doum tree

by scoobadoobabambamchooba

lam le

The Title doum tree Sets the Tone

Author Tayeb Salih’s novel,” The doum tree of Wad Hamid,” is a story about modest, cultural traditions consequently being affected by post-colonial expansion or modernism. Within the title, “doum tree” is grammatically incorrect; the name of the title is consequently written in lowercase letters. Notable writers such as Bell Hooks and E.E Cummings utilized this method; by believing using lowercase letters in their name as a technique of humbleness. Author of the term “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,” Bell Hooks believes the substance of material is more important than whom which is writing (Bell Hooks: Writer/Activist, par.1). By using grammatical error, in the title, Salih sets an interesting tone to the rest of the narrative.
            The tale of the Doum Tree begins in first person with a villager speaking to a tourist, who comes to the village of Wad Hamid. However, in the last two pages, the narrators change and the tourist becomes the speaker to the villager. By shifting narrators, Salih creates a dynamic in voice for the later half. The first part of Doum Tree employs the speaker to use first-hand imagery to explain the significance of the Doum Tree and Wad Hamid. In the opening three stanza’s, the speaker paints the setting of Wad Hamid. The villager tells the tourist of “devil” sand-flies and horse-files the size of “young sheep.” In fact, the villager says aloud “God curse all sand-flies” (Salih 1). These opening stanza’s does not portray a mighty “Roman Empire” theme, but of a modest village of inhabitants living together with “devil’s” and “young sheep’s;” juxtaposing the good and bad to the life in Wad Hamid. The rhythm of the story-telling then flows into what the village does not have: newspapers, radios, or hospitals, in fact there is no public education, or transportation. All the examples are explained, by the use of litotes, whereas the listener to the speaker may realize he or she does need material things. The story keeps a smooth flow, by relating to the love for the Doum Tree.    
            As the narrators switch, the tourist becomes the speaker to the villager, Salih changes the tone of the story; by having the tourist speak of “when,” and “will,” the government come to town and make the modern changes to the village:

‘And when,’ I asked (the tourist), ‘will they set up the water-pump, and put through the agricultural scheme and the stopping-place for the steamer?’ He (the villager) lowered his head and paused before answering me, ‘when people go to sleep and don’t see the doum tree in their dreams’ (19).

The narratives change and juxtapose with one another. The first narrator builds strength to traditional culture, on the other hand the tourist, as a narrator, suggests of inevitable defeat to tradition.
            For a story with many small stories within, Salih writes fluently and subtly from tale to tale.  The manner in which the speaker enlightens the story to the listener, we can embody and sympathize with Wad Hamid and parallel our own doum tree.





Works Cited

“Bell Hooks: Writer/Activist” Infoplease. 2007. Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease. 21 January 2009 <>

Salih, Tayeb. The Wedding of Zein: The doum tree of Wad Hamid. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1991.




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