What is the religious discourse throughout the relationship between Fraulein Windling and young desert Slimane?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Time of Friendship," religion is shown to represent a temporary convergence between people.  While Bowles displays religion to be something that is subjectively transcendent, the reality that surrounds it is temporal and not lasting.  It is with this in mind that Bowles shows religious discourse to represent convergence, but is unable to establish permanence in a mutable world.  The connection between Fraulein Windling and Slimane embodies such a dynamic.

The religious discourse that both Fraulein Windling and Slimane establish is based off of mutual respect in a world that fails to reflect it.  Fraulein Windling is zealous about her Christianity and Slimane does not reject her passion.  She wishes to enrich his world with her own spiritual identity and he does not show resentment towards it.  While he does affirm his own faith, he displays a sincere desire to hear the Fraulein's views.  He does not resent her and she is not shown to covet control over him.  In this light, religious discourse is shown to be one of tolerance and mutual respect for "the other," a dynamic that enhances "the time of friendship for both."  

The trashing of the Christmas reenactment is reflective of the world in which both participants in this discourse live.  Material conditions, such as Slimane wishing to eat the food, trump religious discourse.  It is clear that while both characters display a respect and affinity for the other, the material conditions that surround both do not enable such a reality to exist.  As Fraulein Windling sees what Slimane does to the Christmas rendering in order to obtain the food, it becomes clear that such brutality is the political and social reality that envelops both of them.  It is a time in which the temporal and mutable holds more weight than transcendence.  The savage manner in which the French will treat the indigenous people of Northern Africa and the brutality that will result is reflective of a state where there is no hope for a "time of friendship." Religious discourse that prompted friendship and respect is deferred for a condition where domination and repression are the realities.  When the Fraulein has to leave, it marks a point where the limitations of religious discourse are evident.  Religious discourse is not something that can overcome the social and political antagonistic divisions present.  It is in this context where the religious discourse is shown to display harmony and unity, but it is impossible to forge this over a material reality that is divisive and adversarial.

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The Time of Friendship

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