Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Miteb al-Hathal

Miteb al-Hathal, a Bedouin tribesman with a special passion for the Wadi al-Uyoun desert oasis, where he and his family live. the appearance of Americans, who were invited by the Arabian government to explore and drill for oil, changes Miteb’s previously stoic and optimistic attitude toward life. With characteristic boldness and candor, he warns people about impending disaster and even stands up to the regional emir, but no one heeds him. When the Americans level the orchards and gardens to force people to leave what will henceforth be an oil-drilling site, Miteb mounts his Omani camel and disappears for good. Reports of his visitations come from various parts of the region.

Ibn Rashed

Ibn Rashed, a man from Wadi al-Uyoun who acquiesces to the American presence and decides to join the forces of change. He encourages the local population to relocate and becomes a personnel recruiter for the Americans, bringing Bedouins from all over to Harran with promises of good salaries and homes. the workers find only dehumanizing tents and later barracks. He loses his struggle against Dabbasi for local influence and power and comes to fear paranoically the specter of Miteb al-Hathal. He dies a broken man, an example of an Arab who has broken his ties and traditional fidelity to tribal values.

The Americans

The Americans, oil workers at Wadi al-Uyoun and Harran, and at the pipeline camps in between. These one-dimensional characters, almost caricatures of American workers and managers abroad, seem superficially interested in local culture and customs but are quick to defend and implement company policy in the face of local traditions and concerns.

Bedouin workers at Harran

Bedouin workers at Harran, people lured by the promise of good wages, houses, and a future for their families. These people come from all over to work for the Americans. Hard workers and good Muslims, but unaware of the facts of life in the modern world beyond their personal experience, they seem simple and uncouth animals to the Americans and Westernized Arab company men.

Harrani townspeople

Harrani townspeople, generous, uncomplicated people unaware of much that is transpiring in the modern world beyond their region. Some accede to Ibn Rashed’s entreaties that they sell their land to the Americans; however, Dabbasi convinces some of them to hold onto their land at least, in the face of the foreign takeover of their community.

Naim Sh’eira

Naim Sh’eira, the Americans’ Arab translator, who, like other Arab company men, learns American...

(The entire section is 1097 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Characterization in this novel serves the primary objective of providing a panoramic view of Bedouin society as it undergoes radical transformation. To realize this intention, the narrative point of view constantly shifts from one scene to another, describing each barely long enough to record the effects of the cataclysmic change on the face of the desert and its dwellers. The net result is akin to a set of group photographs as opposed to individual portraits. No Bedouin character displays any significant psychological depth, and none is given to introspection. In fact, no clear line appears to separate the private from the public realm in the life of this nomadic society. The characters who display any degree of roundedness stand out as typical, rather than unique, individuals.

This may explain, at least in part, Mut ‘ib’s disappearance at the end of volume 1. The Bedouin patriarch tries to stem the ravishing of the desert through the only means available to him, namely, public remonstration with the prince. When that fails, there is little else he can do as an individual. Disappearance into the desert in the thick of night invests him with mythic qualities and enables him to carry on the fight.

The same strategy of characterization is applied to the American engineers and personnel. They always appear together and are described as a group. The reader never gets a direct glimpse of their personalities and conduct. Instead, Abdelrahman...

(The entire section is 536 words.)