The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although the reader’s sympathies are probably drawn in certain specific directions, in these works the author is not necessarily partisan or heavy-handed in his treatment of any major figure. The novels are all constructed around a series of episodes, each of which allows scope for the viewpoints of various characters. Even the all-too-human hopes and fears of the seemingly loathsome Muhtar are allotted some attention. At intervals, the fates of important individuals are discussed from the points of view of other interested parties. In addition, at times, there are some interesting suggestions of mass psychology as well, in which hearsay and rumors are transmitted in rapid succession among a number of people. Nevertheless, such effects, which evoke the social atmosphere of rural Turkey, do not lessen the author’s concern for the particular features of various individuals. Some characters are depicted in greater detail than others, but none is really slighted. Moreover, without descending to satire or mere caricature, the idiosyncratic, indeed eccentric qualities of many people are fully portrayed; while the villagers often seem to form groups or to take sides about significant issues, each is depicted in uniquely specific terms. They all have their foibles and peculiar penchants, which in many cases seem to give them a sort of quirky charm.

The older men occupy a special position; they are accorded tolerance or esteem, sometimes, indeed, in spite of what they may do or say. In particular, Tasbas is regarded as a repository of mystical wisdom, and not merely because he works in obscure or mysterious ways. Because of the public veneration that has grown up around Tasbas over the years, the Muhtar and his cohorts cannot proceed against him directly; for his part, Tasbas gives voice more explicitly to the others’ distrust of their officials. Possibly for this reason, the villagers are willing to consider his occasional misdeeds as peccadilloes, and he incurs no lasting censure. Similarly, his solemnity and outward serenity allow them to overlook his practical inability to work natural wonders. Among the others, there seems to be a need to believe in his special powers. Halil, on the other hand, is regarded more as a colorful old rogue who represents the living embodiment of historical traditions. He is not always taken seriously, and he has a tendency to ramble on about past events after the others have grown tired of such matters; nevertheless, his neighbors are bemused by his uncanny ability to survive escapades of every sort. He is also granted a certain amount of the respect that old brigands have often received in rural Turkey. He is not regarded as particularly dangerous to the common people, and there is some question as to whether he has been very successful in his exploits, but his genial defiance of established authority leads others to believe that there may be ways around the arbitrary demands of their formal leaders. Halil’s efforts at self-enrichment are more pathetic than serious; the villagers seem to let such episodes pass, once they have denounced and humiliated him for the moment. He is sometimes suspected of being behind certain untoward events, but the others evince a genuine concern when Halil himself disappears for any period of time.

Among the younger generation, Memidik is portrayed in some detail, although only at intervals, whereas others are depicted largely as examples of unusual local types. Memidik is approximately twenty years old and has served as a corporal with the army engineers; whatever aspirations for personal advancement he may have...

(The entire section is 1472 words.)