The Doum Tree

by meaganjbrown

Meagan Brown

Resistance to Colonial Pressures

Tayeb Salih, the Sudanese author, uses his own background of an ethnically divided colonial state, to highlight one village’s mission to maintain its own identity in “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid”. A rural village on the Nile, is where the dialogue between the old male villager and a young colonial visitor transpires. The old man shares his wisdom through the oral tradition of story telling. His stories outline the grave importance of the doum tree, “lofty, proud and haughty as though – as though it were some ancient idol”; which encompasses his village’s values on tradition and spirituality.

Salih is careful and absolute with his contrast between the two men as representatives of two different worlds. The old man takes his time in describing and delivering his words, where as the young guest is impatient and to the point. This contrast depicts the difference between generational and cultural norms.

The old man represents the colonized peoples that have endured external pressure and the slow probable deterioration of their cultural traditions. He is proud and strong willed in his quest to educate the visitor on his village’s practices and the importance of their traditions. “We are thick skinned people and in this we differ from others. We have become used to this hard life…”. The unnamed guest struggles to identify with the old man’s culture. Despite the old man’s persistence to unite his village and oppress outsider ideals, the old man understands this will not be the last visitor.

The narrator swiftly weaves in and out of dialogue with the young guest and storytelling. These mini-narratives give insight into the old man’s views of the historical and political processes impinging on his village, as well as its spiritual roots. The doum tree is considered sacred “

Throughout the story the audience is led to believe the old man is the narrator. However, the delightful realization of the true narrator will capture the reader and alter the reader’s perceptions of these thought-provoking characters. This depiction of a cultural collide will excite the reader’s attention and leaves one wanting to know more.

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