Chapters 43–49 Summary
Last Updated on February 24, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 837
More and more barracks are built. The men are frustrated because the barracks are not as pleasant as the tents they were staying in before. Poisonous lead falls on them from the melting roofs. They are impatient and quarrelsome, despairing when they compare their lives to those of the people in American Harran or even Arab Harran. Leaving Harran comes up once more, but again a promise from Ibn Rashed dissuades them. When the emir places observers among the men and builds even more barracks, the Americans begin to divide up the workers and grant privileges to the more cooperative among them. For once having punched Daham, Mizban and his brother Hajem are assigned to help cut sea rock. The two enjoy swimming and teach the other men to do it. But their job is dangerous. One day, Mizban dives down to help retrieve a boulder and does not return to the surface. They find his body trapped by a crevice in the boulder. He has drowned.
The men grieve deeply for Mizban, and Hajem is devastated to the point of delirium by the loss of his brother. Growing angrier and angrier, they lament the painful conditions of their lives. When Ibn Rashed visits the men, many of them feel hatred toward him, considering him responsible for Mizban’s death. He gives his condolences to Hajem and asks one of the men who found Mizban to tell the story of what happened. In the tense atmosphere that follows the recounting, Ibn Rashed and Daham discuss creating an application for compensation for Mizban’s death. Ibn Rashed instructs Daham to have Fawaz write it up.
After looking at many plans they have drawn up, the emir makes arrangements with the Americans to have a residence built for him in Harran. Inviting Dabbasi on the hunting trip he had promised, Emir Khaled tries to convince Ibn Rashed to come along, too, but the man refuses, citing his many responsibilities in Harran. In an awkward exchange, Ibn Rashed fails to understand the emir’s teasing when Khaled jokes with him about his future marriage. The emir and Dabbasi leave for the trip, and Ibn Rashed dives into working on the emir’s residence. But his real goal in staying behind is to get rid of Hajem. He puts Hajem through a charade of trying to get treatment, then has one of his men escort Hajem back to his family beyond Ujra. The workers’ hatred for Ibn Rashed mounts.
Two Harrani young men who have been traveling return to the town, which they do not recognize, in a large caravan. Joyfully, the people of Harran surround and greet them. But their meeting is characterized by complex feelings, including resentment. One of the young men, Abdullah, has a deeply emotional reunion with his mother, who has lost her sight while he was gone. The Harranis feel the need for protection and hope that Abdullah, who has become wealthy while away, will provide it. He chooses to stay in Harran, while the other young man plans to leave again soon.
The narrator describes the resentment and confusion in the workers’ lives at this point. New recruits, this time Dabbasi’s rather than Ibn Rashed’s, arrive. To the other workers’ frustration, Dabbasi makes sure that these men are treated better. But they, too, have been lied to, and they will come to realize it. A process of “classification” begins, and the workers are invited to the American compound for that purpose. They walk in silence and fear. Separated from one another, they are subjected to “interviews” in which the Americans ask deeply personal questions that the men find religiously and culturally offensive. The Americans insist that the men keep the questions and their answers confidential from one another.
When the men who have been interviewed return to the camp, they are angry and moody. Curious, the others ask them about their experience, becoming shocked when they hear about the questions. Fawaz is particularly angry about his experience. In Suweyleh’s interview, the singer reveals, the Americans forced him to sing for them. Agitated, the workers leave the camp and walk to Arab Harran. In the coffeehouse, they run into Ibn Naffeh, the very religious man, who curses the Americans graphically when he hears about the interviews. A distracted Abdu Muhammad watches from a corner, repeatedly glancing at the photograph of the woman he loves.
Once they hear about the men’s reaction to the interviews, the Americans stop doing them. Those who were in the habit of visiting Arab Harran do less often, and all the Americans behave in adopting a milder and less talkative manner toward the Arabs. At Abdullah’s house, Ibn Naffeh confronts and curses the Americans, criticizing Abdullah for hosting them. The Americans also come to the workers’ camp and ask them questions, supposedly with the goal of providing services they need. Instead of the interviews, they distribute questionnaires to the workers.