Midaq Alley

The Use of the Grotesque in Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley and O’Connor’s “Good Country People”

The idea of the grotesque is presented in both Naguib Mahfouz’s novel <i>Midaq Alley</i> and Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Good Country People.” Although the settings, plots, and characters differ, both works present an underlying theme of distortion of the moral or religious beliefs of the culture. The grotesque can appear in different aspects of the story, and this distortion, an inherent part of the grotesque, may emerge in the setting, objects of the story, or characters, among other elements. While the style and tone of <i>Midaq Alley</i> and “Good Country People” differ, the authors of both works use the grotesque as a powerful tool, especially in the portrayal of the characters of both works. In general, Mahfouz and O’Connor depict the grotesque in two categories of characters: those that are mentally or spiritually grotesque and those that are physically grotesque.

Often, and especially in O’Connor’s work, grotesque characters fall into only one of those categories, and thus a tension arises between the character’s self-image and true self. However, in <i>Midaq Alley</i>, Zaita, the cripple-maker, provides a unique example of one who is both physically and spiritually grotesque. He...

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