Book Review: The Stone of Laughter by Hoda Barakat





    Hoda indicates that masculinity is politically changing as well as historically fraught that attempts to define its incomplete and deficient role in the society.  The changes exiting in this division is shown in Hoda Barakat’s the Stone through the protagonist Khalil who is not ready to accept his identity imposed to him by the society (Aghacy 1998 pp. 14).  In the novel, one of the key themes that is indicated by Hoda deals with and also criticizes the gender roles in Lebanon during the civil war. As Fayyad succinctly address it, the novel presents the war as a situation whereby gender roles are over determined with the participation of the community through basic fighting (fighting for basic needs in the community) touch stone of masculinity identity (164).

    Nevertheless, it is evident that the novel male protagonist is not at ease with the male roles since he portrays aggressive male role and consequently into a female inner space.  Khalil who lives in a good apartment in Beirut at the time of the war come up with psychological and physical feminine traits. Because the inner spheres that is always considered the feminine represents the sage place that Khalil adopts to protect himself. He spends most of the time in the apartment dreaming and cooking. After every free time he finds himself cleaning up his room whenever a battle ends.  Khalil feels the need for cleanliness and order, this feeling grows until it leads to an obsession. After every battle, his room is fresh and new as if the builders had just left the room. This is a very clear idea that other men are not up to take the candle of men jobs and prefer taking female jobs hence masculinity is not determined by gender but by the roles and individual plays.

    Unable to fight in wars in the street, he tries to develop order in doors so that he can preserve form the violence in the street.  There are types of masculinity that are presented in the novel. The first type of masculinity is made up of youths who broke the door of conventional masculinity and come to manhood via the door of history, that shapes the destiny a region of importance on the world and the second type consists of those Khalil’s age that have got a grip on the important things in life (Barakat, 12).   This is a true significance of the types of masculinity present in the world. According to the novel masculinity differs with generation of people. For example, it indicates that the old in the society have a male masculinity of fighting for the society in most of its needs such as during war and other basic family issue but there other is the generation Y (Khalil age bracket that cannot fight for the society they are living in creating a gap between gender responsibilities.

    Hoda needed to show the theme of masculinity in different versions, but not according to the roles individuals play.  The most evident one is the ideal case of Khalil who is ready to take of his personal issue not support the society he is in, making other to suffer and fight in the street while he is tidying his room. According to the novel, the author used masculinity to show how characters in the novel behave when it come to general responsibilities.  For example, he concludes that people like Khalil are cowards who cannot fight for the society while there are those in the streets who feel the pinch of the society they are coming from hence able to fight for their need.

    Khalil lacks the access to attractive versions of masculinity that converts the life of youths around the world to a life explode hence he remains alone in his narrow passing place in a feminine state of submission to other. He is reluctant to accept the mark of gender hence finds refuge of making personal choices in life as compared to other in the society he is living. For example, he remembers a time that his voice broke; to him it represented a moment, which he considers that his sex had broken (Barakat 142). According to the author characters of individuals in the novel was evident with the version of masculinity they showed to the society.

    His passivity and longing for submission is apparent when it comes to his sexuality.  He dreams of the men he loves and always keeps waiting for their visits but he fails to take about his feelings or take any type of action as a man.  This is a clear indication that the author defines Khalil as an example of many other people in the world including those of his age and those older than him in the age bracket.  The author defines the plot of the novel by different roles that man in the society portray, the plot is divided into two distinct groups of those accepting masculine roles to those against these roles in the society.  In addition, the author uses masculinity concepts to define the roles of characters in the novel depicting those that support contemporary individuals and their masculinity traits and those in fear of masculinity roles in the society such as Khalil.

      The other novel that the paper seeks to use is the Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne (p. 23). The symbolism shown by the author is very distinct with the difference in masculinity of the characters in the novel. The nature of masculinity is shown in the face of Georgiana’s. it shows the struggle between science and nature, via his repeated attempts of removal of masculinity.  The class between nature and science shows the concept of women and man, through the femininity of nature and masculine characters of the globe of science.

    All through the story, nature is seen as feminine and is present through Georgiana.  This is the same way how science depicts masculine and symbolizes through Aylmer. The dilemma or the conflict between nature and science of the attempts that men have in control of women. According to Eckstein, modern science is full of masculine endeavourers as well as nature is considered as metaphorically female (512).  All through history, people refer to nature with the preceding word of "nature” making individual to belief that nature can only be considered feminine. A true appeal of such beliefs is evident in the contemporary world, where women are now fighting for gender rights all over the world. Rucker sees how Georgia frightens Aylmer, it is seen from the novel that Aylmer fears sexuality (443), especially feminine sexuality. He is concerned with managing his wife and her looks.  This shows the theme of women versus men.

    Aylmer sees Georgiana as an object for perfection with the exception of birthmark in him. Before meeting her all his was dreaming was science and the art of perfecting nature. He was posed with the degree of belief of man ultimate control of nature (p 29). This clearly shows what he ought to perfect from the exiting nature. The author tries to define the difference between men and women perception and stereotype of nature evident among the characters in the novel.  The author comes with clear description of the role that main character such as Aylmer and Georgiana have towards depicting the roles that gender roles have to the society.

    In order to balance the considerations of Georgiana and the mark, Nathaniel includes the opinion of the masculine observer; if the birthmark did not show the admiration of the contented selves, then the problem lies to the gender roles that nature has indicated in the society of the type of relief that the character presents in the novel.  According to Nathaniel the information, streaming from nature is coupled with different meaning in the world of science. He concludes that Aylmer is a person who wishes to define masculinity as the only source of changing nature. Based on the above principles between nature and science, the author used masculinity to define the plot of the novel.  He divided the plot into several potions defining the role of masculinity in Gender roles.

    It can be concluded that masculinity plays a significant role in shaping one’s life both as nature and as science.  Both novels have indicated the fear of masculine roles among characters in the novels hence showing a sense of masculine responsibility.  It is also evident that both are using masculinity in developing plots and character representation.

Works Cited

Aghacy, S. (1998). Hoda Barakat's" The Stone of Laughter": Androgyny or Polarization?. Journal of Arabic Literature, 185-201.

Erskine, John. "Nathaniel Hawthorne.” In Leading American Novelists. New York: Books For Libraries Press, 1968.