Monday, November 23, 2009

Leo Africanus- Part 2

The readings this week discuss Hasan’s development into becoming a man. His grandmother’s death, his sexual encounter with a slave, his marriage and then his leadership role that he assumes in the caravan once his uncle passes away. There are two parts of the story that captured my attention the most. The first was his sister’s engagement to Zarwali. Although Zarwali was a terribly abusive man, Muhammed was extremely happy and willing to let his daughter enter into a marriage that would certainly include physical and mental abuse because of the wealth of the suitor. Hasan’s maturity and moral values speak volumes as he goes toe to toe with his father and fights for his sister to be let out of her engagement. When Hasan wins this battle, it not only symbolizes his rite of passage from a boy to a man, but it endears the audience to the nobility of Hasan’s character. The second thing that captivated me was the caravan. We discussed in Before European Hegemony, the concept of markets and the need for security as traders travelled along to markets in different places. Caravans were a way in which to provide such security. The reason why this is so interesting to me is that this narrative gives such a vivid illustration of what those caravans were like with the guards and animals and merchandise all travelling together.

I really enjoy this book for a number of reasons but one reason is because it implements the ideas and concepts that we learned from previous parts of the course (e.g. caravans, religious wars) and uses the story of Hasan to relate them to the audience in a much more humanistic , descriptive and interesting way. My question pertains to the engagement of Miriam. Thinking about a movie that I’ve seen in recent years in which a woman was being physically abused but pressured by her mother to stay in the relationship due to the man’s wealth and status, I wonder how much pressure family’s truly exert on their children to marry someone of their liking. In today’s society, are there still parents like Muhammed that would try to force their children into a marriage based on wealth despite their child’s happiness and/or safety?

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