Anda di halaman 1dari 3


The Journey of the Soul: The Search for Inner Peace In Naguib Mahfouz's short story "Zaabalawi" we see a young man in search of the mysterious Zaabalawi, who is known to cure illnesses. The author uses many literary techniques to tell his story and it is those we will examine using the New Criticism form of literary analysis. By utilizing the techniques set forth by the method, we will determine the meaning of the short story. We will prove that the author uses symbolism to convey his message to his audience, that the quest to find Zaabalawi is merely a journey into our souls in search of the inner peace that is within all of us. To accomplish this we will examine the text to uncover the symbolic meanings; the various uses of figurative language including the meanings of the metaphors, the similes, the personifications, and the ironies. We will also examine the allusion concerning the myth surrounding Zaabalawi by looking closely at the protagonist, the antagonist, and the mentor who provided the paradoxes within the story.

We will begin by outlining what the method entails. New Criticism is a useful form of literary criticism and The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms wrote the following: New Critics treat a work of literature as if it were a self-contained, selfreferential object. Rather than basing their interpretations of a text on the reader's response, the author's stated intentions, or parallels between the text and historical contexts (such as author's life), {} Special attention is paid to repetition, particularly of images or symbols, but also of sound effects and rhythms in poetry. New Critics especially appreciate the use of literary devices, such as irony, to achieve a balance or reconciliation between dissimilar, even conflicting, elements in a text (qtd. in The Bedford Glossary). The narration is in the 1st person point of view as evidenced by the first line "Finally I became convinced that I had to find Sheikh Zaabalawi" (Mahfouz 1). The narrator is the young man who we will call the protagonist and is on a quest to find a cure for his illness. In the beginning, we see an allusion to the myth of Zaabalawi in the third line when the protagonist inquires to his father about Zaabalawi. The allusion looked like this: "Who is Zaabalawi, father?" (Mahfouz 3). The dialogue between the protagonist and his father continued with more allusion to Zaabalawi in addition to providing symbolism. The father says this of Zaabalawi, "May his blessing descend upon you, he's a true saint of God, a remover of worries and troubles. Were it not for him I would have died miserably-"(Mahfouz 6). The father's finding of inner peace is what had saved him and the father's quest is a symbol for the results that are possible when someone finds their inner peace. In all but two locations throughout the city, the protagonist encounters places that are either run down or seemingly full of despair and a lack of hope, as apparent from his observations on one of his travels to the inner city: "I went to Birgawi Residence which was situated in a thickly populated quarter. I found that time had so eaten into the building that nothing was left of it save

an antiquated faade and a courtyard which, despite it being supposedly in the charge of a caretaker, was being used as a rubbish dump" (Mahfouz 23). Notice at the end of the thought above, the protagonist's use of a simile here "as rubbish dump" and his use of personification here "time had so eaten into the building". We also see symbolism here as this place of despair {Birgawi Residence} symbolizes why Zaabalawi was seen there, because that is where he was-where ruin was all around physically or emotionally.

The protagonist gives into despair shortly after he began his quest, because his object of interest was eluding him. He communicated it in the following way, in a form of irony "{} while others openly made fun of him, labeled him a charlatan, and advised me to put myself in the hands of a doctor-as though I had not already done so" (Mahfouz 26). This is ironic because of the context of the events at the time in the story. Those who made fun of Zaabalawi and told the narrator to see a doctor were merely making a statement, a metaphor that was not to be taken literal. However, the narrator takes the comments literally and responds to them despite that there wasn't a need to. The protagonist then relates his feelings of despair through the following simile, "With the passing of the days like motes in the air my pains grew so severe that I was sure I would not be able to hold out much longer" (Mahfouz 27). Upon dialogue with the one character on his search, the protagonist is given more allusions to Zaabalawi from the calligrapher. Here is one such allusion, "A real man of mystery; he'd visit you so often that people would imagine he was your nearest and dearest, then would disappear as though he'd never existed" (Mahfouz 49). The protagonist later encountered a musician, whom he was directed to by the artist. During this most important set of interactions between the protagonist and the musician we find irony, symbolism, and a paradox. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia, gives us clarification on paradoxes. "A paradox is an apparently true statement or group of statements that seems to lead to a contradiction or to a situation that defies intuition" (Paradox).

We find a paradox here as a phrase for the protagonist to contemplate. The paradox is told in the following manner, "Such suffering is part of the cure!" (Mahfouz 68). This is a paradox because at first glance, the statement appears wrong like it doesn't seem to make sense. However, in the context of the interaction that the narrator was having with the mentor {musician} it is clear that the statement must be looked at closer and contemplated upon. And upon contemplation, it is found to be a paradox for such a statement holds much truth in many people's lives despite its outward appearance. We see symbolism within the interactions of the protagonist and the musician, who had been visited by Zaabalawi, when the following was recounted by the musician as to the difficulty in finding Zaabalawi: "It was easy enough with him in the old days when his place of abode was known. Today, though, the world has changed and after having enjoyed a position attained only by potentates, he is now pursued by the police on a charge of false pretences. It is therefore no longer an easy matter to reach him, but have patience and be sure that you will do so" (Mahfouz 75). This symbolizes the change in times, for at the time of the protagonist it was a cruel world full of despair and people didn't readily seek inner peace as they once did, but he should hold out hope because he still has inner peace to find within himself. The musician aids the

protagonist by giving him advice which is also symbolism, such as "Do not give in to defeat. This extraordinary man brings fatigue to all who seek him {} It is therefore no longer an easy matter to reach him, but have patience and be sure that you will do so" (Mahfouz 75). This symbolizes that the search for one's inner peace is a difficult one. The protagonist later finds himself with a man at a bar who appears to him to be a drunk. Here we see a metaphor as the protagonist relates his feelings after having a few drinks. He relates his feelings in this way, "With the third glass I lost my memory and with the fourth the future vanished" (Mahfouz 103). Dramatic irony of the story becomes apparent in the moments after the protagonist realized that he missed his only opportunity to meet Zaabalawi because he slept when the purpose of his quest presented himself. The dialogue between the man in the bar and the protagonist was as such: "What a pity! He was sitting on this chair beside you the whole time. He was playing with a string of jasmine petals he had round his neck, a gift from one of his admirers, then, taking pity on you, he began to sprinkle some water on your head to bring you round" (Mahfouz 119). After dialoguing some more with the man in the bar, shortly after missing Zaabalawi, we see more symbolism as the protagonist decides to continue his quest. He relates it this way, symbolizing his renewed hope, "I recovered some of my energy" (Mahfouz 130).

The author constructed the story in such as way as to have the narrator be both the protagonist and the antagonist. The young man's lack of awareness that the cure resided within him was the only major obstacle in his way. The fact that he couldn't find his inner peace, keep it, or remember it in the future is proof that he has not gained the awareness that the elusive Zaabalawi is inside of himself in the form of spirit and peace. He had a glimpse of the peace and even spoke of his inner self being in harmony, but lost it when he awoke and his conscious (doubting) self took over. The protagonist's quest is based on a lack of awareness and therefore becomes a symbol of one's search for peace inside them. And what is ironic in this story is that the protagonist is looking everywhere for Zaabalawi and the whole time, Zaabalawi has been with him (inside of him) waiting for him to become aware of it.