T al-Hakim | Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor


T al-Hakim | Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

–Menonim Menonimus


T al-Hakim | Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

T al-Hakim | Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

T al-Hakim | Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

Literally, the word ‘Character’ means the collective mental or moral qualities of a person or thing. But literary (in literature) the term refers to the person who gets depicted in a play, novel, story or in any piece of literary creation. The characters in any literary writing may get expressed and delineated through- (1) Objective Narration (2) Dialogues (speeches, soliloquies, monologues etc) and (3) Action (deeds).

The characters in any literary writing may be depicted as- (1) Stable (Firm) and (2) Changing (Developing). A Stable Character is called him who is depicted as unchanging in his dealing, outlook and disposition from beginning to the very end. On the other hand, the character that undergoes a radical change either through a gradual development or as a result of the pressure of circumstance is called Changing Character.

Characterization may be of two types as (1) Type and (2) Individual (Peculiar). A Type Character is one who gets depicted as the representative of a class, group or region with a distinct ethos. On the other hand, an Individual Character is he who is depicted with his peculiar or special habit, qualities, whims, and so on which distinguishes him from his class. On the basis of the roles played by the characters in a play, novel, story or any literary writing, characters may be classified into two classes as- (1) Major Characters and (2) Minor Characters. The characters that are involved in the theme of a story from the beginning to the end and play important roles to the development of the theme and thus lead the plot to the conclusion are called Major Characters. One or two among the major characters who take the leading role from the very beginning to the end of the story and rounding whom the theme and all other characters revolve is called Hero or Heroine (Protagonist).

On the other hand, the person (character) who plays the role against the hero or heroine from the beginning to the end and causes troubles, conflicts and sufferance to the hero or heroine or to both and thus leads the theme to a conclusion through some steps as- opening, conflict, crisis, falling action and conclusion is called Anti-hero (Antagonist).

Characterization may be realistic, psychological, humorous (comic), tragic, tragi-comic, ideological and so on. The characters based on convincing realism and accuracy of details render enduring popularity to any piece of literature.

Tawfiq al Hakims’ novel, Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Aryaf (Diary of a Country Prosecutor) is a novel that bears characters but in the real sense, there is no characterization as all the characters are portrayed partially and none has got full depiction. However, the prominent characters in the novel are- the Prosecutor, and the two Judges, Kamar al- Dawla Alwan, Ma’mur, Rim and Shaik Asfur. Tawfiq al-Hakim has depicted all his characters from the personal point of view of the Prosecutor, the narrator of the novel. Almost all the characters are portrayed typically, though there are some individual traits in some characters. His characters may broadly be divided into two classes as – the ruling class and the plebeians (fellahin). All the characters have become the representatives of the two classes they belong to. Let us illustrate all these characters with the special roles they played in the novel as below:

The Prosecutor is the most prominent character of the novel. The novelist mentions his name nowhere in the novel. The novelist makes him his spokesman and relates the incidents. He is mostly the type of his class though there is some individuality in him. The navel begins with his individuality as he is sleeping in his bed after hard labour throughout the day. His role in the novel is multifold as –first he is the narrator of the events of the novel, secondly he is the link among all the remaining characters and thirdly he is the sole commentator on every issuing incident.

The novelist has portrayed him first as a type of his class i.e. Legal Department. All the strong points and the weak points are there in him. He seemed busier than he really is.  When he received the message of the shooting of Kamar al Dawla Alwan, he becomes irritable. But as custom demands, he could not but go there. As a legal officer, his duty was to arrive at the spot of the incident as soon as it was possible but he makes a fuss and thus delays going there. He shows more formality than executing his duty in time. His life is routine-like and as a routine, he resumes the event of Kamar al Dawla Alwan as below:

 “That is all right. I thought to myself – a simple matter. It would not take me more than a couple of hours at the most. The assailant is unknown. The victim cannot speak and won’t confuse me with his chatter. I have no doubt what he witness will be like. There will be the ghafir (sentry) on duty who heard the shot went off towards it, sluggish with freight- and naturally found nothing but a body prostrate on the ground. Then there will be umdah (the village head), who will swear by his wife’s honor that the criminal is not one of his villagers; and finally, the members of the victim’s family, who will keep everything dark from me and reserve the opportunities of vengeance for themselves.”

He is hollow in thought and action which imparts comic notes in his entire role in the novel. As he says:

 “I saw no point in holding an inquiry into this matter, as there were two possibilities – either the ghafir (sentry) did not know the difference between a shirt and nightshirt, which would not have been surprising. Or else said Effendi had taken his shirt off again and gone back to sleep – which would not have surprised me either. In any case, since I was the only one officially responsible for the delay, there was nothing to be gained by an argument with Said Effendi except  a splitting headache; and I needed rest more than anyone that night as I had to reserve my energy and power of speech for the actual case which was causing all this trouble. Languor crept over my limbs. I rested my head against the corner of the car, remarking to my companion-the scene of the crime is thirty kilometres away.”

