T al-Hakim | Diary of a Country Prosecutor | Theme Analysis


T al-Hakim | Diary of a Country Prosecutor | Theme Analysis

–Menonim Menonimus


T al-Hakim | Diary of a Country Prosecutor | Theme Analysis

T al-Hakim | Diary of a Country Prosecutor | Theme Analysis

T al-Hakim | Diary of a Country Prosecutor | Theme Analysis

According to The Concise Oxford Dictionary Plot refers to the interrelationship of the main events in a play, novel, film etc. According to A Glossary of Literary Terms, the Plot in a dramatic work is the structure of its action, as these are ordered and rendered toward achieving particular emotional and artistic effects. In brief, to say, Plot is a sequence of events in a story. On the other hand, theme means a subject or topic on which a person, speaker, or writer thinks.

Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Aryaf (Diary of a Country Prosecutor) is Tawfiq al-Hakim’s second novel which got published in 1937, the first being Awadat Al Ruh (Return of the Spirit) published in 1933. Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Aryaf (Diary of a Country Prosecutor) is a tragic novel represented in a comic way written in an autobiographical style. To speak the truth, there is no specific plot but some sequence of episodes huddled together. The main outstanding themes of the novel are the arbitrariness and corruption in the Legal System, fraud and corruption in politics, crime in society and consequently the sufferance of the poverty-stricken fellahin (peasants) of Egypt. The main episodes of the novel are – the investigation regarding the shooting of Kamar al- Dawla Alwan, the judgment episode, Rim episode, the childbirth episode and the episode of politics. Let us analyze the themes i.e. episodes as under.

At the outset of the novel Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Aryaf, we encounter the episode of Investigation concerning the case of Kamar al-Dawla Alwan. The episode shows us the hollowness of the judiciary system of the then Egypt. The officials pertaining to the judiciary system are good-for-nothing fellows. They only maintain the formality but have no goodwill at their heart to find out the truth. The Public Prosecutor who leads the investigation of Kamar al-Dawla Alwan is a type of the official of the judiciary department of Egypt. In the name of investigation, he takes the role of investigation with his team but all have proved as ‘much ado about nothing.’ He along with other officials is drowsy throughout the investigation. He often complains of his lack of sleep. His function is routine-like. He knows the result of the investigation beforehand and resumes the case after having got the information of shooting Kamar Alwan as:

“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 witnessed 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.”

The duty of the investigation officers is to reach their destination as soon as they can without making a delay. But the team of the investigation makes delay in maintaining their formality. The prosecutor gives a resume of the formality of their report writing as:

  “I found the officers in charge of the police station up to his ears in the compilation of a statement for me to throw into the water paper basket. For the legal officers always investigate the case anew as soon as he arrives. We settle down the inquiry, beginning with the description of our arrival. The clerk took his pen and paper, came to my side and wrote, while I dictated the usual formula:”

The Legal Officer is very minute in presenting the report other than the investigation. The Public Prosecutor admits deliberately as:

 “The point is that I always like to take pains with the compilation of the report and to see that it is well and logically arranged. The report is the be-all- and- end-all in the eyes of higher authority. It is the only evidence testifying the accuracy and skill of the Legal Officer; nobody worries, of course, about the mere apprehension of the criminals.”

The Legal Officer takes pains to make a long report because the higher officials give emphasis on the length of a report rather than the accuracy of the investigation. The Legal Officers says:

 “I scribbled at the bottom of the page. To be filed with report and clasped my head in my hands, wandering what was to be done next in this case, and whom we could interrogate so as to bring out Report up to a minimum of twenty pages. For I have never forgotten what a Public Prosecutor said to me one day when he received a ten-page report: What is all this? A contravention or a misdemeanour?

  When I replied that it was a murder case, he shouted at me in astonishment, ‘A murder case investigated in ten pages! The murder of a human being! All in ten pages?’

  When I replied that with those ten pages we had managed to get the murderer, he paid no attention whatever and went on weighing the report in his hand with careful accuracy: Who would ever have believed that this report could be of a murder case?

 I replied instantly, Next time, God willing, we shall be more careful about the weight.”

Kamar al-Dawla Alwan was shot by unknown someone. It was evident that he got one shot. But the controversy rose regarding whether he got one shot or two shots. The novelist writes down what the Public Prosecutor said as under:

 ”First, they brought the duty- ghafir. Who heard the shot and been the first to rush to the scene of the crime. He did not live up to my expectations- except in one thing. He insisted that he had heard two shots, whereas the text of the message referred to one shot; and the wound was caused by one shot only. All the villagers agreed that no more than one shot had rung out that evening. What motive could he have for lying? I was completely baffled. So we put aside the more important aspects of the case and went off into a discussion of the question whether one or two shots were fired. We interrogated everybody anew, and their answers were of one accord: One shot, sir.”

