Tawfiq Hakim presents a fine play showing the different cultural diversity in the ‘The Song of Death’ between the town and country. The play is set in a village in Upper Egypt, perhaps a farm, and two characters speaking to each other, both females. One is called Asakir and the other is called Mabrouka. Asakir is awaiting her son’s return, after 17 years in the city of Cairo, to avenge his father’s death. This time period in the city will be a crucial part into how her son has developed in to a ‘city thinking’ man, who has different views from the ‘village thinking’ people.
I will answer this question in terms of the themes of shame, revenge, honour and loyalty. All characters in the play are projected through these themes. The theme of shame in the play ‘The Song of Death’ is shown all the way through the play. When Alwan, Asakir’s son, refused to kill in revenge for his father’s death, his mother got angry and told him to get out of the house. “We have our men, there are still men amongst Azizis, but you are not one of them. Get out. Get out of my house. This shows that in village life men play an important role in protecting, supporting and providing for the rest of the family.
Azizis is the family name, and Asakir tells Alwan that there are other men form the Azizis family who can take up their duty. Asakir also shows how distressed she became after hearing that her own son, whom she had waited for all these years, had refused to carry out the task of avenging his father’s murder. “The blood of your father… seventeen years… the blood of your father… seventeen years… Thus, Alwan has brought shame his mother because of his refusal. This is mainly because the culture in the town has taught him about law, order and justice, rather than revenge upon his father’s murderer. “… it is the duty of us who have been educated in Cairo to open their eyes to the rights of life. ”
The theme of revenge in the play ‘The Song of Death’ is displayed throughout the play. “And now it has come, to rise up, my son, and quench my fire, water my thirst for revenge with the blood of Suweilam Tahawi! She is indicating the amount of suffering she has been through to await the death of her husband’s murderer, Suweilam Tahawi, “… quench my fire, water my thirst… ” This points out the importance of village traditions, where revenge is expected rather than bringing the accused to justice. “Would we say anything to the district attorney’s office… So that we might take vengeance into our hands. ” Also in the end of the play, Asakir ordered Sumeida, her nephew, to go and kill Alwan because he thought he was doing the right thing in returning to Cairo rather than avenging his father’s murderer.
The theme of honour in the play ‘The Song of Death’ is presented right through the play. Asakir orders Sumeida to kill Alwan in cold blood because he “… shirked taking vengeance for his father… ” Asakir uses the concept of the honour of the family, and uses the way of the country ahead of the ways of the town. In the country it is honourable to take up what the rest of the family did, in this case to kill a man from the Tahawi family. “All that people know is that between the Azizis and the Tahawis rivers of blood have flowed. ”
The theme of loyalty in the play ‘The Song of Death’ is presented all through the play. When Alwan returns to the village, he was expected to be loyal to what his priorities and transform back to his original ways, the village way. He is also expected to accept his mission, to slay his father’s killer. “… just so long as it brought us Alwan to take away the life of the murderer and leave him a rotting corpse for the farm dogs. ” Another instance is when Alwan discovers that the murderer has a son and would almost certainly avenge his father’s death.
Until he becomes strong and does to me what I shall do to his father. ” Only then does he realize that he is supposed to devote his life to the way of the country. “Are you afraid of your life, Alwan? ” In conclusion, I have looked at the themes shame, revenge, honour and loyalty. I have also shown how the ways of the country contrasts completely with the ways of the town. In the village, one must follow village traditions and certain customs. On the hand, in the city, one must follow fashion and modernization.