What do the narrator's word choices in "Half a Day" reveal about his first-day school emotions?

Quick answer:

In "Half a Day" by Naguib Mahfouz, the narrator's choice of words indicates that he is apprehensive about going to school. We see this when he expresses fear about being "cast into school," when he looks at his mother as if "appealing for help," and where he asserts he does "not believe there is any good to be had" in being forced to leave home and go to school.

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The short story "Half a Day" by Naguib Mahfouz begins with a young boy clinging to his father's hand as he heads for his first day of school. He is delighted to be wearing new clothes, but apprehensive about going to school.

There are several indications in the narrator's choice of words that indicate his anxiety. For instance, the boy says that he is to be "cast into school." "Cast into" is usually used in the phrase "cast into prison." We see here that the boy equates being left at school by his father with being thrown into prison.

As they are leaving home, the boy looks back at his mother, who is watching from the window. He turns back to her "from time to time, as if appealing for help." He obviously does not want to go to school, and looks to his mother to rescue him from the situation.

He then challenges his father by asking about school as if it were a punishment. His father has to reassure him that "school's not a punishment" but rather a place that turns boys into men. The boy remains unconvinced. He adds:

I did not believe there was really any good to be had in tearing me away from the intimacy of my home and throwing me into this building that stood at the end of the road like some huge, high-walled fortress, exceedingly stern and grim.

The boy's perspective changes as he directs his attention to the other children. He soon becomes distracted by new friends, interesting activities, absorbing things to learn, challenges, and "opportunities for success and happiness." At the end of the school session, though, the story takes a sharp allegorical turn. In the half a day of school the boy has lived his entire life, and he is now an old man.

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