The Cities of Salt is a narrative story that revolves around a poor Oasis community located in an unnamed kingdom near the Persian Gulf. The central theme of the story regards the destruction of this city. The destruction occurs after the discovery of oil. Manufi analyzes and criticizes the events that took place in the city. The writer is very bitter since the Americans introduced cultural rifts into the community. The introduction of the new civilization led to adverse impacts on Bedouin way of life subjecting the inhabitants to turmoil. Mufaddi Jeddan portrays various characters as he relates differently to other people's traits; the presence of the Americans in the city resulted in different effects as discussed in this paper.
Meaning of Mufaddi's Character
Mufaddi Jeddan, the healer, is a traditionalist. Jeddan had never worked for money. It indicates that he is against modernism and tightly holds to the traditional mode of economy. He portrays an extreme emotion of anger when people attempt to pay him. In addition, he has never traded his services for money. He did not take any advantage of the fact that he was the only doctor in the city before the upper-class doctors arrived (the American doctors). His traditionalist character affirms the fact that he was one of the lower-class doctors who strongly antagonized the petro-capitalism. During one of the riots organized by the activist of Harran, he said, "people of Harran, money have corrupted many of you. It has corrupted nations and kingdoms." (Munif, 1987) Through his ideological opinion, he means that money enslaves its subjects, and the citizens of Harran city will become slaves of the Americans who in control the city. He added that money does not bring happiness. He links his ideological argument of self-consciousness of the new community to the opposing force of the money-driven economy. Through this argument, his traditionalist character is well portrayed and analyzed.
He is daring in that he takes risky initiative in an attempt to liberate his people from the American rule. For instance, he once stood boldly before the office of the Subi's doctor who was an upper class to fight against modernization of health services. In this way, he was fighting against modernization of medical services and other medical facilities. He screams when airing his statement to the people. Thus, he is not afraid of the consequences that would accrue to him, and his main aim is to fight modernization in all dimensions.
Mufaddi Jeddan is a team player and charismatic leader, which is evident in the way he organizes people and how he collaborates with the local leaders. By doing this, he unifies the local leaders and the citizens of Harran to fight against the American colonial rule. He solidifies the community and organizes a climatic riot. It is through the help of Mufaddi al-Jeddan, Mitel al-Hathal, and other leaders that the uprising takes place. The statement "the leaders fell into a collective protagonist" means that they joined to fight the dehumanizing act of colonialism (Munif, 1987).
Moreover, he is caring and sympathizing in the sense that Akoub, who is a driver and an adopted citizen of Harran, dies after the petro-capitalism begins to prosper. After his death, a problem of transport service emerges since he was the only person in the city who had driving skills. Later, more efficient tracks imported from America kick Akoub's truck out of the market. His sudden death strikes people's emotions since he used to offer quality service. Mufaddi Jeddan, with the help of other leaders, organizes his burial. Jeddan, together with other leaders, writes a notice to the ministry of labor stating that "they only informed the personnel office that one of the colleagues had passed away, and they had to attend his burial." (Munif, 1987) Therefore, there were no workers including the healer who reported to work that day. Zamel, Hathal, Jeddan and other workers did what was within their reach to show respect and love for Akoub. The argument portrays Jeddan as a leader who is able to mobilize masses.
How He Relates To Other Characters
Jeddan and Mizban seem to relate well since both oppose modernism. A personnel officer in the city issues a directive that requires each worker to undergo an interview aimed at determining their classification. This, together with the death of Mizban, causes political unrest in the city. In this case, the phrase "to determine their classification" is not clear (Munif, 1987). Some may argue that it is an academic rating since Americans are civilized. However, according to Mizban and Jeddan, not only the enlightened deserve these jobs. The citizens of Harran have traditional qualifications and skills that place them in a better position than the civilized individuals. Therefore, basing the classification on qualification is more important than basing it on civilization. Moreover, Harrans have their own civilization, which might place them in a better position than the Americans. Later, the classification analysis is being carried out across the ratio lines, meant to segregate and dehumanize Harran natives. Thus, the interview for classification is unethical.
Hajem, his uncle, and Jeddan have the same quality of daring. However, they face opposition and threats from the colonial rule. This type of humiliation shows that the lower working class is alienated and further agitated. The reappearance of Hajem in the city is as a result of haunting pain, which was caused by the mistreatment of the people of Harran and how the Americans viewed them. Their actions and contribution towards the death of Mizban cause unrest and silence among the workers. It shows that Jeddan and Mizban had a close friendship because they manage to mobilize workers for a go slow in order to honor his death during the burial. Therefore, this event shows that his effort for the liberation of people of Harran is not in vain.
Rivkin, Ryan, and Jeddan have a similarity in what they underwent during the American rule in Harran. The three are political antagonists who fight for people's rights and well-being. Mufaddi emphasizes on class and the importance of Munif's class pressure. During the time of extremity, the activists who demonstrate against the system are either jailed or shot dead. Rivkin, Ryan, and Jeddan oppose the American rule several times. Evidently, "Mufaddi is jailed several times and the final time he is told to either work in the town's stone quarry or to leave Haran forever." (Munif, 1987) This statement issues a conditional demand. Mufaddi does not meet either of the requests and is found dead at the Behest of Johar. It is an indication of the mistreatment of the Asian activists for fighting for their rights. The quote also indicates that the American colonial rule does anything within their reach to intimate and rule the Asians. These measures include imprisonment, hard punishment, and murder just to mention a few.
