An Analysis of "The Beginning and The End" by Naguib Mafouz

Literature Review, 2010
7 Pages, Grade: 1.25


First Occasional Paper

October 30, 2010.

Novel: The Beginning and The End by Naguib Mafouz


MA. Ed. in Literature



Based on Egypt’s history, it had been founded and united by the Namer dynasty on 3100-2890 B.C. For several centuries, Egypt continued to flourish in terms of architecture and infrastructure. Thus, Egypt was known as the “Mother of Civilization” for its great landmarks and great hold of culture and tradition. Unfortunately, on 332-323 B.C., the misfortunes of Egypt under the influence of colonization started with Alexander the Great leading the colonization. Egypt endured different periods of colonization with different colonizers, such colonizers were the Greek-Roman colonizers, Islamic Arabs, Turks, French and British Empires. Due to this several periods of colonization, Egypt had withstood all of this but it left a great impact on the mentality and personality of the Egyptians.

These different effects of colonization are symbolically represented in Naguid Mafouz’s The Beginning and The End through the bereaved family of Effendi Kamel Ali. The different members of the family represent the colonial mentality of the Egyptians as a whole. Such representations, though meager as the members are, are still a good way of opening the eyes of the readers on the current state of the Egyptians after the different colonial powers in their mother country.

To start with, the first symbolical representation of Egypt is the death of Effendi Kamel Ali. In this novel, Effendi Kamel Ali, the bread winner of the family, is seen as the colonial power present in Egypt. With his death, this clearly shows how the colonial power left the colonized country as similar as the bread winner (the most dependable member of the family) left the family decrepit from all forms of misfortune. This parallel relationship of how the colonized country is dependent from its colonial power is clearly shown through the death of Effendi Kamel Ali. Thus, in assumption, all of the remaining members of the bereaved family are representations of how Egyptians struggle with the “loss of” or “freedom from” the colonial power.

With Effendi Kamel Ali’s sudden death, the once prestigious Kamel Ali family is made one of the poorest of the poor families in Cairo. To make things worse for them, they lost hold of their “roots” – i.e. they don’t belong to a certain culture since they are not natives from Cairo and their mother’s homeland had already severed all ties from them. To sum, the family is like a fish out of water with their current situation. Just like in a colonized country, it is locked away from other countries or it is banned in interacting with other countries while under the colonial power, but once the imperial power let goes of the colonized country, the colonized country is alienated from its neighboring countries. How the different family members react to and cope with their sudden loss is likely similar on how Egyptians react to their sudden freedom from the colonial power.

Secondly, the other representation is through Samira, the widow of Effendi Kamel Ali. Her representation is the stoicism and strength of women despite the harshness of life. Samira had to keep a straight face even though she wants to burst with full emotions. Because of her husband’s absence, she now has to act as a pillar of strength for her children. Stereotypically, men are seen as unfeeling and unattached to anyone; thus, Samira has to keep and lock away all of her emotions for showing even a little bit of emotion would definitely dampen her children’s spirit. More importantly, Samira has to act like a man and endure all of the hardships and misfortunes her family is suffering. She had a firm hold on all of the family’s financial decision ever since her husband died. She also had to endure the discrimination of other people against her family. Egypt being a traditional and conservative patriarchal society was seen as similarly capable of governing her people in a matriarchal society.

Furthermore, not only did Samira represent the strength of the Egyptian women but also she represents Egypt as a mother country. After the colonial power left, the colonized country now has to adapt to the immediate changes brought by the sudden loss. In Egypt’s case, she has to take care of her children – i.e. to protect and to shield her children from harm. In regard to the novel, Egypt, the colonized country, is symbolized through Samira as much as Effendi Kamel Ali symbolizes the colonial power. At this point, definite differences between Effendi Kamel Ali (the colonial power) and Samira Kamel Ali (the colonized country) are clearly shown in the novel. Effendi Kamel Ali was seen as a doting father to all of his children – he protected his ugly daughter, Nefisa, from the harshness of reality; he pampered Hassan up to the point that he is totally intolerable; and he constantly supported financially the whims of Hassanein and Hussein. On the other hand, Samira had to be tightfisted on everything – she is very frugal on their money; she is very distant on her relationships with her children; and she is very firm on her decisions even though she knows that her decision is heartbreaking for her children.

These distinct differences between the parents are the distinct differences between the colonial power and the colonized country. The colonial empire would definitely pamper and nourish the colonized country so that the colonized country would feel how important is the empire. But the ulterior motive of doing so is too implicit that the colonized would be paralyzed by the sudden pull out of support from the colonial power. Thus, the colonial mentality exists among the people of the colonized country for they would compare their former way of living to their current way of life. A good example of this is the situation of the Kamel Ali family. The colonial power had been feeding the children with all the delicious and exquisite food they could have but when the support had suddenly left, the children are unable to move on even with the guidance of their motherland.


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An Analysis of "The Beginning and The End" by Naguib Mafouz
Philippine Normal University
MA. Ed. in Literature
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ISBN (eBook)
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Analysis, Beginning, Naguib, Mafouz
Quote paper
Carmela Magbanua (Author), 2010, An Analysis of "The Beginning and The End" by Naguib Mafouz, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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