Non-Western Literature

Discussion Questions for Mahfouz, week 1

These questions should be reviewed before reading the material, as well as after. Be prepared to answer these questions in class.

1. The first chapter is basically an introduction to the environment of Midaq Alley. According to this description, what are the roles played by Abbas, Kirsha, Radwan Hussainy, Sheikh Darwish, Salim Alwan, Dr. Booshy and Kamil in this group of friends? Who is the leader, the fool, the power-broker, etc.?

2. The second chapter introduces the main women characters and their situation. Explain how Umm Hamida's profession gives her power, especially over other women. (of course, you will also need to identify exactly what her profession is first).

3. Both Hamida and Hussain Kirsha find the Alley to be too limiting for their dreams. What exactly are their reasons for finding it too limiting? What are their plans for escaping the alley?

4. Explain the nature of Zaita's profession and give your response to why such a profession would even exist.

5. Abbas truly seems to love Hamida, so why does she not love him like he does her? She doesn't hate him, and she enjoys his attentions, so why can't she commit to marriage with the same enthusiasm that he does?

6. Compare and contrast people's reactions to Kirsha's vices. Explain the difference of opinion as best as you can.

7. Compare and contrast Abbas' and Hussain's departures from the Alley.

8. What do the actions of Mrs. Saniya Afify and Salim Alwan indicate about the power and influence of money for men and women in the Alley? Does money allow them to do whatever they want, or are there limits to what they can accomplish?