In the Country of Men

by Hisham Matar

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How can I analyze Najwa as a character from In the Country of Men?

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Written by Libyan author Hisham Matar and published in 2006, In the Country of Men tells the story of Suleiman el-Dewani, a nine-year-old boy living in Tripoli, Libya, under Qaddafi’s regime.

Najwa ‘Mama’ is Suleiman’s mother. She is around twenty-three years of age when the novel begins. Faraj, Suleiman’s father, much loved by his family, is a businessman who spends a lot of his time away from home. Faraj is a democrat who is punished by the government for his political views. Despite his father’s strong defense of his political beliefs against adversity and his mother’s submissive unwavering support, Suleiman does not recognize them as heroes. He is a naive young boy who sees only the physically brave as being heroic.

Najwa, oppressed by her family from a young age, had been ambitious. She had dreamt of freedom and independence and hoped to achieve these through education. However, as ordained by her culture, she was forced to become a wife and a mother. Despite this, Najwa shows courage in committing herself to the life she has been forced into. She is fiercely loyal towards her husband and, in accepting this life, Najwa demonstrates that heroism takes many forms.

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