Wherever he goes the comedy goes with him. He is comic head to feet as expressed in the horse-riding scene. He himself gives a vivid narration of his comic nature as:

 “I commended my soul to the Almighty and rode forward at the head of the party, reeling with fright and exhaustion. At length, sleep came over my eyelids and all was oblivion- until I suddenly became aware of my body flying off the horse’s back and coming to rest around its neck. The animal had jumped so violently into a canal that the impact had wrenched me off its back. ‘Just as I feared.’ I thought to myself, I shouted to the ghafir in charge of my mount. The horse, man, the horse!”

He has a fine appetite for delicious food as often he asks for tea during his operation but unlike other officials, he is not addicted to drinking. One day he happened to attend a club of officials the experience of which reads quoted  below:

 “I shall never forget the day when the officials of this area and the local judge invited me to a dinner party in honour of a colleague who was being posted elsewhere. Unable to refuse, I went along. There were bottles of whisky amongst plates of food on the table, and someone had filled my glass and that of the judge. That dignitary was a trifle careless and drank too much. He began to chatter and giggle rather inappropriately. The ma’mur, who was also drunk, leant over towards me and whispered in my ear, ‘His honour has lost his dignity!’ I didn’t wish to hear any more of that, so I slipt away and went home quickly, without being noticed by the other guest, busy with their cups. From that day onwards I had not set foot in the club. My assistant was won over to my way of thinking but I wish to expatiate on the matter as to make him still more careful. At that moment, however, Haj Khamis came in with a glass. As soon as I saw it, I exclaimed, ‘What are you giving me to drink?  Better let me have some copying-ink and have done with it.”

The second outstanding character in the novel is the Ma’mur (administer officer in charge of a district). Like the Public Prosecutor, he is a type of his class. He has all the outward formality but inwardly he is hollow. He has no sense of goodwill to the general mass. He is one of the major associates of the Public Prosecutor. He plays an important part in the novel, especially in investigating the cases.  He has some considerable weakness to fine dainties. Under the excuse of investigation, he causes trouble to the victims of crime.  As the Public Prosecutor is so is he is suffering from often drowsiness. As an instance of his sleepy nature the following extract can be quoted:

 “Suddenly a snore arose from the corner of the room and drowned the inquiry. I turned round – and there was the ma’mur asleep, his chin on his hand, leaning against the canopy……… he conducted him with quite courtesy to an adjoining room in the back of the house.”

He had a weakness for women also. Once when Rim was taken to the police station on the ground of Kamar al Dawla Alwan’s shooting the ma’mur was interested in Rim’s stay at his home from where Rim got lost and eventually she was found dead in a canal.  A rumour is heard about him that once he became infatuated with a peasant girl who came in with some petition. Being anxious to be alone with her, he had ordered his constable and warder to enter the prison and shave the prisoners. When they were safely inside, he locked the door behind them and kept them locked up while he was having a tete- a- tete with his lady.

He had a weakness for delicious food and always liked to get dainties. The novelist gives an account of his greedy food habit as follows:

 “Now, listen, his Excellency the Legal Officer does not like mutton or chicken for breakfast or anything like that. But there is no objection to a few pigeons in rice, with dried biscuit and whipped pastry. If there are light roasted chickens with it, there is no harm. Of course, some curdle milk is always good for the health. There is no harm in some eggs fried in cream. That is quite enough. See that you don’t make anything more. The Legal Officer has a small appetite. If you have some waxed honey, bring it in. There is nothing against a couple of cream cheeses and plate of cakes and dainties. The whole point is: something good and light. You know better than anyone what is required……”

The ma’mur is greedy for wealth also. He hoarded lots of money. Commenting on his greediness for money the novelist has told that he would hoard his ample salary except for two or three pounds which made up his monthly expenses, and at the end of the year, he would invest his hoard in the purchase of house-property and land. He declined to put his money in a bank in case, its total value became known, and nobody ever discovered where he buried it from the beginning of the year to the end.

He is always on the government’s side and is well acquainted with all the corruption of government policies. He admits that the voting system in Egypt is nothing but a show only. The result depends on the behest of the government authority. To quote his frank speaking as:

“Well, that’s my method with election. Complete freedom. I let people vote as they like- right up to the end of the election. Then I simply take the ballot box and throw it in the river and calmly replace it with the box we prepare ourselves.”

The third character to be worth noting is the First Judge. He is represented as a type as well as an individual. He is type in the respect that he maintains only formality but is heedless to impart justice to those who come for justice. But he is individual in his very whimsical nature.

