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"A Handful of Dates"

A seminar on Tayeb Salih's "A Handful of Dates" by Jayna Joachim and Jonathan Reyes.

Jonathan Reyes

on 19 November 2014

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Transcript of "A Handful of Dates"

Who are your role models?
Tayeb Salih
Key Elements of Fiction
Point of View:
First Person Retrospective
"A Handful of Dates"
Tayeb Salih
Jayna Joachim and Jonathan Reyes
“There are many horizons that must be visited, fruit that must be plucked, books read, and white pages in the scrolls of life to be inscribed with vivid sentences in a bold hand.” – Tayeb Salih (
Season of Migration to the North
Physical Setting:
Rural Northeast Africa by the Nile River
Temporal Setting:
Present/Recent Past
Ms. Muscat
20 November 2014
A Seminar by: Jayna Joachim and Jonathan Reyes
How do they influence you?
Relationships and Influences
"I never used to go out with my father, rather it was my grandfather who would take me with him wherever he went" (124).
"I loved him and would imagine myself, when I grew to be a man ... like him" (125).
The Grandfather
How do the conflicts of others affect you?
External and Internal Conflict
"I do not know why it was I felt fear at my grandfather's words—and pity for our neighbour Masood. How I wished my grandfather wouldn't do what he'd said!" (126).
Grandfather vs. Masood
Grandfather vs. Narrator
Character vs. Self
Character vs. Character
Character vs. Character
When do you start to disagree with your parents and form your own opinions and decisions? What provokes the disagreement?
How does wealth change a person's values and behaviours?
Wealth and Power
"... forty years ago all this belonged to Masood—two thirds of it is now mine" (125).
"I didn't own a single feddan when I first set foot in this village ... I think that before Allah calls to him I shall have bought the remaining third as well" (126).
flat, realistic, dynamic

The narrator is a young Islamic boy in North Africa raised by his grandfather. He enjoys learning the Koran, looks up to his grandfather, and has an active imagination. The boy comes to understand that his grandfather is not an idol.
flat, realistic, static

The boy's grandfather is the only present father-figure to the child. He is a cold, merciless, wealthy man who earned his success.
the neighbour
round, realistic, static

Masood is an
"indolent man" (125)
who repays the debt he owes to the grandfather with the dates he harvests. The young boys takes a liking to Masood because of his "beautiful voice", "powerful laugh" (126), and poetic nature.
The Heart of the Palm
Heart of the Palm
People's wealth and possessions (or lack, thereof)
Consequences of wealth
(social status, greed)
The grandfather's teachings
Narrator's attitude towards the grandfather
Palm tree:
Human beings
Potential for emotion
"I pictured the palm tree as something with feeling..." (127).
"Don't cut the heart"(126):
Morals over materialistic possessions
Moral questions
After finally seeing the cold-hearted nature of his grandfather, not only does the narrator begin to feel discomfort towards the grandfather, the narrator also finds doubt in himself, questioning everything the old man taught him.
Specifically, the narrator ponders on his religious belief, realizing that the man who encouraged reading the Chapter of the Merciful, was not merciful, himself.
In a powerful way, Tayeb Salih reminds the reader that
questioning the morals of those closest to you gives you a better perspective of your own morals
Thank you for watching!
Works Cited
Have a great day!
Salih, Tayeb. "A Handful of Dates." Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies.
Viewpoints 11. By Amanda Joseph and Wendy Mathieu. Toronto: Prentice Hall, 2001. 123-29. Print.
"Tayeb Salih."
2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
Wisner, Geoff. “Tayeb Salih: 1929-2009.”
Words Without Borders

23 Feb. 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
The grandfather is gradually claiming the date farms that Masood inherited.
The grandfather sees Masood as lazy, and says that
"I don't like such people" (125)
The narrator notices that Masood is dissatisfied with his situation and the grandfather, hearing
"him make a noise in his throat like the rasping of a lamb being slaughtered" (128
) after hearing of his remaining debt to the grandfather.
Yet, neither person tells the other about their dislike towards them
The narrator feels discomfort towards his grandfather's greed and lack of mercy for Masood
This causes the narrator to feel conflicted between his Islamic virtues and his grandfather's attitudes.
Thus, the narrator runs away from his grandfather, spews out his gifts (the dates), and decides that he hates him.
As a result of witnessing the conflict between the grandfather and Masood, the narrator struggles to maintain an optimistic view about the world, the goodness of people and himself.
The narrator doubts his religious beliefs and the idea of a perfect world made by God.
"The Sheikh always asked me to stand up and recite the Chapter of the Merciful..." (124).
"This was news to me for I had imagined that the land had belonged to my grandfather ever since God's creation" (125).
He also questions his aspirations, unsure whether he truly
wishes to grow up like his grandfather.
Mood and Atmosphere:
Frustration, Doubt, Fear, Anxiety
The contemplation of ethics, beliefs and values.
and Maturity
"I ran off into the distance. Hearing my grandfather call after me, I hesitated a little, then continued on my way. I felt at that moment that I hated him...it was as though I carried within me a secret I wanted to rid myself of" (128).
As the passage states, humans experience
joy and suffering. Since the narrator has already in the beginning of the story experienced joy, this quotation foreshadows that he will also experience suffering.

"I used to love the mosque, and I loved the river too... I loved to give rein to my imagination... I loved [my grandfather]"(124-125)
"I experienced a sharp sensation of pain in my chest," "I hated him," and "...it was as though I carried within me a secret I wanted to rid myself of." (128)
"'Palm trees, my boy, like humans, experience joy and suffering.'" (127)
"...never in my life have I seen anything of purer whiteness or greater beauty. My grandfather must also have been extremely tall, for I never saw anyone in the whole area address him without having to look up at him..." (125).
At the beginning of the story, the narrator obediently learns the Koran and partakes in the traditions of his religion. He idolizes his grandfather because he is the boy's main influence in life.
The narrator matures when he begins to form opinions and make decisions based on his own personal knowledge and experience
. By the end of the story, the boy understands the differences between his morals and his grandfather's. He no longer blindly idolizes his grandfather when he judges who his grandfather truly is based on his actions.
A state of wisdom or understanding as a result of age or experiences (also the process towards this state).
Born in Marawi, Sudan in 1929
Studied at the University of Khartoum and the University of London
Best known for the novel
Season of Migration to the North
Wrote 3 other novels and a collection of short stories
Wrote about life in the Middle East
Died in 2009, at age 80
A young Islamic boy is raised by his grandfather
The grandfather admits that he does not like their neighbour Masood
Masood is lazy, has lost two-thirds of his date farm to the grandfather, and is in further debt
Masood pays what he can with the dates harvested
The narrator sees his grandfather as the cold, merciless debt-collector that he is
He runs away, wanting no part in his grandfather's actions.
Full transcript