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Reverse Colonialism in “Season of Migration to the North” by Salih

Season of Migration to the North is a postcolonial novel written by Tayeb Salih that was published in 1966. In the novel, Tayeb talks about the civilization in Europe and the colonialism by the British on the African community and the Sudanese culture. The novel talks about Mustafa Saeed, the main character of the story, a project of British colonization; he studies British education. The book begins with the narrator returning to his village from his studies in Europe and is eager to establish postcolonial life in his home country. Back in the town, the narrator meets a new villager, Mustafa Sa’eed, who is humble and never flutters of his achievement as others would do. The author ironically uses Mustafa to retaliate against the tension resulting from the colonization of Sudan in various instances.

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The author portrays Mustafa as a person who has deeply immersed in the culture and tradition of the colonial people rather than his culture. When Mustafa goes to London, he is assimilated and lives like the Europeans, and speaks English. At the beginning of the story, at a drinking session, Mustafa gets drunk and narrates a poem in eloquent English, as the narrator puts it. He recites a poem that only the narrator could understand because other villagers were illiterate and did not understand the language. The narrator is shocked because he never expected the man to be civilized, making the narrator anxious to know the man better. When the narrator enters Mustafa secrete room with which he entrusted him, he finds large volumes of English books only with no single Arabic text (Takieddine-Amyuni). The narrator also considers journal entries and pictures of different women he got engaged with.

When Mustafa meets Isabella Seymour, he approaches him as he is a victor; he sees himself as an Arabic fighter who intruded on Spain during the middles ages. Sa’eed takes immense pleasure and likes her sexual and romantic appearance as an Arab soldier to avenge Spain. He reverses the terms of mistreatment and exploitation that were earlier imposed on the Sudanese by the Europeans. He retaliates by exploiting and mistreating European women. He frames the killing of Jean Morris, his European wife, based on counter colonialism (Takieddine-Amyuni). He admits to the narrator, “…I was the invader from the south, and this is the icy battlefield from which I would not make a safe return.” Mustafa is later convicted and sentenced to only seven years in prison.

After the death of Sa’eed, the narrator visits his secrete room and finds different books written by Saeed in his house in wad Hamid. One of the books found by the narrator is ‘The Rape of Africa,’ the book showed Sa’eeds perceived colonization of Sudanese as an act of sexual mistreatment and exploitation. Other books the narrator found in Saeed’s house include the colonialism and monopoly, the economics of colonization, and the cross and the gunpowder, reflecting the violence caused by the colonialist to African that led to Mustafa considering revenge through sexism and exploitation. The economics’ of colonization referred to the economic effects of colonization on Sudan.

Sa’eed’s apartment turns into a den where seduction and sexual mistreatment a seduction and exploitation of the white women. Sa’eed intentionally utilizes the colonial appearance of his European lover by turning into the Arabian night imaginations personification of his European lovers. Saeed imposed sexual fantasies on his British girlfriends to become slaves and addicted to him like drugs, and they could not do without him. He attained his objective by turning his apartment as where women were seduced; however, his behavior of establishing sexual interactions with women started in Cairo and not London (Takieddine-Amyuni). His first sexual desires developed early in Cairo before he went to London. This is when he first met a British couple Mr. and Mrs. Robinson; his first impression was sex.

The novel pictures Sa’eed as a murderer and exploiter; this character reflects the colonialist to the Sudanese citizens. The colonialists oppressed the black people by taking advantage of their resources and also killing them mercilessly. The novel migration to the north address this evil through the character Tayed; when he goes to Europe, Saeed takes advantage of the white who admired him for being a foreigner. “I would do everything possible to entice women to my bed. Then I would go after some ne pray.” Mustafa admits to the narrator (Takieddine-Amyuni). He also murders by killing his wife, jean Morris, by stabbing her to death. In the conversation between Mustafa and the narrator, Mustafa admits that he killed jean Morris while drunk because she provoked him by failing to be submissive. Saeed was found guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

During the Saeed court case, both the African colonizers and the British colonizers because they are liable for the possibility of murder. Professor Maxwell Foster Keen upholds Sa’eed because of the connection between the African society and the British community. Professor Mustafa convinces the court that Sa’eed never killed Morris and Hammond. Professor described Sa’eed to have a bright mind which readily accepted assimilation that broke his heart. The professor convinced the jury that Morris and Hammond were killed by the germ that attacked them so many years ago. The embryo is related to the emergence of the Europeans in Africa but not his character. What creates a focal point between the European ladies and Sa’eed is colonialism (Takieddine-Amyuni). He intends to unchain Africa from British colonialism using sexual acts while using ladies as a weapon. Perhaps Sa’eed may be a causality of colonization but has resolved to counter colonialism.

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When Sa’eed goes back to Sudan, the story questions the moral category of commitment he shows to African freedom. After serving seven years in prison, he comes back to Sudan and settles at Wad Hamid, a village along River Nile. Sa’eed rediscovers himself as a winner of freedom and marries a Sudanese woman, Hosna Mahmoud. He treats his African with the courtesy that he never displayed to his European wife. Sa’eed loved Morris than any other woman, but he ended up killing her to accomplish his colonialism revenge. He later abandons Hosna before disappearing, as the narrative puts it. Hosna is later forcefully married to an older man named Wad Hayes; Wad is killed by Hosna, who later commits suicide. Sa’eed fails in her colonization of the white when neither he nor his wife enjoys the freedom he was chasing after.

