“Half a Day” by Naguib Mahfouz is an allegorical short story that reflects the journey of life and the speed in which it begins and ends.
It also gives representation to stages and changes that occur within a person during their time on Earth. “Half a Day”, can only be fully understood through its symbolism and is not intended to be interpreted literally. In order to fully understand the reader must be able to comprehend that each part has a greater meaning then the words that appear on the paper and that each meaning is greater than the one before.In addition, Mahfouz uses elaborate figurative and descriptive language, painting a vivid picture and allowing the reader to be present in the moment. Though there are not many characters in this story, their importance is of the utmost. They are emblematic as well, each having additional meanings as well as their literal interpretation.
His father holding his hand could also represent the hand of God leading him along a righteous path or ushering him in and out of life. The mother admires her son quietly and from afar, leaving the task of guiding a boy to manhood to her husband.The teacher is the rule-maker, identified as a person. She keeps order and punishes those who cannot or will not abide. His classmates are all the people that he becomes acquainted with over time, females that he has had relationship with and loved.
However, not all are good people nor do they all have the same opportunities, prompting the decision making that all children must make on their road to adulthood. The most central character is the boy himself beginning his day as a young lad and progressing into teenager, young man, middle age and finally an old man looking for his final home.This short story is deceitfully ironic because it is about a man that lives his entire life in the span of a day starting as a young boy and ending as an old man.
Mahfouz is comparing life to his first day of school and believes that its meaning can be found there as well. As the story begins, the author is holding his father’s hand and running to keep in stride as they walk to school for the first time and his mother watches from the window. Both parents guide him along, one with silent admiration and the other with manly advice.
Mahfouz is confused at why he must submit to growing up and leaving the security of his parent’s home. The author believes that he is being punished and makes promises just a child would. He finds some resolve when his father says, “School’s not a punishment. It’s the factory that makes men out of boys.
Don’t you want to be like your father and brothers? ” (664). He like many children wants to make his parents proud so he continuous on to the gate and to his proverbial manhood. As his school day begins he tells of the great fun and the things he has learned.
He also speaks of the students whom become good friends and girlfriends. As Mafouz continues he points out things are not always good and difficult situations arise. His reflections keep his audience entranced because they are able to relate to his experiences.
These are all events in any person’s life; however, he mentions them as is they are present tense adding to the illusion of a day at school. As his day is revealed he realizes through perseverance and struggle he would be able to take advantage of opportunities that not all his classmates would be able to.At the closing of school the boy leaves and the neighborhood has changed. Buildings are obstructing views he once had and again he is confused. Vehicles and circus people swallowed up the peaceful streets he recalls from the morning. Where streets were once tree lined them are now busy markets and loud sirens adding to the bewilderment of the author.
Through imagery the reader is able to see that modernization has taken over. The setting, story, and characters have all changed.The author is the only aspect that remains unchanged, at least from his vantage point.
Both the author and the reader believe this to be true until a young boy approached him and offers, “Grandpa, let me take you across” (666). This is when the story comes into view and there is a clear understanding of what has actually occurred. Everything that happens in the narrative represents true to life experiences, it even includes the passing of one generation to another in a biblical context.This is seen in the personification of his father and his grandson, each holding the hand of the other and guiding them along until their objective is complete.
The experiences that Mahfouz captures contain the soul of each and every human beings time on earth. Works Cited Naguib Mahfouz’s father says in “Half A Day,” “School’s not a punishment. It’s the factory that makes men out of boys. Don’t you want to be like your father and brothers? ” (664) The little boy in “Half a Day,” says “Grandpa, let me take you across. ” (666)
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