The First Judge lives in Cairo. No matter how great the number of cases for hearing- this judge has never yet missed his train. The arbitrariness of his verdict of judgment may best be illustrated by the following case as portrayed by the novelist:

The user called out a name. And so it went on- name after name- a whole succession of cases exactly similar to the first on which sentence has been pronounced …. He glared at the crowd with eyes like pea behind his spectacles, which bobbed up and down his nose. Nobody not even himself caught the implication of what he had said. The user went on calling out names. The type of charge had begun and the judge said ‘You are charged with having washed your clothes in the canal!’

And then he fined him “Fine twenty piastres.”

The first judge can turn a case of misdemeanour into a felony as in the case of a woman who had bitten the finger of a person named Shaikh Hasan for the offence of making a joke.

The Other Judge is an excessively conscientious man who lives with his family in the district office. He is very slow in dealing with cases for he is afraid of making mistakes through haste, and perhaps too, he is eager to fill in time and enlivens his boredom in his provincial outpost. Moreover, he has no train to catch. So from early morning, he sits at his desk as though he is inseparably nailed to it, and he never leaves it till just before noon. He generally resumes the session in the evening too. This session has always been a nightmare…..

These four characters are the representatives of the ruling class. Everybody of them bears the same nature of distorting the law in their whimsical way. They may be called ‘good for nothing fellows’. Besides this, these four characters impart considerable comic notes in the novel by means of their whims and arbitrariness.

After these types and comic characters, we may bring into account the characters who are merely tragic representing the lower class (fellahin) of society. Among those types of characters, the prominent are- Kamar al Dawla Alwan, Rim and Shaik Asfur.

Kamar al- Dawla Alwan is a tragic character. He is a poor peasant living in the village. He lives with his old mother and a child. He got his wife died two years previously. The child is in charge of his sister-in-law called Rim. One night at 8 o’clock while he was walking in the street he got shot and was badly wounded.

The Public Prosecutor got the information two hours late and then felt much trouble and he along with his staff that includes the ma’mur, Asfur, the ghafir, the clerk, goes there and makes a much ado maintaining formality. Kamar al Dawla Alwan was sent to the hospital to be treated but there after three days, he died muttering only the word ‘Rim’.

The Prosecutor heard him uttering the name Rim but he was uninterested to lead the investigation further. The prosecutor says of him as:

 “…..Kamar al-Dawla, when asked who had assaulted him, muttered a single word, whose deadly echo still resounded in my ears: ‘Rim!’ 

After his death, his case was left aside for not having any testimony of his murderer. Thus he is depicted as a tragic character in the novel. But his tragic tone is kept subdued by the legal authorities.

The second tragic character of the novel is Rim. She is a young village girl aged about sixteen. She is the younger sister of the dead wife of Kamar al Dawla Alwan. She is very beautiful and charming. The Prosecutor has given a vivid account of her physical charm as under:

  ”…… Never since my arrival in the province had I seen a more lovely face or a more graceful figure. She stood in the doorway clad in a long black robe like an ebony statue engraved with a white countenance. The Umdah spoke to her encouragingly:  ‘come in, young lady.’

The novelist vivifies her charm as under:

 “She advanced shyly with hesitant steps, not knowing before whom to stand. The umdah directed her towards me. She looked me straight in the face, raising her eyelids. For the first time in my experience, I knew what it was to be ill at ease during an investigation. I could think of no question to ask him. The clerk could not see her as she was standing behind him. So when he noticed my silence, he assumed that I was tired. He dipped his pen in the ink, raised his eyes and asked, ‘your name?’

She pronounced her name non-committedly. Seeing her, the prosecutor was so impressed that he gives an account of hers as below:

  “My whole being vibrated like a violin chord to the touch of deft and sensitive fingers. I felt certain that my voice would tremble if I asked her anything else, so I hesitated. The position was distinctly embracing, for the investigation would drag on interminably if I was going to help blankly between each question. I collected my scattered wits, and all the resolution I could muster, and charge into the breach with questions framed to elicit a long complete answer….”

The above-quoted account of Rim given by the investigation officer illustrates best how beautiful and fascinating Rim was.

She was in an age when marriage was imperative for her. But she was under the guardianship of her sister’s husband Kamar al-Dawla Alwan who was not willing to give her in marriage. The novelist gives an account of the riddle of her not being married till then, as:

  “I asked if anyone had asked her hand in marriage. She answered affirmatively. The last had been a nice young man whom she would have not rejected, but her brother in law, who was her guardian, had rejected him. He had always refused to accept any of the numerous men whose hand had been outstretched towards her, like the hands of praying votaries.”

She becomes the victim of circumstance though she remains throughout the novel under the veil of mystery. To find out the clue of the shooting of Kamar al Dawla she was carried to the police station for interrogation and there she had to spend the night in the house of the murmur from where she got disappeared and later on she was drowned and died. Nothing was known of the cause of her drowning.

