Season of Migration to the North is a classically complex Arabic novel written by the late Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih about the problems faced due to colonization and the attitudes towards the ‘new’ world. Throughout the novel issues such as racism, sexism, corruption and the drawbacks of modernisation are explored and these issues are all presented by Tayeb Salih in the two scenes where Hosna Bint Mahmoud commits suicide after killing the old man, Wad Rayyes and also when Jean Morris is killed by Mustafa Sa’eed in ‘love’. In this essay I will explore the two scenes in which these women both die, and compare and contrast the deaths.
The murder scene of Wad Rayyes and the suicide of Hosna, are extremely unusual because of the fact that it in Sudan this time it was exceptionally rare for women to murder their husbands as the narrator claims ‘it is not every day that a woman kills a man, let alone her husband’, yet in the chapter prior to the murder the narrator comes across soldiers looking for a woman who has killed her husband and this shows the change in behaviour in the Sudan, as they are moving away from their usual traditions and showing the social discord in the country as they believe they are developing like the West but they are in fact hindering their own development.
Hosna’s suicide and her murder of Wad Rayyes is narrated by the comical character of Bint Majzoub, who in the novel is portrayed as an open woman who speaks her mind throughout as Tayeb Salih describes her as “uninhibited in her conversation” so it is of no surprise to the reader that she is the one who informs the narrator of the incident in the village when not a soul dares to talk about it.
This is similar to the murder of Jean Morris by Mustafa Sa’eed as this is held back from the reader like the deaths of Hosna & Wad Rayyes are kept away from the narrator. The murder scenes also are similar because of the fact that both murders are pre-meditated, as Hosna tells the narrator ‘if they force me to marry, I’ll kill him and kill myself’ which shows her clear intent to murder Wad Rayyes if she is made to marry him, even thought it is disregarded by the narrator when she first tells him this. This resembles the murder of Jean Morris as Mustafa Sa’eed has pre-planned to kill her as he brings the blade with him, and he calls it “a night of reckoning”.
Although they are pre-meditated the ‘ecstasy’ in the eyes of Jean Morris and the way that she pleads Mustafa Sa’eed to kill her makes the reader feel sympathy for Mustafa Sa’eed as it is obvious that he loves her, but quite clearly his idea of love is distorted because of the lack of love anyone has shown him during his childhood. Throughout the novel sex is linked to violence and especially in the Sudanese village of Wad Hamid the two are sometimes confused. In both murder scenes sex is significant as both murder scenes take place in the bedroom and this shows the increased amount of violence within Salih’s characters and also a relation with sex and violent activity which is another subject which is explored by Salih throughout the text.
Bint Mazjoub’s narration of the scene where Hosna kills Wad Rayyes is perhaps the most reliable information given in the book because of her straightforward nature, but we can see that even the most powerful woman in the book still believed it was amusing that Hosna was screaming and wailing and shows the differences in view from a Sudanese perspective to a Western point of view. The image of sex and violence persists as Jean Morris is killed after Mustafa Sa’eed describes her lustfully, looking at every part of her body especially her thighs in great detail showing that the violent act that he is going to commit is because he feels he has to, not because he wants to.
This also links to the amount of time Hosna stabs the old man, Wad Rayyes as she is described to have stabbed him more than 10 times and stabs herself in the heart. This is parallel to the way that Mustafa Sa’eed kills Jean Morris with one gash between her breasts and Salih is trying to suggest her because of their similar deaths that they have both been killed by Mustafa Sa’eed because of there love for him. The image of sweat on Bint Majzoub’s forehead and also on Mustafa Sa’eed’s forehead shows the difficulty it takes for both of them in their different circumstances, even in London Mustafa Sa’eed describes the setting as ice crackling under his feet.
This juxtaposition of heat and warmth against the old is vital as to seeing into the warped mind of Mustafa Sa’eed and seeing his true thoughts during this time and his sweat makes him unlike a true Englishman and shows the another one of the differences between him and the men of the north.
Bint Majzoub’s sweat is due to the hardship caused by reliving the night of the suicide of Hosna and the murder of her good friend Wad Rayyes, showing her sympathy for both Hosna and Wad Rayyes unlike other members of the community, who disregard Hosna and insult her. In conclusion the deaths of Wad Rayyes, Hosna and Jean Morris have similarities in the way they die and also prior to the deaths there are similarities in how the characters behave before the death, showing the mindsets which have been instilled within because of Mustafa Sa’eed and his hold on the village even after his death.