Alcohol Intoxication and Man
Throughout the short story, Mahfouz uses characters, events, and dreams as symbols for Zaabalawi. As the story goes on, more information is gained about this miracle man, Zaabalawi is a symbol used by the characters, many see him as a way of life, or found inner peace, or even a God. In the beginning of the story, the narrator states that he as an illness “until I became afflicted with that illness for with no one posseses a remedy” (111). This illness represents something missing in the narrator’s life, like he hasn’t found inner peace in his life yet.
It’s the same as someone who doesn’t believe in a God and they realize somewhere in there life that something is missing, that they can’t make it alone. This symbol as an illness also is leading to Zaabalawi representing more than just a person, but rather a God or way of life. The narrator meets several people throughout the story and they all are symbols of the type of people in real life. In the beginning the narrator meets Sheikh Qamar. Qamar is a very wealthy lawyer who seems to have everything in the world he needs “his manner of sitting was that of someone well satisfied both with himself and with his worldly possessions” (112).
When he finds out the narrator is just trying to learn about Zaabalawi he becomes discontent and almost disappointed that the narrator was not a client there to make him more money. Sheikh Qamar symbolizes the greedy business man, he thinks material things will make him happy. Even though he knows who Zaabalawi is and that he’s a miracle man, he thinks he has made it in life because of his wealth, and does not need Zaabalawi. The narrator also comes in contact with the local Sheikh of the district. After asking where Zaabalawi is, the Sheikh is surprised to hear his name since he hasn’t heard it in a long time.
He is very happy to help the search for Zaabalawi by making a map for the narrator. He also states “I myself haven’t seen him for years, having been somewhat preoccupied with the cares of the world” (113). This statement is very symbolic, in showing he lost sight of Zaabalawi because he started to care for other things, but is very happy to be reminded of him again by the narrator. This represents how people who have God tend to stray away from him because they are preoccupied with other worldly things, such as wealth or their career. But fortunately, it is easy to become a follower of God again, or in this case, Zaabalawi.
Continuing his journey, the narrator is led to a calligrapher named Hassanein. Hassanein is a very content and happy man, and is an inspiring artist who is empowered by Zaabalawi in his art. He says “He was so constantly with me, that I felt him to be a part of everything I drew” (114). This symbolizes how God gives us special abilities to do amazing things, and how he is always with us in everything we do. In the bible it says, “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well” (Romans 12:6 NLT). Hassanein then leads him to Sheikh Gad, a famous musician.
Gad and Hassenein are very similar in their relationship with Zaabalawi, and are amazing artists because of him. When the narrator and Gad are talking, the narrator wonders why Zaabalawi hasn’t seen him yet because of his suffering. Sheikh Gad then states “Such suffering is part of the cure! ” (115). This statement represents how suffering may be needed to find God or to find inner peace, because one might not know that he has something missing in his life until he suffers. This is the whole reason why the narrator is trying to find Zaabalawi because he is suffering from an incurable disease.
At the end of the story the narrator meets up with a drunkard man at a bar named Hagg Wanas. When the narrator asks about Zaabalawi, Mr. Wanas won’t give him any information until he gets drunk with him. As the narrator gets drunk, he passes out and has an amazing dream. During all this Zaabalawi is with him the whole time but he is not aware because of his drunkenness. The drunkenness symbolizes a weakened state, and in the bible this is the type of people that Jesus would be with, for example when he helps a poor man walk or when makes a blind man see.
These are also the type of people that Zaabalawi helps, the people who are sick with disease, and in this case the drunken narrator. Another important symbol is the dream he had while with Zaabalawi. In this dream he experienced the most beautiful world he had ever seen and he was in a state of unbelievable happiness. This dream represents a glimpse of heaven. Zaabalawi showed him this glimpse to open his eyes to who he really was, and because of this the narrator is convinced he now needs to find Zaabalawi. In this case his eyes were opened to who God really is, and now he needs to be with him to cure the missing piece of his life.