This week’s readings are themed by Hasan’s development into an adult as several events force him to take on more responsibility. It begins with the death of his grandmother, when Hasan is only 8. It is at this point that Hasan’s father and uncle deem him ready for school. At school, Hasan develops a friendship with the mischievous Harun. Eventually, Hasan and Harun’s adventures lead Hasan to encounter his father at a tavern. As another step toward adulthood, Hasan questions his father’s actions, especially regarding his father’s marriage arrangement involving Miriam. Hasan does not believe that his father’s reasons to gain wealth are valid. Hasan deftly exposes Zarwali and seems to successfully protect Miriam, though she is soon taken to the lepers’ quarter by officials. Subsequently, Hasan travels with his uncle in a caravan to Timbuktu, a center of trade in the Sahara. Along the way, Hasan observes several villages and tribes, each with their own customs and cultures. When his uncle develops an illness, Hasan is forced to act as a diplomat, communicator, and facilitator within the caravan. These skills eventually lead him to form a relationship with a slave girl named Hiba, whom he falls in love with. Hasan’s responsibilities are furthered when the illness takes the life of his uncle, as not only does it leave him in charge of the caravan, but it also leaves him in possession of a message for the prince. Most important, however, is the task of freeing Miriam. In honor of his uncle, Hasan forgoes his love for Hiba and marries his cousin in line with his uncle’s wishes. Marriage and eventually the expected arrival of a daughter once again further Hasan’s development, as he recognizes the need to generate more income. He does so by working in the mercantile business. Using the advice of the Genoese traders, Hasan finds success tempered only by renewed conflict with Zarwali.
Throughout all of these examples is an apparent step-by-step development and increase in responsibility for Hasan. He grows rapidly from a young child into a mature adult, with each succeeding event forcing him to apply and cultivate skills he has learned. Additional points of interest within this reading involved the caravan lifestyle and the description of cities. Caravans were basically mobile communities that had mutual self-dependence for survival and success. As characters in Lost say, it could be viewed as “live together or die alone.” Also, it is the highways that the caravan travels on that are the lifeblood of cities and villages, as without these highways, people would lose valuable exchanges of goods and ideas with other regions and cultures. The description of the cities along these highways was enlightening, as it stated that residents of cities put aside their dignity in order to gain the protection of a sultan who does not necessarily guarantee protection but requires a steep price for it. Also along the highways are villages that are not under the clutches of a sultan but are under the ever-present threat of attack by nomadic tribes. Basically, the highways provide a least a chance at a lifestyle in a world otherwise marked by fear and poverty. I wonder if the greater population in cities indicated that the priority at that time was safety and not income, as people were willing to satisfy a tax-free lifestyle for protection from nomadic tribes. Also, is a city more beneficial to its people in the sense that tax income is redistributed to the city in the form of additional defense, improved transportation, and similar programs?