askar, Hilaal focuses more on the house chores: cooking, washing up and drying the dishes, he isn’t dependant on his wife for pressing his clothes for example. Askar says that Hilaal is more “on the periphery of life”: he teaches him little, practical things, while Salaado teaches himthe essential. The fact of seeing a male doing the washing up was striking at that time. In a way, it shows Salaado and Hilaal’s open-mindedness. Askar considers their couple as a “unique set-up”: he has the impression of being part of something special and he considers himself as “fortunate”.
In fact, Askar is deeply admiring his Uncle and Aunt. He senses in them a kind of superiority aboveother people, as he says “they were heads above most men and most women”. They have a great impact on Askar’s formation, that is why he mentions his “destiny” in the first paragraph of the passage. Askar is fascinated both by his Uncle and Aunt, but when it comes to Hilaal, the admiration becomes a slight sense of fear. He says that Hilaal is “equally kind” compared to Salaado, but there is a longdevelopment on his voice, which is deep and impressive. This voice follows Askar everywhere and hypnotizes him. The voice is personified by Askar and separated from Hilaal, although it is in his voice. It reminds us that Askar is still a kid with a lot of imagination and that the couple is presented to us through his eyes. He is so captivated by the voice that he cannot focus both on his Uncle andhis voice. For example, he says: “all other voices and life’s preoccupation are rendered inexistent when he speaks”.
Hilaal, compared to Salaado, is a more blurred character; he is not as active as Salaado in Askar’s formation. He is ready to answer to the question “grudgingly”, but he leaves the main teachings to his wife. That is why the description of Salaado is central in the passage.
In thewhole novel, a great importance is given to the feminine figures. Askar seems to feel closer to women than to men, he himself says it in the novel that he feels he has a feminine part inside him. By the way, Salaado is a major feminine figure in many ways. She seems to be the Man of the household, “she could drive herself in the car”. There is an emphasis put on the importance she has in Askarpoint of view. She is dominant in his life as well as she dominates the text, many times in the text the possessions pronouns which refer to Salaado are in the text: “you saw her”; “you could think of her”; “followed her”; “body close to hers”.
Just like Misra, she seems to have bewitched him. That admiration seems to be intellectual, affective and physical. It is interesting to see how much...
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