Miteb and Mufaddi are icons and great leaders of the community. The two fight for the city's welfare at different times in history. While Mufaddi struggles against the American colonial rule in the City of Salt, Miteb fights the Turks who came with an aim to occupy it. The two bare other similar qualities of daring, leadership, team play among others. Just like the healer, he is viewed to be the leader of the community; Miteb is hailed as the "people's ancestral leader and their spectral protector." (Munif, 1987) From this statement, it is notable that the ancestral figure to the Bedouins. After their death, the Harran residents hail them as their leaders who portrayed courage and charismatic qualities. Their leadership qualities and how the community characterizes them is a clear indication the two leaders' are linked in terms of the services and how their lives were terminated.
Munif also represents Jazi al-Hathal as the leader of the people against the Turks. The people of the city remember Mufaddi and Jazi for their contribution to the well-being of the city. Jazi fights for the independence of the city for forty to fifty years. Therefore, he makes Turk occupation of Wadi an unbearable hell. While Mufaddi is leading demonstrations and riots against the Americans, Jazi hides for a long time in the desert, and people think that he had died. He almost gets forgotten by the native people. The writer depicts, "then he would burst to the scene, killing, burning, and destroying only to escape back into the desert with what he seized. Staying there long enough to be forgotten again, then he would come back making the Wadi a veritable." (Munif, 1987) However, Jazi uses guerrilla warfare to demolish Turks rule. Mufaddi applied less violent tactics of demonstration, riots, and go-slows to fight the colonial rule. The two are viewed as the legend of the city who risked their lives for the sake of others.
Mufaddi is mysteriously killed but in the statement, "Miteb mounts his wife Omani on she-camel and vanishes into the hills", and this mysterious vanish of the two makes them be recognized as the prophets of the people of Harran (Munif, 1987). After the death of Mufaddi, the Americans ruthless rule intensifies in the city. Similarly, "disappearance and the intermittent reported sightings of Miteb from the community became symbolic of the disappearance of an old way of life and of suspicions regarding the motivations of foreign visitors." (Munif, 1987) New culture is introduced, and the city is exploited for oil, water, and labor. People are forced to work in oil mines and quarry, additionally, they are compelled to pay tax, and some are forcefully converted to Christianity.
Akoub, the track driver, also relates to Mufaddi. For instance, his services as the truck driver were for the welfare of the people of Harran. After the construction of the highways and the introduction of faster vehicles, Akoub loses his job. His truck is old and cannot withstand the stiff competition. Just like Mufaddi, Akoub mysteriously dies. His death becomes a blow for the society since the inhabitants encounter various problems; for example, they do not have other alternative means of taking patients to the hospital. His death brings grief and pain to the people of Harran. The death of Mufaddi also triggers such emotions. The natives express their love for him by offering him unorthodox burial since he was not a Muslim. To show loyalty and appreciation to his work, Ibn Naffeh presides over his funeral. Moreover, his tombstone reads, "here lay the remains of Yaacoub Al-Harrani." (Munif, 1987) It shows that the citizens appreciate his work the same way they do to other heroes of the community. Thus, the argument affirms that both Akoub and Mufaddi had similar characteristics.
How the Modernity of Oil Affected the Arab Community
Riots and demonstrations became the order of the day in the city due to the mistreatment of the native population. The Americans subject the inhabitants to dehumanizing acts such as forced labor in the oil mines and quarry. Demonstrations, riots, and go-slows become the order of the day. People lose their jobs because the colonial government fires them without giving them their salaries, pensions, and savings. It increases poverty among the inhabitants and worsens the conditions in the City of Salt.
Moreover, deaths and killings become the order of the day in the city as in the case of the murder of Mufaddi and sudden death of Akoub. The intruders are ruthless and take away lives of those people who do not comply with their demand. Mufaddi is killed after he refuses to comply with the commands and provisions of the Americans. Human rights are violated through extrajudicial killings. Moreover, Mufaddi was fighting for inhabitants' rights and freedom. The fact of his killing strongly affirms that the American rule at Harran is barbaric, ruthless, dehumanizing, exploitative and evil.
The inhabitants are subjected to forced labor; they are to pay tax, they are poorly paid and are denied access to basic needs. When the alien population occupies the city, they begin to dig the oil mines using new machines that produce much noise. They begin to fetch water from the wells and deny the native population access to the wells of their home city. The workers are supposed to pay tax from their little salary. Additionally, the majority is forced to work in the oil mines (Munif, 1987). Ths fact indicates that the alien population is exploitative to an extent that it could not be condoned. Therefore, the inhabitants were determined to fight the foreign rule regardless of what it would cost them.
In conclusion, the alien rule in the City of Salt was exploitative, and the native occupants were determined to fight against it. In order to win this battle, Mufaddi and other local leaders portrayed similar characteristics that saw their effort in fighting the aliens escalate significantly.