Illustrating the Palestinians’ Plight in Kanafani’s Men in the Sun

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Illustrating the Palestinians’ Plight in Kanafani’s Men in the Sun

Since the inception of Israel three years after culmination of World War II, the Arab-Israeli struggles have left an ineradicable impression not only on global dispute, but also on fictional literature within the Middle Eastern and Western worlds. Accordingly, Arabic, Western, and Israeli writers have offered exclusive treatment to the continuing conflicts, focusing on either a fictional or a prominent readership. Indeed, the victory of the Israelis in 1948 marked a turning point especially for Palestinians occupying the area. This is because of the truce established in 1949 on January 24 that led to the expulsion of a minimum of 700000 Palestinians from the native land they had occupied for many years. This occurrence, termed as the Nakba, imposed a considerable impact on contemporary Arabic literature in terms of content and literary form. An effective example of this transition is the novel, Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories, by Ghassan Kanafani, which illustrates the plight of the Palestinian people.

Kanafani’s first literary publication, Men in the Sun, narrates the life of a triad of Palestinians who possess different social backgrounds. Accordingly, the narrative illustrates the ways through which the protagonists attempt to flee to Kuwait during the start of the Suez Crisis in 1956 (Kanafani 11). As the characters attempt to escape, it becomes apparent to the reader that the life experienced by the protagonists represents a small picture of the issues faced by Palestinians after expulsion from their native land. In their efforts to arrive at Kuwait, the characters try to escape in a water truck, which is owned by an impotent Palestinian named Abu al-Khayzaran. In relation to the story, Kanafani indicates that the truck owner was rendered impotent as an outcome of his involvement in the 1948 Arab-Israeli armed struggle.

Despite this problem, Abu is still willing to assist his fellow Palestinians. However, he does so in terms of a business proposal. Accordingly, the truck owner, in n order to provide assistance, charges the protagonists exorbitantly in the event that they decide to escape via the water tank of the respective vehicle. Eventually, they pay the fee, which allows Abu to ferry them through security checkpoints while they hide inside the water tank. At the final checkpoint, as the driver continues to joke with the security personnel regarding his sexuality, the three men hiding within the truck die due to the intense heat of the day. After that, Abu heaves the bodies on a heap of trash and questions the reason behind the men not knocking on the tank on the verge of their death (Kanafani 54-56).

The story by Kanafani illustrates the plight of the Palestinian people especially after their eviction in 1948. At this point, most Palestinians lacked the inspiration and the hope to continue with their lives since they did not have a place from which they could start anew. The death of the three men, as portrayed in the novel, represents the disappointment that arose from the Palestinians trying to gain assistance from other fellow Arabs. Additionally, the other narratives in Men in the Sun also depict the troubles experienced by Palestinians especially after 1948. With the desert being the main metaphor, the reader becomes capable of perceiving the predicament that the Palestinian refugee underwent while searching for food and shelter for his family, through the scorching heat of this particular setting. This is represented by Abu Qais, as he tries to reach Kuwait despite being dragged down by the desert environment (Kanafani 15).

In conclusion, Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories shows the lives of Palestinians expelled from their homes after the occurrence of the Arab-Israeli War. The book illustrates ordinary persons, who affect the reader due to the losses they face especially in terms of occupation, land, relatives, and comfort. Through these characters, Kanafani is able to show the plight faced by Palestinians as they attempt to revert to their normal lives while looking for new land to settle. Through the ordeal that the three men experienced under the greed of Abu al-Khayzaran, it is possible to perceive the predicament faced by Palestinians at the time.

Work Cited

Kanafani, Ghassan. Men in the Sun & Other Palestinian Stories. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999. Print.

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