How does Farah's Links deal with themes of nationality and identity?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a very interesting topic, and one that lends itself quite nicely to three body paragraphs of an essay.  I will deal with each idea in turn, then divide the idea of "identity" into two pertinent parts. 


The nationality is that of Somalia, a nation with little nationalism or patriotism because there is no currency, no government, no law, and no leader.  We are presented in detail with Somalia's history.  Somalia has been "invaded, conquered, and colonized,"  all with grim results.  Jeebleh, the main character and speaker, leaves the comfort of New York City in order to return to his native Somalia on a mission.  Jeebleh, upon his immediate entrance into Somalia, is thrown into a country torn with political unrest. He tries to settle into Mogadishu and establish friendship, but everything proves difficult.  In fact, Jeebleh continually identifies his native Somalia with Dante's hell from The Inferno.  Here, in Somalia, THIS is the national identity:

In these unsettling times, everyone's fate, actions, dreams, hates, and aspirations were seen, understood, and interpreted in stark political contexts; distrust was the order of the day, and everyone was suspicious of everybody else.

Identity in Somalia

In reality, the first body paragraph (above) could be repeated here.  Jeebleh receives his identity FROM his Somalian nationality.  Fortunately or unfortunately, Jeebleh identifies strongly with his native country.  That is why he returned!  To leave the comfort of America and return to political unrest, one MUST identify with that particular country.  Jeebleh continues to seek normalcy, but all in vain.  It reflects the beauty of Farah's writing that he can combine politics and personal crises with such precision, that is to say Farah combines nationality with identity.  Jeebleh searches for his mother's grave while he tries to solve the mystery of Raasta's disappearance and Caloosha's murder.

Identity and Gender

Here is where identity gets interesting for Farah.  Farah always speaks in condemnation of the oppression of women in Africa.  He does so again in Links. Raasta, who Jeebleh seeks to find and rescue, is a big symbol of femininity.  Is it an exaggeration or a truth when Faahiye proclaims the following:

Peace of mind will descend, halo-like, on whoever holds the girl (Raasta) in his or her embrace.

In his opinion, even though Somalia continues in unrest, Farah believes that it is the MEN of Somalia that have caused this turmoil.  Further, Farah believes that it is the WOMEN of Somalia who will save the country from the errors of men!  Farah, then, in being a man, gives Somalian women such great power through his words:  the power to save the country, and in turn, save all of Africa!

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