Significant Item from Mustafa Sa'Eed's Library - Season of Migration to the North Essay

Choose one item from the Mustafa Sa’eed’s library and discuss its significance to the story, or a character, or a theme, etc. “Everything in the room was neatly in its place—except for Jean Morris’s picture. It was as if he had not known what to do with it. Thought he had kept photographs of all the other women, Jean Morris was there as he saw her, not as seen by the camera. I looked admiringly at the picture. It was the long face of a women with wide eyes and brows that joined up above them; the nose was on the large size, the mouth slightly too wide.

The expression on the face is difficult to put into words: a disturbing, puzzling expression. The thing lips were tightly closed as though she were grinding her teeth, while her jaw was thrust forward haughtily. Was the expression in the eyes anger or a smile? There was something sensual that hovered round the whole face. Was this, then, the phoenix that had ravished the ghoul? That night his choice had been wounded, sad, tinged with regret. Was it because he had lost her? Or was it because she had made him swallow such degradations? Jean Morris’s picture, “as he saw her, not as seen by the camera”, is, in my opinion, the item of most significance in Mustafa Sa’eed’s library. Jean Morris is the only women Mustafa ever “fell in love with” (129), and the one woman who greatly impacted all his actions after being with her. The hunger for desire he felt for Jean Morris turned into sheer violence because she would not let him have her, and “When [he] slapped her, she would slap [him] back and dig her nails into [his] face” (133).

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Their relationship was one of hatred, as can be seen when she says: “’I too, my sweet, hate you. I shall hate you until death’” (132). On another note, Mustafa, saw himself as “the invader who had come from the South” (132), however, although he saw himself as the powerful image of a “pirate sailor” (132), “Jean Morris [was] the shore of destruction” (132), making it impossible for his strength to be of any use on her.

Jean Morris, through her above mentioned actions and words like “’You’d sit on the edge of the bed and cry’” (134), ripped Mustafa’s masculinity away from him, rendering him in a state of starvation for power. Lastly, this all relates back to the painting of Jean Morris, which is, unlike any other item in Mustafa’s library, not placed neatly in its place; it also relates to the fact that Mustafa felt the need to paint his own picture of Jean Morris, rather than have the camera do it for him. Mustafa’s life before and after Jean Morris wasn’t the same, and as completely meaningless to him. We can see this when, right after killing her, and exchanging words of love, he says: “[the universe] gathered into a single point before and after which nothing existed” (136). Jean Morris was the only meaningful part of his life, and for that reason, the only person he thought was worth representing himself. Yet, she was simultaneously, the only part of his life he couldn’t understand; although he does defeat her by killing her, his relationship with Jean Morris was nevertheless the only “war that invariably ended in [his] defeat”(133).

This painting is significant to the story, and to Mustafa Saa’ed as a character. It shows the reader the importance she had in his life and the confusion she brought on to him. In an indirect form it also accounts for all the actions that followed in his life, and, finally, it shows that, in Mustafa’s own eyes, she, was his only imperfection (as she was the only this he failed to organise).


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