Thus Rim remains under the veil of mystery in the novel.

The noteworthy character of the novel is Shaik Asfur. He is a tragic as well as a comic character throughout the novel. Besides this, he remains the most mysterious character from the beginning to the end of the novel. The readers become acquainted with him on the way while the Prosecutor along with his staff was going to the spot where Kamar al-Dawla Alwan was shot. The prosecutor introduces him as:

  “I closed my eyes. Our car moved on, followed by the ford van, containing the clerk, the inspector, the corporal and the constables. Almost as soon as we came out on the country road, we heard a voice singing in the darkness of the night. The ma’mur instantly put his head out of the window and shouted, ‘inspector – we’ve forgotten Shaik Asfur.’ The convoy halted. A voice rising clearly from a thicket at the edge of a field:

 ‘my loved one’s eyelash, long and dark /Would span an acre wide’

From the very outset of his introduction, we see him comic as he got into the ford van with the air of a man entering a Rolls Race, first plucking a twig from a thicket and carrying it as though it was a royal sceptre.

He follows the investigating team wherever they go and keeps him attached to them. He is as if one of the investigation team. The team when picked Rim up to the police station for interrogation she happened to stay the night at the house of the ma’mur. Thence she got lost. The prosecutor, as well as the ma’mur, cast their doubt on Asfur to be the kidnapper of Rim as Asfur was also not found for the day. Later on, the police arrested him. The prosecutor suspected that Asfur was in love of Rim and thus he was brought into interrogation to find out the clue of Rim but all efforts proved futile. Asfur told nothing but kept singing as:

   “Once I was fisherman,

    A game all sportsmen like;

    I plunged into the water

    To catch a little piker;

    The fish were wonderful and odd,

    Swimming everywhere;

    The first one was slippery cod,

    The next a turbot fair.”

Later on, he was released from the accusation as nothing was revealed to him. Thus he remains throughout the novel a mysterious character as Rim and Kamar al-Dawla Alwan are.

Another tragic character in the novel is the village Woman who died of child delivery. She is a type representing the sufferance of the poor peasant village women. The novelist has given a vivid portrayal of her sufferance at the time of childbirth as well as of the hygiene condition of the villagers. One day the prosecutor had to investigate the case of the woman after she got died of childbirth. What he found going there is narrated by the author as below:

  “……… they are mere burial brokers. Even assuming that an occasional one is honest and conscientious enough to go to examine the corpse, what can an ignorant fellow like that discover? He sees a man or woman, recently dead, with no visible wounds. How can he possibly know that there is something suspicious about the manner of death? This whole system of barbers attached to the Health Department – a system unknown to any country in the world- is itself the source of evil.  It is very similar to our midwifery system. I shall never forget what a doctor from the central hospital told me once. He had been called out to a case of childbirth in some provincial village and hurried off, only to find the sick woman prostrate on her back, with the arm of the baby protruding from her body. At her side was an old woman with red hair and lips-Sitt Hindiah, the midwife. He learned that the woman had been in this state for three days, with the arm protruding from her. He asked the midwife why she had waited all that time without calling the doctor. She replied, ‘We were waiting for God’s secret bounty. We said to ourselves, ‘May God delivers her safely.’ The doctor had then placed his hand in the womb and found it stuffed with straw. The woman’s uterus was perforated and she was moribund, beyond all hope. The baby had been dead for two days. Looking around she had observed a pile of filthy straw at the woman’s feet and had asked the midwife, Sitt Hindiah for an explanation. ‘Well, doctor’, she said, ‘when I put the hand into to get the child out, I found the womb slippery, so I said to myself,   I’d better rub my hand with a bit of straw.’ She extended her hand to the doctor, who observed that it was filthy with straw from which her long black nails protruded. This midwives deliver a woman of a child as though she were a buffalo,’ said the doctor the sick woman and her baby had both died.”

Thus the woman typically shows us best how forlorn and deplorable the condition of poor peasant women was at that time! 0 0 0.

Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

Read More: Theme Analysis of ‘Diary of a Country Prosecutor’

Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

N. B. This article entitled ‘T al-Hakim | Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor’ originally belongs to the book ‘Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf-An Analytical Study‘ by Menonim Menonimus. Characterization in Diary of a Country Prosecutor

Books of Literary Criticism by M. Menonimus:

  1. World Short Story Criticism
  2. World Poetry Criticism
  3. World Drama Criticism
  4. World Novel Criticism
  5. World Essay Criticism
  6. Indian English Poetry Criticism
  7. Indian English Poets and Poetry Chief Features
  8. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  9. Walt Whitman’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  10. Critical Essays on English Poetry
  11. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: Return of the Spirit-An Analytical Study
  12. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf’-An Analytical Study
  13. Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories
  14. A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Pre-Islamic Period

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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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