Naguib exploring their decisions that they are forced

Naguib Mahfouz constructs a microcosm of 1940s Egypt (towards the end of World War II); each character in the novel represents different groups in the Egyptian community, and by exploring their decisions that they are forced to make, due to the war,  and their characterization, he suggests the extent to which the war affected the country as a whole. Whilst some characters become corrupted by the war, due to their lust for money, others are able to obtain their inner desires (whether that be positive or negative). Mahfouz clashes the motif of war directly with the theme of religion and culture ,that is interwoven into the plot, to exaggerate the battle that the Egyptians faced during World War II to prevent cultural dilution; this same battle is mimicked in Midaq Alley on a more personal level.Mahfouz utilizes war to force his characters to face their values; he entices his characters with opportunities to test their courage and also to challenge how much it takes to break their false personas (used to please the society). Although the first person that breaks away from tradition is Hussain Kirsha, who leaves his parents to work for the British army, Naguib does this most effectively with Hamida: she is confronted with a dilemma when she is provided with the prospects that Ibrahim Faraj has to offer: she could either choose to remain in the alley and inevitably live her whole life with Abbas and have children, which was both socially and religiously expected of a woman at that time, or she could alternatively choose to utilise the opportunities that war provided and become a prostitute in order to fulfil her desires (money, independence and what she sees as love in the form of Ibrahim). By choosing prostitution, it implies the overpowering nature of greed that is induced by the corruption of war.Surprisingly, Hamida undergoes the least change in this novel;  from the beginning Hamida is unlike any of the other girls: whilst other girls yearn for marriage she argues that she “is not the one who is chasing marriage, but marriage is chasing” her; by personifying “marriage” it suggests the significant power marriage holds in society, Furthermore, it  implies how she feels undermined by society: at the start she feels as if she holds the power by her “chasing marriage” herself, however she reverses that on herself by saying it is “chasing”: this suggests that she becomes weak at the hands of societal oppression (forcing her to do things she doesn’t desire). Additionally,  Hamida, just moments before Abbas’ death, was “sitting amidst as crowd of soldier”; her “legs” were “stretched on the lap of another soldier sitting opposite her”. This mirrors her fiance’s (Abbas) situation since they are both working for the British army for money; whilst Abbas is risking his life and fighting, Hamida sells her body to them. Moreover, positioning her in between the soldiers mimics the entrapment of Egypt in the wartime: here Hamida can be seen as a metaphor for 1940s Egypt; therefore to the readers she becomes perceived as a vulnerable person who was ruined by the disasters of inner conflict.Moreover, the motif of war is juxtaposed with the motif of religion to imply the effect of war on religion; i.e. in the novel the people use war as a medium to get away with their inner desires.  Mahfouz does this in order to highlight the importance of religion and culture to preserve a community; this is especially true to a very religious country such as Egypt because the sudden removal of such a strict guideline makes people feel as if they can do whatever they want. The negative effects of the cultural dilution is presented through Kirsha’s malicious acts: although Kirsha is made to feel ashamed of his vices at the start, slowly he feels unrestricted: he utilises it as an excuse to perform perverted acts and sell drugs. Kirsha is always depicted as a controversial figure because even at the start his “normal life had eluded him and he had become a prey to perversions”. This quote is very ironic because he is presented in a vulnerable light (“prey”) even though his actions are malevolent. This emphasises how even though he tries to suppress his emotions, ultimately, because he has no support from society, he becomes defenceless against his overriding “perversions”. Unfortunately, Kirsha is unable to continue to outrun his dark sexuality; he progressively get worse as the war continues, and as the Alley begins to fall apart: following the seduction of a young man, by Kirsha, Radwan Hussainy, the alley’s moral leader, confronts him and tells him  that “satan finds the doors of youth an easy entrance and he slips in both secretly and openly to spread his havoc”. Mahfouz juxtaposes religious symbolism of “satan” with “youth” to portray how merciless Kirsha is, but also how everyone in the community now fears him. His comparison to “satan” contrasts hugely with “prey”: this implies how until his actions were evident, everyone in the Alley almost ignored what was going on. Alternatively, “satan” could symbolise sin: by becoming a “prey” to his lusts, he becomes entrapped and ultimately falls into an inescapable life full of sin.Overall, Kirsha, much like Hamida, succumbs to his inner wants and eventually ends up repenting as the whole community turns against him (even though they didn’t help him at the beginning). At points we feel sympathetic due to the inference of his helplessness, but the effect he has on the community and his actions outweigh any remaining sympathy the readers have for him.In addition, Mahfouz couples the motif of war with Abbas’ transformation and death to emphasise how the effects of war are permanent. Fighting in the war as well as experiencing the heartbreak of Hamida’s betrayal, fuels his rage and eventually leads to his death; by contrasting his characterization at the start with his anger at the end, Mahfouz depicts how war brings out the worst in everything. Through implications of the increasingly darkened mood to the Alley following Abbas’ death, Mahfouz also highlights the extent of the damage created by war. In chapter one Abbas is depicted as a humorous person as he jokes about how he has bought Uncle Kamil “a nice shroud as a precaution and has put it away in a safe place until the inevitable time comes”. The connotations of religion suggests his kindness and generosity to his friends and family. However, the juxtaposition between the “shroud” and his humour is utilised deliberately to foreshadow his darker personality; alternatively, the “shroud” could foreshadow his tragic death.As the story progresses, Abbas becomes stunned by his overwhelming love for Hamida: not only does he sell his beloved barber shop to fight in the army, but he also sacrifices his friendships by choosing to leave. After sacrificing so much of the little he had in his life for Hamida, and having that shattered, his vices become evident: his “anger foamed within him and blinded his vision, and he forgot that he had any enemy other than Hamida”. His “anger” is described as blinding which implies his fragility and the uncontrollable nature of “anger” (like greed). Including that “foamed” suggests how he was always capable of anger, but nobody saw as it required an extreme situation to bring it out: this implies how everyone has the capability to deviate. Also, the contrast of his perception of Hamida from someone who had a “handsome bronze-coloured face” to an “enemy” further mirrors his character: at the beginning he is comedic, optimistic and”handsome” whereas after confronting a chain of tragic events he becomes an “enemy” to himself.The motif of war is utilised to suggest how the reality of life becomes too overwhelming for Abbas that he succumbs to anger as his whole vision of life becomes demolished and he loses control. Abbas’ death is symbolic of the death of all the optimism and innocence in the Alley, but also the death of Egyptian freedom and culture (it becomes diluted due to the war).In conclusion, through the use of this motif, Mahfouz exposes several dark aspects in Midaq Alley; the war presents a series of opportunities for the inhabitants of the alley whilst challenging their morality. Not only that but, war also acts as a medium for change in society: in the novel most of the main characters make decisions, which eventually leads them into devastating consequences, to show how war has a predominantly negative effect and that the benefits are only reaped by some. Lastly, the destruction caused by war is utilised to suggest the inner conflict that everyone is struggling with, as well as the outer conflict with society: for example most of the characters (more specifically Kirsha and Hamida) face a battle with society as they do not want to conform to the expectations that they have been set, and when they try to break away from these expectations, they suffer.