Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Tensions in the Middle East during the 1960s
Hostilities between Israel and its Arab neighbors have a long history, but the more recent tensions can be traced to 1948, when Israel became a nation in an area that Palestinian Arabs claimed as their own. Fighting almost immediately ensued, culminating in the 1956 Suez-Sinai War, when Israel overran parts of Egypt. Egyptian President Nasser vowed to avenge Arab losses and mobilized Arab states against Israel. Israel preempted a joint Arab attack by launching the Six Day War on June 5, 1967, against neighboring countries Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Almost immediately Israel gained huge amounts of territory, and by the time the war ended on June 10, Israel had captured the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. In a matter of a few days the capitals of all three Arab nations found Israeli troops perilously close, precipitating a quick end to the fighting. Israel more than doubled her original territory, and Israeli military swiftness and strength left an indelible impression on the Arab world.

Advances in Women’s Rights in the 1960s
After many years of effort in securing equal rights, including advances during the 1800s and early 1900s resulting in women’s right to vote in 1920, American women made substantial gains in the 1960s. Many refer to the 1960s as the second wave of advances in women’s rights and the acceptance of feminism. In 1963 Betty Freidan published...

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Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

The narration in Wetzel’s story shifts primarily between the points of view held by Mantini and Carla. The two characters are not telling the story in first person, but the nearly omniscient narrator allows many of their thoughts to be revealed, as well as their outer actions.

In the beginning of the story, for example, the narrator describes a street scene, then narrows the view down to Mantini’s as he opens his shop for the day. Finally, Mantini’s desire for a ‘‘deep, cold winter to curl up in’’ is revealed, something that cannot be understood simply by looking at him.

In the next scene, the narrator moves a few yards away to where Carla is standing in the street, trying to figure out the location of Mantini’s shop. Again, the narration describes the character’s outer behavior and then moves in deeper to look at her thoughts: ‘‘The foreign woman tells herself she’s not lost.’’ The entire story is told in the third person through the eyes of Carla and Mantini; a scene is never described while looking through Ben’s eyes or Mohammed’s.

Wetzel uses foreshadowing to move the action along in the story and to help tie together disparate scenes. Before Carla has met Mantini, the narrator comments that a man she has not yet met will call her ‘‘my flower’’ in Italian. Later in the story, when they are lovers, he gives her a red hibiscus.


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Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Fishback, Doug, ‘‘On the Map,’’ in the University of Tulsa Magazine, Winter 2000, pp. 28–29.

Wetzel, Marlene, ‘‘A Map of Tripoli, 1967,’’ at Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/feature/-/44460/ suspensenet/002–0069686–1784843 (last accessed November 5, 2002).

Further Reading
Faqih, Ahmad, ed., Libyan Stories, Kegan Paul International, 2000. Ahmad Faqih has collected thirteen stories by various prominent Libyan writers, which were published during the 1970s and 1980s in the London magazine Azure.

Mattawa, Khaled, Ismailia Eclipse: Poems, Sheep Meadow, 1997. Khaled Mattawa immigrated to the United States from Libya in 1979, when he was fifteen years old. His poetry is rooted in both United States and Arab cultures.

Vandewalle, Dirk, Libya since Independence: Oil and State- Building, Cornell University Press, 1998. This book supplies a detailed analysis of Libya since 1951 based on the author’s work in Libya and on interviews with some of the country’s most important officials.

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Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1960s: Many women in the United States begin to question their traditional roles in society as strictly wives and mothers. Women consider careers in areas previously dominated by men, such as medicine, law, and politics. The percentage of female medical school students in the United States increases from 5.8 percent in 1961 to 10.9 percent in 1971.

Today: Women make up slightly more than 45 percent of the entering class in U.S. medical schools. By 2010, the American Medical Women’s Association predicts, the figure will reach at least 50 percent.

1960s: King Idris I, along with an elected parliament, rules Libya. The Libyan oil boom is beginning, and Libya encourages American and other foreign companies to enter the country to drill for oil.

Today: Libya’s full name is the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. It is ruled by Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, who has decreed that all businesses must be owned by Libyans. The country’s relationship with the United States has deteriorated in the past twenty years, and the United States no longer has an embassy in Tripoli. The country’s principal resource is still petroleum.

1960s: In 1967, Israel fights the Six Day War against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, seizing large amounts of land from each of its three adversaries.

Today: Tensions still exist between Israel and the Arab nations, and violent clashes erupt...

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Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

There are many things the author does not reveal about the main characters in this story. Choose one of the characters and write a five-hundredword biography covering his or her life up to the time of the story.

Create a timeline that shows the major events occurring between Israel and its Arab neighbors from Israel’s official inception as a state in 1948 to the present day. Then, create a timeline that tracks the major events in the women’s rights movement from the 1960s to the present day. See how these two major historical themes from the story relate chronologically.

Find a map of Tripoli from the 1960s and locate as many landmarks from the story as you can (the airport, Ben and Carla’s house, Mantini’s crystal shop). Are the street names mentioned by the author factual? Trace how Carla might have driven from her home to Mantini’s shop and from her house to the airport when she evacuated the city. If you are not able to find a map from the 1960s, find a current one and see if it matches the author’s descriptions or if the city has changed a great deal.

During the 1960s, the Libyan monarchy welcomed American oil companies and other businesses. Since the 1970s, when Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi began ruling Libya, relations between the United States and his country have seriously deteriorated. Do some research to learn the current state of U.S.-Libyan relations. Write a onepage summary of your findings.

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