Chapters 36–42 Summary
Last Updated on February 24, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 986
The narrator describes Abdu Muhammad, the baker of Harran. He is a hard worker during the day and a joyful party companion in the early evening, and he goes home later in the evening to indulge in drugs. Around the bakery, he hangs partially concealed drawings of nearly naked women, which he arranges artistically. More people come to town and create more and more work for a busy Abdu Muhammad. The people praise and flatter him to get what they want. They also knock at his door late at night when he is doing drugs, which puts him in a bad mood. When he is in a good mood, he passionately describes his pictures to others, which they find uncomfortably exciting. Another bakery opens, and they are rivals at first but then divide responsibilities. Abdu’s health deteriorates, and after some time, he reveals that he is suffering from being in love with one of the women from the ship.
The narrator describes the personality of Dabbasi, a new powerful man in town and rival to Ibn Rashed. Seeing him as a protector, the men call him “uncle.” When the Americans want to buy land from some of the Harranis, Dabbasi advises them to refuse, while Ibn Rashed tries to convince them to sell. When Dabbasi leaves town for a while, Ibn Rashed sends a messenger to try to persuade the men, reminding them about the leveling of Wadi al-Uyoun. Many sell their land to Ibn Rashed. Dabbasi returns and establishes a household in Harran. He begins to maneuver for power, manipulating Ibn Rashed and encouraging the Harranis to be patient and focus on preserving their rights. The men take from this that Ibn Rashed is the enemy.
Dabbasi decides he wants to marry a Harrani woman. Asking the men if they want him to leave, he gets them to say that he is one of them. At first, they are confused and believe that he wants to marry his son Saleh to a Harrani woman. Only after one of them offers his daughter to Saleh do the men come to understand that it is Dabbasi himself who wants to be married. He marries the daughter of the man who offered. The Americans come to the wedding and observe everything curiously and ask many questions. After some lively partying, they hear Suweyleh begin to sing. Everyone is immediately attentive to the singing, but it makes them feel sorrowful. Then others begin to sing, more festively. The Americans take notes and pictures, describing the Arabs’ nature and behavior to each other with disgust.
The narrator describes the emir of Harran, the local ruler, who is uninterested in ruling, caring much more about poetry and music. He visits the town every few months, interacting with its people only reluctantly, as he resents having responsibility for them. Now he has returned, but when he sees the Americans and what they have done there, he leaves and never comes back. He is replaced by a new emir, Emir Khaled. Khaled intentionally frightens the Harranis, having his men spread rumors about how strict he is. Ibh Rashed and Dabbasi both try to befriend him, Dabbasi having more success because he shares Khaled’s interest in hunting. After the people of Harran tell him their story, particularly what happened with the party ship, the new emir says he will not let that happen again. Dabbasi draws his attention to the interests of the Harrani people, implicitly criticizing Ibn Rashed for forcing them to sell their land. Promising to hunt with Dabbasi in the winter, the new emir leaves.
The emir visits American Harran, taking some of the other Arabs with him. He does target practice with one of the American rifles. In the clubhouse, the emir and the workers dine alongside the Americans, though the workers are separated from the emir’s party and given different food. After touring the American compound, the emir reluctantly agrees to go on a boat ride, which he does not enjoy. Asking both Ibn Rashed and Dabbasi for help, Emir Khaled plans a reception for the Americans. The Americans attend and enjoy themselves, particularly amazed by the camel races they witness. Dabbasi produces a surprise magic show. Then there is a sword dance, which the Americans ruin, angering the emir because he feels his people have been debased by entertaining the Americans.
The Americans who speak Arabic begin to visit people in Arab Harran, observing what they do and taking pictures. Bringing books and papers with them, they take notes on what the Arabs say when asked questions about the area. The Harranis are fascinated by the books and concerned about what they might be and what the Americans want. One day, an American with a red beard visits. He asks the Harranis about their beliefs, whether they or the people who live nearby believe in magic or worship nature. Shocked and frightened, the men shrink back. Ibn Naffeh, a particularly religious man, complains to the emir about this visit. After this, the Americans’ behavior changes. They stop carrying books around and start carrying black boxes which they press when they start a conversation. (These are presumably audio recorders, though the Harranis do not realize this.) The Americans visit Arab Harran less often, but the higher-status Arabs like Ibn Rashed and Dabbasi visit American Harran more frequently.
For the workers, a third city is built, between American Harran and Arab Harran, so they can be closer to their work. When they move into barracks instead of tents, the men are optimistic, but they feel confined by the barbed wire around the compound and relieved when they go visit Arab Harran. Ibn Rashed praises the makeshift barracks and promises the workers yet again that they will be compensated amply for their living conditions and everything that has happened to them.