Season of Migration to the North: Motif Tracking ¡V Rivers & Water



Summary of Role:

The river or the Nile surrounds the narrator¡¦s village in The Sudan and symbolizes the boundary or the border that exists between the northern culture and the southern culture. It also is necessary to the agricultural system of village life and the village appears to be centered around it. The importance of water is further highlighted by the constant reference to deserts in this part of the world.



Quotations & Analysis:





¡§throwing stones into the river and dreaming, my imagination straying to far-off horizons¡¨

¡P         Maybe something significant about throwing stones?

¡P         Dreaming of going beyond the river




¡§the water-wheels disappeared to be replaced on the bank of the Nile by pumps¡¨


¡P         Water-wheels could represent the ¡§simplicity¡¨ of Sudan




¡§I saw the bank retreating year after year in front of the thrustings of the water, while on another part it was the water that retreated.¡¨


¡P         Water could represent the narrator



¡§I looked at the river ¡V its waters had begun to take on a cloudy look¡¨

¡P         If the water symbolizes the border between the North and the South then for it to be ¡§cloudy¡¨ must mean the narrator is having cloudy thoughts between the two cultures



¡§¡Khe was very knowledgeable about the genealogy of everyone in the village and even of people scattered up and down the river.¡¨

¡P         Starting to get a feeling that the river surrounds the village and it is a crucial part of the village since the narrator is able to use it as a reference to geographical locations.

¡P         Also could symbolize simplicity as his grandfather can know everyone in the village.



¡§¡Kthere passed through my head clouds of old, far-off memories, like a vapour rising up from a salt lake in the middle of the desert.¡¨


¡P         His ¡§old, far-off memories¡¨ are clouding up.



¡§Water covered most of the land lying between the river bank and the edge of the desert where the houses stood¡K¡¨

¡P         This is where Sa¡¦eed dies, and if the river represents the border between the North and the South, then in this passage the border has thickened. If the narrator is stuck between the two borders, then the widening of the border would mean that it is more difficult for him to stay on one side.

¡P         Floods are cyclical in Sudan ¡V symbolizes simplicity



¡§Mustafa Sa¡¦eed was, as far as I knew, an excellent swimmer.¡¨

¡P         In the narrator¡¦s mind, Sa¡¦eed was ¡§an excellent swimmer¡¨, which could symbolize that to him, Sa¡¦eed was able to keep afloat between cultures, between the border that is the river.



¡§¡Kthe bend of the Nile where the river, after flowing from south to north, suddenly turns almost at right angles and flows from west to east.¡¨

¡P         Tension in the river; fighting to go another direction


¡§¡Kand in the middle of the water are little islands of green over which hover white birds.¡¨

¡P         Sounds like a paradise; almost as if the narrator is saying that if he can get to the middle of the ¡§river¡¨, or to find a middle ground between the two cultures, then he will know himself.

¡P         White birds = doves? Freedom



¡§the indifferent river¡¨

¡P         But the river is not indifferent.




Key Moment:

The possible death of Mustafa Sa¡¦eed¡¦s and the Narrator¡¦s suicide attempt. They both decide to jump into the river, which ultimately symbolizes the border between the North and the South, and the middle of the river is where the two cultures clash. Sa¡¦eed dying there signifies how he wasn¡¦t able to deal with his dual identity, and he wasn¡¦t able to find ¡§the middle of the water¡¨ with the ¡§little islands of green over which hover white birds¡¨ (62). The narrator decides to keep himself afloat and alive in the end, which leaves the readers to decide whether he was able find this island of paradise, this middle ground, or this is unattainable, and he eventually sinks.