Men in the Sun
Men in the Sun is a book detailing the social, political and human experiences of the people of Palestine during regional and international scramble. The author, Kanafani uses three male characters to highlight the plight of those in exile and their struggle for a better life. He uses his personal experience in exile to bring to light the suffering of men. The three lead characters are Assad, Abu and Marwan, who are on journey of finding a better life that would also improve the living standards of their family members. These experiences however depict the challenges Palestinians underwent while in exile. Kanafani uses all male characters throughout the story even though there were women who played minor roles, supporting men to fight for freedom. This has triggered outcry from scholars on the position of women in Palestine and in family development. Throughout this paper, we focus on the writer’s portrayal of women as weak and depended members of the family.
In Men in the Sun, women take up minor jobs like taking care of children using men’s generated income. In essence, women do not perform any roles towards helping men realize their quest for a better life. In this story, women cannot undertake any role without the hand of men. For instance, Abu’s wife stays at home doing nothing with the hope that her husband lands a job to improve their lives. This contrasts the modern day women who fend for their families and support their husbands in generating family income. Moreover, Marwan terminates his schooling to start supporting his family, depicting how women not only depend on their husbands for survival but also on their sons.
Besides not participating in improving their families’ living standards, Men in the Sun portrays women as people with inability to make decisions over their lives. We see Shafiga, who is financially stable opting to marry Marwan’s father even though he is a married man with a family. Clearly, Shafiga does this out of pressure from her father. This shows how indecisive women are in Palestine and their dependence on men regardless of how successful they are in life. Shafiga’s marriage to an older man shows how women need emotional support in the novel. In another case, Marwan’s cousin is to marry Marwan because of the dictatorship of her father. Here, fathers control the decisions of young women, which is demeaning in the 21st century.
Kanafani bases his representation of women in Men in the Sun on the position of women in the Palestinian community where they are home keepers and not providers of their families. As inferior members of the society, women take care of the families while men provided for the needs of family members. Additionally, Palestinians prefer giving birth to boys for the permanence and continuity of the family lineage and fortification of the economy. The discrimination of women and girls therefore starts from the time of birth. Consequently, women here conform to these boundaries and sit back waiting for men to provide for families. It explains why Abu’s wife idles at home without helping her husband in any way with the hope that he finds a good job to sustain the family and improve their living standards. The society does not recognize successful women like Shafiga who marries an older man to fit in the society besides being financially stable. Fathers are more concerned about the survival of their daughters. We see this in case s where they marry off their daughters without their approval of the marriage. Contrary to this, boys have the free will to make independent decisions without the interference of their fathers. For example, Marwan quits school in order to marry and fend for his family, a decision his father warmly welcomes.
Both men and women experience losses in the societal setting of Men in the Sun. When men encounter a loss, it trickles down to their wives and other members of the family because they are breadwinners. In cases where men are unable to provide for the needs of the family, women suffer psychologically because they are in constant contact with children. For these women, being unable to protect their children is an excruciating experience more than any form of physical suffering. Thus, women tend to experience more predicaments in Palestine because of their dependent on men.
In summary, Kanafani paints women in Men in the Sun as not only inferior beings but also weak and dependent on men. This weakness in evident is decision-making, provision of family needs and moral support. Women have nothing to do in bettering the lives of their families apart from remaining at home and taking care of kids. Here, fathers, husbands and sons largely determine the survival of women.