I have to write an essay to bring some theoretical position/idea into a dialogue with the text and try to show how the theoretical position or positions you are applying can lead to insights about...

I have to write an essay to bring some theoretical position/idea into a dialogue with the text and try to show how the theoretical position or positions you are applying can lead to insights about the literary text but also how the text may or may not resist the theoretical ideas discussed. Integrate your reading of the text with theory, and avoid giving lengthy and unnecessary summaries of the theories used.

This is the text:

His mother phoned him, her voice loud over the bustle of the Central Post Office. ‘Why did you send Samra back for a holiday so soon? Is anything wrong between you?’

He was taken aback. ‘No, of course not.’ marrying Samra had helped him feel settled and comfortable, well fed and looked after. He had liked working late into the night, kept company by her presence, the click of the spoon as she stirred sugar in tea, the chiming of her bangles, her movements when she stood up to pray in that early summer dawn. ‘Did she complain about anything?’

‘No.’ his mother’s voice was casual. ‘She just mentioned that you don’t pray.’

‘Oh.’ he could not think of a reply. The corridor of the hostel was empty. He stared at the vending machine which sold chocolates and drinks. Samra had been fascinated by this machine. She had tried to get it to work with Sudanese coins. He missed her.

‘Is it true that you want to stay on in London after you get your degree?’ this was why she had telephoned. The nip of anxiety.

‘Yes, it would be better for me.’ His PhD was now within reach.
He had been invited to a conference in Bath, he was stepping through the door, and after all this hard work, he intended to stay and reap what he had sown.

His mother gasped down the line, ‘How can you leave me all alone in my old age?’
He smiled because he had brothers and sisters living in Khartoum. There was no need for her melodramatic response. ‘Don’t you want the best for me? You are the one who is always complaining that Sudan is going from bad to worse.’
His mother sighed. First he had threatened to abandon his studies and return without a degree, now he was threatening the opposite! She had married him off so that he would not drift away, so that he would stay close. ‘But what if things improve here, son? If they strike oil or make lasting peace, would you not be missing out?’

‘I can’t decide my future based on speculations.’ simulate a system over time, build a model, play around with a set of variables, observe what happens when you introduce a shock. This was his work.

Back in his room, Majdy noticed the silence. The floor looked strangely larger. Samra had folded her prayer mat and put it away in her side of the cupboard. She had not needed to take it with her. In Khartoum there were plenty of other mats. Mats with worn faded patches in those places where people pressed their foreheads and stood with wet feet. Majdy opened the cupboard and touched the smooth, velvet material. It stirred in him a childish sense of exclusion, of being left out, like a pleasure he had denied himself and now forgotten the reasons why. She had held the day up with pegs; not only her day but his too. Five pegs. And now morning billowed into afternoon, into night, unmarked.

Asked on by padrepio

2 Answers

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Majdy has fallen into a familiar trap of binary oppositions. This is the notion that concepts, cultures, and individuals themselves will fall under one or two categories. In short, things are black and white, this or that, etc. To be sure, there are cultural differences between England and Sudan. However, the trap of binary oppositions is a structure of "opposing." Therefore, Majdy has become convinced that the cultures of Sudan and England oppose one another - in significant and/or all ways.

In a postcolonial era, this is understandable, especially dealing with England and a postcolonial country such as Sudan. However, Majdy has made up his mind that England is free from all of Sudan's typical, uncivilized, unindustrialized problems. That is, until he sees some beggars in London. It is only then, when he sees a flaw in the so called flawless England (the West) that he has some inclination that his wife was correct to miss Sudan (the East). Seeing a flaw in England is the real catalyst for Majdy to feel that he might actually be "missing out" on his home culture in Sudan. Because of Majdy's education (and perhaps a typically Westernized masculine role of needing objective evidence rather than emotional urging), he needs physical evidence to change his mind. His wife's pleas to make him re-appreciate Sudan's culture have no effect on him. He had become enamored with Western culture - that is, until the beggars. 

Until this realization (the feeling of being "left out"), Majdy had embraced a Westernized perception of the East comparable to Edward Said's definition of "Orientalism." This stems from the West/East binary and is a product of European colonialism and the thinking that motivated it; namely, that the West is superior to the East. Majdy adopts this thinking, maybe at first to fit in, but eventually, he becomes biased by it. His wife is also a bit biased, being partial to Sudan, but she did attempt to avoid the binary opposition of separation of cultures. She took in London and appreciated its conveniences without losing an appreciation for Sudanese culture. This story shows the trap of binary oppositions, namely West/East. It also shows the difficulty (but also potential benefits) of living among two, although not absolutely in opposition, quite different cultures.