According to Edward Said’s writing assisted in the development of the required field in the postcolonial literacy thesis from the year 1970s and onwards. Saaid lived in Palestine and British and under European influence and had developed an interest in matters concerning the British Empire. Despite being a Palestine, Edward is so much exposed to the Britain culture and becomes assimilated to adapt to the European ways. Edward, in 1964 finalizes a study on Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Cornard, which talks about the partition of Africa. This novel is criticized by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe and accuses them of impressing racism in his dissertation An Image of Africa. The book of culture and imperialism in 1993 is vital in Said’s work (Nasrullah Mambrol). In this book, he takes his concerns in European colonialism and the kingdom; however, he does it so indirectly that you might not quickly realize that. From Said’s message, we can conclude that he supports African colonialism, which annoyed African critiques.

On the other hand, according to Mansfield Park, by Jane Austin, whose setting is at Bertram family. Bertram posed a filed in Antigua, which was their wealth, and different characters in the story moved there within the report. The story does not provide much information about the plantation. Still, it conveys the idea of slavery which a reader will relate to the Haitian revolution where slaves were massively used in the sugar mill to provide labor. Said condemns Austin against the message in his novel, but he later understands because Austin belonged to the community that owned slaves (Nasrullah Mambrol). Postcolonial intellects used ideas as an orientation to evaluate literature in the context of the kingdom and understand the existing literature of the former colonies and across the world.

The postcolonial theory has been developed by several thinkers like Fanon, Albert Memmi, and Said; others came and thought of other ideas and terms that immensely helped scholars’ analyses of imperialism and literature about colonialism. For instance, Gayatri Chakravorti reverted to postcolonialism studies in 1980; he started by becoming a deconstructive theorist after studying at Cornell and Paul de Man. He went ahead to analyze Derridas of Grammatology in the year 1976. Late in 1980, she collaborated with a group of Indian academics who were prominent historians and were known as subaltern studies collective.

The group had great historians like Ranajit Guha and Dipesh. They used concepts from Gramsci’s works to examine how various groups had been oppressed or crushed in some instances, especially in India. From an essay named Can the Subaltern Speak in 1988, now ideas of a postcolonial theory started emerging and attempted to represent the peasants and involve them in their studies; it is worth noting that her works are hard to read deconstruction theories.

Homi Bhabha is another postcolonial thinker from India who wrote Signs Taken for Wonders in 1985, which was specially issued by the journal Critical Inquiry and edited by Henry Louis. The report shows his central concepts; the paper’s arguments depend on fanon and other deconstructive theories and discuss identity issues under the colonialists. His main points are hybridity and also mimicry (Nasrullah Mambrol). The colonized try to hybridize both the colonized and the colonized, the locals and the European nations; most ideas are borrowed from Black Skin, White Masks. While responding to this, the postcolonial scholars used concepts like Orientalism, hybridity, mimicry, and subaltern to analyze early literature and study emerging literature from third world countries and former colonies across the world.

They looked into other interrelated fields in the literary works such as postcolonial studies, the critical race theory, African-American studies, studies from Latin, Asian-American studies, and other comparative ethnic studies. At the beginning of the 20th-century, theorists with roots from America and Africa like W.E.B du Bois identified the central problem of the times as the problem caused by color/racial segregation. Many fields discussed in this paper site the cause of problems as racism, and the significant fights included that against racism and colonization (Nasrullah Mambrol). In various ways, the scholars try to explore the different cultural identities, the characteristics of the oppressors and the oppressed, the inequalities meted on the subjects of colonial rule, and how they respond to the oppressors; the studies also look into the fictions and myths about races and nations.

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To better understand the conditions that promoted the efforts by the scholars, it will be prudent to start from the fifteenth century where the European countries began making contacts with Africa, a place they referred to as the new world. The first ones were the Portuguese who traded slaves on the coast of West Africa, which led to more than 10m African slaves being ferried into Europe to provide free labor; along the way, many died due to the harsh conditions in the ships.

In the sixteenth century, Spain managed to conquer Aztecs in Mexico and establish empires north and south of America. They started the spread of Christianity in the lands they beat; on the other side, the British began establishing colonies in North America, where they grabbed land and forced out the natives and even killed some. They even used biological weapons like diseases that were unknown to kill the people.

In the seventeenth century, the slaves’ market had fully developed and practiced amongst the Dutch, British, and French, where the slaves were forced to work in the sugar, tobacco, and cotton farms. Looking into the east, the Dutch and the British started eying India and Indonesia and even started approaching Australia. Moving into the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain continued acquiring colonies in Canada, Latin America by defeating nations like France, Spain, and other European countries who could not match their strength. This extended to other parts of the world like Africa.


Nasrullah Mambrol. “Literary Theory and Criticism.” Literary Theory and Criticism, 2019.

Takieddine-Amyuni, Mona. “Tayeb Salih’s ‘Season of Migration to the North’: An Interpretation.” Arab Studies Quarterly, vol. 2, no. 1, 1980, pp. 1–18. Web.

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