Cities Of Salt By Abdelrahman Munif And Oil On Water

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Throughout the novels Cities of Salt by Abdelrahman Munif and Oil on Water by Helon Habila, oil is portrayed very differently. The characters of Cities of Salt are constantly subjected to the effects of oil, without ever seeing the commodity that is negatively impacting their lives. In Oil on Water, the characters are unable to get away from oil or its effects as it is a visible, determining factor in their lives. This difference in the visibility of oil consequently dictates whether characters are repulsed or intrigued by it. Since Rufus provides an unreliable narrative in Oil on Water, the reader can never fully trust his interpretation of events as he sometimes has “to make up the obscured moments as I go along, make up the faces and…show more content…
Conversely, oil is seen consistently throughout Oil on Water. Although the characters see similar environmental effects, such as “the carcasses of the fish and crabs and water birds that floated on the deserted beaches of these tiny towns and villages every morning, killed by the oil” (193), they also see the oil itself. The oil’s presence and the industry surrounding it, such as “the ever-present pipelines crisscrossing the landscape”, allows the characters to learn more about oil, its manufacturing and effects. As these characters are able to see oil and understand it to a greater extent, they are able to use it to their advantage. Their ability to do this as inspires them to think about and sometimes attempt to work towards, as the militants do, a society and economy where they can reap the oil’s benefits. Once they realize the profits would not otherwise affect them, many people, including Rufus’s father, begin making their livings illegally off the oil. Although they are buying and selling oil illegally, “This is the only business booming in this town” (69). The people are forced to give up their traditional lifestyle, but cannot become fully reliant on the foreigners as the characters from Cities of Salt do. This difference in the portrayal of oil as either an obscure social force or as a physical object overpowering the land has an enormous influence on how both the characters and the reader view the oil. It changes from an entity altering their lives for

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