Debby: I found the end of Samad’s affair with Poppy much more interesting than the time of their involvement. The way Samad is left without that sense of closure, the feeling of “growth” that he desires, seems very just. And speaking of justice, it seems that that theme is spreading throughout all our characters lives like wildfire. Alsana decides to provide her husband with only uncertainty after he sends Magid away as her own version of retribution. Millat becomes a teenage rebel in direct contradiction to Samad’s desire for a dutiful, faithful child. Justice is served hot amongst the Iqbal clan.
Tim: Well I haven’t gotten to that bit about Millat so THANKS FOR THE SPOILERS DEBBY. JEEZ. But ok, in all seriousness, I’m curious about the “growth” you mention and what you found so compelling about the breakup with Poppy. I thought the way he ended the affair and her response (and I quote, “Fuck you, you fucking fuck”) sounded just about right. What is it you don’t see Samad getting closure about? It seems like Poppy’s just another disposable, even more disposable, part of his life. Like when you get to the restaurant scene, he still serves her and her friend (sister? Can’t remember for sure) professionally even though she’s just trying to pick a fight at first.
Debby: Oops! Sorry for the spoilers. But back to Samad– I was referring to when he thinks: “her grief would have been an epiphany bringing him one step closer to his own redemption” (p. 168). In his mind, her sadness would have given him an extra ounce of worth in life. The fact that she cursed him out only further destroyed the exalted, idealistic impression he had of their affair. The affair that had caused his mind and soul so much misery was really and truly a worthless investment. Of course her response is accurate– and demeaning. He got his just deserts. He wants it to mean more so that he can give himself credit for something big and SIGNIFICANT.
Tim: I agree, that’s what Samad wants, but I wonder how much he actually thought he was going to get it from that affair. It seemed like another in the line of vices Samad employed to stave off boredom. He’s bored, so he masturbates. He’s bored, so he drinks. He’s bored, so he has an affair. And he emotionally and psychologically abuses himself over it because it gets him off on the illusion that he has agency to do significant things. I am curious to see how the Magid deportation plays out in that regard. As far as I can see at the moment, it’s no more positive than the rest of Samad’s ill-fated ventures, but it’ll certainly be significant.
Debby: I don’t think he does all those things because he is bored– does it say that anywhere? I was under the certain impression that Samad feels pressure to behave a certain way. He uses religion as an instrument by which to control both himself and others, yet he fails on all accounts. When he masturbates and cheats and drinks, he is only proving to himself that he is a failure. By “overcoming” each of these issues, he hopes to gain some greater sense of being– to take a step or two closer to god. Yet, he is surrounded by more failures in the raising of his children. So he takes drastic measures to ensure that he “does something right”… and ships his child off to the homeland.
Tim: Oh, I don’t think Samad necessarily thinks about it as boredom, but it seems a little implicit to me. Maybe boredom isn’t quite the right way of phrasing it, but Samad is looking to fill his life with something, and despite his religious fervor, it doesn’t seem he knows what to do with himself. Thus, the shenanigans. Overcoming each problem doesn’t seem to much help him. He quits masturbationg only to start drinking. Then he does both. He’s grasping at straws.
Debby: Absolutely! I certainly see him compensating for his internal emptiness with these vices. Like I said, I believe he uses religion as an excuse to hold himself and others to a certain standard. I don’t think he really, truly believes in anything except his own selfish occupations. He clearly doesn’t think much about the feelings or mindset of his wife and children. Instead, he is simply concerned with the image they reflect back on him. I’ll be interested to see how his life choices challenge and change him as a character.
Tim: Or if they do. I could see him as a tragic character who’s only success is the sideways push he might give his children to point them (unwittingly) in the right direction.