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Analysis of The Grievers

In Naguib Mahfouz' Arabian Nights and Days, the author takes up after the final night of the classic The Book of the One Thousand and One Nights, when Scheherazade is successful in getting the Sultan Shahriyar to renounce his murderous ways against women. Yet in Mafouz' collection of tales the story does not end happily ever after. Scheherazade's suspicion of her husbands penchant for murder makes her continually wary and hyper-vigilant of his moods. It is the theme of the corrupting nature of power and leadership that ties these stories together. In the final story, "The Grievers," Shahriyar wonders in desolation and isolation, wondering what direction he should take and trying to find redemption for his past evil. He understands that he can take the route of Sinbad or the story-telling Sufi master Abdullah al-Balkhi but he cannot find peace or fulfillment. Instead, we see in "The Grievers" that the fate of those who have done evil while in power will remain, like Shahriyar, "a fugitive of the past," alone and crying over a "wounded heart" (Mahfouz 224). In this Mahfouz seems to argues in these stories that there is no redemption humans who commit atrocious acts, which is why there are "grievers" among us.

We see that Shahriyar would like to find salvation and forgiveness for a violent past that includes killing his wives. Many characters in these works seem to be trying to change, forget or find redemption for their past, even those like Sinbad. When he returns home after his magnificent voyages, he finds himself unsettled and unfulfilled, much like Shahriyar finds himself. Sinbad goes to his mentor who tells him, "The roc flies from unknown world to unknown world, and it leaps from the peak of Waq to the peak of Jebel Qaf. Don't ever let yourself rest contented with anything, for such is the will of God" (Mahfouz 221). In a similar manner, we see that Shahriyar wanders at night in the dessert, seeking...

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