Eventually, Kamar al-Dawla Alwan died in the hospital uttering an indistinct word ‘Rim’ and thus the case was buried without being got justice.

The episode that comes second to our notice is the episode that has represented the Judgments System in Egypt. In the then Egypt, judiciary system was a farce. The same arbitrariness in the legal system is in the run as is encountered in the investigation machinery. The judges are wayward. They have no respect for the public interest. The defenders enjoy no right to defend themselves. They become playthings in the hand of the Legal system. For instance, the function and individual traits of the ‘First Judge’ may be taken into consideration. The novelist has given a vivid picture of him as- there were two judges in the court and they worked on alternate days. One of them lives in Cairo.

In the court of Egypt, a misdemeanour case may turn 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 cunning joke. The episode reads as:

The accused woman had a daughter called Sitt Abuha; she was wooed by a peasant named Horaisha, who offered a dowry of fifteen gold pieces. The mother refused and demanded twenty.  The matter stood there until one day the suitor’s brother, a young boy called Ginger, came alone on his own accord and informed the bride’s family, quite falsely, that the suitor had accepted their terms. He then went back to his brother and told him that the girl’s family had agreed to reduce the dowry and to accept his offer. As a result of this cunning joke played on both parties, a day was appointed for reciting the Fatiha at the bride’s house, and the bridegroom deputed Shaik Hasan and Shaik Faraj to his witness.

Everybody came together and the girl’s mother killed a goose. Scarcely had the meal been made ready and served to the guest when the dowry was mentioned and the trick was revealed. It was evident that the deadlock had not been solved and a quarrel flared up between the two parties. The girl’s mother began to shout in the yard. Shaik Hasan was moved by the spirit of devoted zeal and did not touch the food. He began to argue with the woman, vainly trying to convince her, while his colleague, Shaik Hasan scratched out his hand towards the goose and began to guzzle it avidly, without entering into the impassioned dispute. It appeared that the enthusiasm on each side went beyond the limits of verbal discussion. Hasan saw that his hand was not in the plate of goose but in the woman’s mouth. He let forth a resounding shriek and soon the whole house was turned upside down in chaotic confusion. Hence was the case and the judge turned to the old woman and said, ‘the case has become a felony and without the jurisdiction of the Criminal Court.’

The old lady showed no sign of understanding this subtle distinction. In her view, a bite was a bite. How it could suddenly be transformed from a misdemeanour into a felony?

Here the novelist has cast his comments as, ‘What an accursed law it is- far beyond the comprehension of this simple folk!’

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 the 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…..”

The fourth episode that comes in the sequence of the plot of the novel is the Episode of 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.”

 “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. “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 the episode came to an end.

The fourth episode that formed the sequence of events of the novel is the Childbirth Episode. The novelist has given a vivid portrayal of childbirth as well as of the hygiene condition of the villagers. One day the prosecutor had to investigate a case of a woman who 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. These 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 childbirth episode shows us best how deplorable the condition of hygiene in Egypt was at that time!

Another aspect of the novel is that of Politics. Politics has come here in the novel not as a distinct event or episode but as a reference. Politics in Egypt is nothing but a game of earning money. It has nothing to do with the welfare of the mass. Politics is the supreme issue in Egypt. Ma’mur said, ‘it is no use being too pedantic. You mean that we should leave people in prison for no crime.’

If any official is seemed to speak against the corrupted policy of politics he sees that he is either dismissed from his post or he is transferred to Upper Egypt. To clarify this point it may be reasonable to allude to what the prosecutor said about the arbitrariness of the political leaders of the country. He says:

“Most numerous of all were the charges of vagrancy against persons unfriendly to the new government. This was the easiest and effective weapon the administration possessed: for every notables’ son could be charged with ‘having no fixed occupation’ and could thus be arrested and imprisoned for four days by permission of the Legal Department, to give time for investigation,  and to obtain his record from Cairo. And where was the Legal Officer today who would refuse the demands of a police station to issue detention orders?”

Thus all these episodes have formed the plot of the novel through which the novelist has succeeded to give vivid pen pictures of the socio-political phenomena in Egyptian society of his time. 0 0 0

Diary of a Country Prosecutor

Read More: Izz al-din al-Madani Short Story ‘The Tale of the Lamp’-An Analytical Study

Diary of a Country Prosecutor

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