Summary of the 'Merchant and the Demon' from the 'Arabian Nights'

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The first night's story in Arabian Nights is that of the Merchant and the Demon. Told by Shahrazad, the story offers a remarkable parallel to her own situation as she faces immanent death. Thus, the story of the Merchant and the Demon is told as a parable within the frame story, presenting a poignant analogy for Shahrazad's own situation. The Merchant and the Demon is a short tale but one filled with themes such as power, guilt, justice, and moral responsibility. Through the clever analogy with her own situation, Shahrazad also explores the theme of creative problem solving in tricky situations. Moreover, the story illustrates the core differences between pre-Islamic and Islamic values in Arabian society. Because the theme of gender roles and norms are not present within the Merchant and the Demon, the story shows how sexism is simply a form of general political and social oppression. Just as the king seeks to kill Shahrazad, the demon in the first night's story also wants to kill the merchant for a perceived transgression. A traveling merchant stops under a shady tree for a lunch break and casually tosses a date pit onto the ground. After he does so, a demon appears and states, "When thou atest the date, and threwest aside the stone, it struck my son upon the chest, and, as fate had decreed against him, he instantly died." The merchant feels bad but defends himself: "If I killed him, I did it not intentionally, but without knowing it; and I trust in thee that thou wilt
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