Doum Tree

by rachelmoxham

Rachel Moxham

21 January 2009

The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid

While coming from a background of both Western and Arabic literature, Tayeb Salih, uses both religious and political aspects of each culture in his short story “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid,” in order to demonstrate the ever pressing need for cultural tolerance in our increasingly globalized world.

Taking place in Wad Hamid, Sudan, a village on the Nile River, the story includes a number of narrations of various religious and political leaders who visit the village with the intention of bringing change, be it religious conversion, or modern technology and transportation. Instead, each encounters protest from the locals at these attempted changes.

The story is told from the perspective of a current young visitor conversing with an elderly local about the history of the village, although the purpose of his visit, in contrast to the other visitors, appears to simply be observation.

It is through the role of this unnamed visitor that the reader finds the theme of tolerance in the story. From his point of view, the reader seemingly gains the perspectives of both the elderly local, who sees no gain in changing the village, and the past visitors, who see no gain in the village remaining unchanged. Nearing the last page, a sudden realization in how the story is truly narrated allows the reader to discover that there is never an objective view throughout the tale.

By using this technique of narration, Salih successfully models the lack of objective perspective in real life, and conveys that although each individual will inevitably have their own view point, the best role the individual can take in order to create tolerance in the world is to simply observe.

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