Mustafas point of view is introduced in Chapter two, where Salih uses the prolepsis and analepsis devices to allow Mustafas first person narration of his story to be told to the unnamed narrator. Salih’s control of time is shown through Mustafa flashing forward, “‘Thirty years. The willow trees â€¦” (2003, p.36) and backward in time “‘I remember that in the train â€¦” (2003, p.24), which allows the reader to access Mustafa’s experiences as unravelling much like a mystery. This constant movement blurs the exact chronology of the situation, which leads to multiple interpretations of the novel. For example, the narrator mentions occasionally his mother, however, rarely mentions his father and this creates ambiguity as to whether the father is alive, travelling or in prison. One interpretation is that Mustafa’s mother killed his father, the same way Mustafa killed Jean Morris. Although the novel never reveals how Mustafa’s father died, different interpretations infer that his mother killed his father out of jealousy or for political reasons. It might be inferred that she killed his father because “he and his tribe helped free the English Governor Slatin Pasha escape when he was the prisoner of the Khalifa El-Taaishi”(Adonis, 2008). Salih uses these devices to add masks to the reality of characters and discloses the characteristics of others.
An additional narrative technique Salih uses is the framing narrative device. In the novel, the framing narrative sets the scene for the embedded narrative or “story within a story”. Salih begins with the narrator and then progresses to Mustafa’s embedded story. The framed narrative allows the interaction between Mustafa’s experiences and the narrator’s; this leads to a demonstration of similarities and differences between the two. For example, a common interpretation is that Mustafa and the unnamed narrator are the same one person (AlMajnouni, 2011), and this could be evident when the narrator was in Mustafa’s private room, “This is not Mustapha Sa’eed-it’s a picture of me frowning at my face from a mirror,”(2003, p.135) while looking at a picture of Sa’eed. However this can also be ambiguous. Mustafa’s first person narration in Chapter two is itself an embedded narrative. Even though, there is much evidence that they could be the same person, the fact is, that it is a dual narration and enough to be ambiguous. Using this device, Salih creates a symbolic significance for characters to reveal the truth to the reader, however, creating an ambiguous sense with the framing narrative, leading that the readers interpreting differently.
A further narrative technique used by Salih is the unreliability between the narrators. In the novel, the story is not told by an omniscient narrator, but by characters with emotions, feelings and biases. Mustafa, when acting as the narrator, selects specific parts of his life and tells the reader these fragments. Mustafa subtlety ignores fragments of the story, which is revealed in the final chapters, which are the fragments of Mustafa’s life story that were not narrated in Chapter two. This signals into question what other fragments the narrator might have done within his life, which he did not reveal. This makes the reader question the reliability of the narrator and also adds to the multiple meanings of the novel. In addition, the narrator rarely quotes certain characters directly. This is seen with Hosna bint Mahmoud, whose dialogue is mostly reported by the unnamed narrator, “She did not answer” (2003, p.90), the anonymous narrator reporting the indirect speech. The absence of Hosna’s voice in the text represents the unequal rights of women, “This woman is the offering Wad Rayyes wants to sacrifice at the edge of the grave, with which to bribe death” (2003, p.89), which is reinforced by her situation in the lack of choice in marrying Wad Rayyes. Even though this could represent the lack of authority and rights for women during that time, the main purpose of this is to allow the reader to question its reliability. Through his use of multiple narrative voices, Salih highlights the instability of varying social and cultural beliefs.
One of the central literary techniques used by Salih to achieve depth of meaning is intertextuality, particularly the conscious use of Othello. These literary roles display a large role in the similarity between both plots, especially when Mustafa kills Jean Morris. Morris is an active cause in her own death, she refuses to concede to Mustafa like other British women did and occasionally repeats that, “I’ve never seen an uglier face than yours” (2003, p.30). Daring Mustafa to kill her, she even leaves another man’s handkerchief for him to find as evidence, being contrary to Desdemona. Morris and Sa’eed re-enact these iconic literary roles, which can also be interpreted as being the binary of Western and Eastern rather than Othello and Desdemona, Othello representing Eastern and Desdemona representing the West. When Sa’eed was put on trial for the murder of Jean Morris, a professor who came to his defense argued that Sa’eed was “a noble person whose mind was able to absorb Western civilization, but it broke his heart. These girls were not killed by Mustafa Sa’eed, but by the germ of a deadly disease that assailed them a thousand years ago,” (2003, p.33), an orientation to the negative effects of colonization. The professor, insisting that Sa’eed was innocent, instead blamed stereotypes and misunderstandings between the East and the West. Sa’eed says, “I am no Othello. I am a lie. Why don’t you sentence me to be hanged and so kill the lie?” (2003, p.33), claiming that the terrible legacy of his actions backfired on himself. Salih’s narrative techniques challenge the stereotypes from both sides. In this sense, it creates and adds another level of meaning beyond the literal circumstances.
Salih uses the technique of the Sudanese national allegory, which is one of the most interpreted meanings of ‘Season of Migration to the North’. Salih uses the voice of Sa’eed and the narrator, to juxtapose the novel as a national allegory, drawing parallels between the life of Mustafa and the colonial history of Sudan. The technique of the allegory is used as a form of character representation, in which Salih symbolises each character with an identity in the battle for Sudan’s Independence. However, throughout the course of the novel, this allegory becomes ambiguous, “complicated and contradictory” (Eleni, 2010), as other characters each symbolise different aspects of Sudan. Mustafa Sa’eed, the main character of the national allegory, becomes an allegory for Sudan, particularly Sudan under British colonization. When in Britain, he is able to seduce every woman he has a relationship with, except Jean Morris who symbolises the colonizer. This, however, is when the coloniser overthrows his power. With Morris, Sa’eed spends the night “warring with bow and sword and spear and arrows”(2003, p.34), only to be overthrown when she will not concede to him as the other British women did, representing that Sudan was defeated by the colonizer. Furthermore, the meaning can sometimes be contradictory. Despite Mustafa appearing to symbolise resistance to British colonisation, British culture enters into his character, and changes Sudan and its people in many ways. This is seen especially within Mustafa and the narrator who experienced both cultures. Salih peppers the meanings of the novel with allegories to allow readers to make multiple interpretations of the novel, as it adds a primary meaning to the novel.
In conclusion, there are many ways of understanding this novel. The framing device creates a blurred effect for the reader to recognise the exact chronology of time. Also, there is unreliability within the story-telling. The narrator consciously selects the events told, with some events highlighted and some abandoned, leading the reader to a biased view. In addition, Salih’s use of intertextuality to represent characters adds another level of meaning beyond the literal circumstances. Finally, even the most interpreted meanings can be contradictory. Even though, Mustafa appears to symbolise the resistance against the British colonisation, British culture enters into his character, as well as British culture as it shifts into Sudan and its people. The story of a dual narration, “Season of Migration to the North” narrates the stories of Mustafa and the anonymous narrator which are lionised by society and colonialism. This small but powerful novel, forces the reader into the ambiguity of the narration leading to the multiple interpretations.
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