Summary & Analysis
Half a Day is a short story by Nobel Prize-winning Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz. Published as part of Mahfouz’s 1991 collection The Time and the Place and Other Stories, Half a Day departs from the social realism for which Mahfouz became famous, instead of employing elements of allegory and surrealism. All quotes in this guide refer to Denys Johnson-Davies’s English translation of the work.
The story opens in an unnamed city early in the morning. The narrator, a young boy, is struggling to keep up with his father, who is walking him to school for the first time. Although his father is cheerful and reassuring, remarking that the day represents an important step forward in life, the narrator is nervous; he feels he’s being punished: “I did not believe there was really any good to be had in tearing me away from the intimacy of my home” (Paragraph 5). His anxiety only increases when he arrives at school, where he and the other children are divided into groups and welcomed by a woman who advises them to accept the school as their new home.
The narrator and the other students do so and find themselves enjoying their new environment; they attend classes, play games, nap, and make new friends. As time goes on, however, they realize that their new lives also involve a great deal of hard work and frustration: “And while the lady would sometimes smile, she would often scowl and scold” (Paragraph 14).
As sunset approaches, the narrator emerges from school expecting to find his father waiting for him as he promised. When his father doesn’t show up, he begins walking home by himself and runs into a middle-aged man who greets him familiarly. They exchange pleasantries, and the narrator continues walking, only to find that the city has changed dramatically since the morning; he’s now surrounded not by gardens, but by crowds of people, cars, and tall buildings. Increasingly alarmed and more desperate to reach home than ever, the narrator is trying to cross a busy street when a young boy approaches to help him, addressing him as “Grandpa.”
The short story Half a Day begins with the storyteller who is enchanted with his new garments going to his first day of school, as he runs along close to his father. All things considered, in spite of the energy, the boy feels some sort of changes that make him apprehensive. Once in a while, he goes to look at his mother in the window of their home, quietly speaking to her for assist. He dislikes going to class.
When he resentfully inquires his father for what good reason he is being rebuffed by being sent to school, his father chuckles that school is not at all a discipline, however rather school is a processing factory that makes helpful men out of young men. He has pushed his child through the school door in spite of the boy's aversion and dread, his father vows to be there when the boy leaves the school. The boy takes a gander at different school children; he does not know anybody there. One of the boys questions him about who carried him to school. When the storyteller replies it was his father, the other boy responds that his own father is passed away.
On the first day of school, a decent appearing lady sorts the children into positions and examples, revealing to them the school are their new home, where there is everything that is charming and useful to intelligence and religion. The storyteller acknowledges her words. Before long, he warms up to certain young boys and becomes hopelessly enamoured with certain young girls; the school trains the students in geology, language, religion, music, and physical action.
The delineation of what they are realizing is meagre and intended to not be considered actually, yet as an analogy for what an individual would experience while transitioning. Simultaneously, life there is not constantly smooth. The storyteller faces surprising cataclysmic events, contentions with peers that turn vicious, and the once in the past merciful lady who arranged the children currently regularly rebuffs and harms them. The boys understand that they cannot go home again. Before long, the storyteller and his friends are never again permitted to adjust their perspectives on their convictions.
At long last, the chime rings to declare the end of the workday, and the school children race to the entryways to leave the school. The storyteller bids farewell to his companions and sentimental interests, however, his father is not waiting for him as he had guaranteed. In the wake of sticking around for quite a while, the storyteller chooses to walk home without anyone else. When he strolls, he runs into a moderately aged man whom he grasps well. He inquires after the man; the man replies that he is not doing such well.
In the street that he used to roam leisurely is out of nowhere, he is presently frightened by the progressions. Rather than a road fixed with gardens, there are presently vehicles, high structures, swarms of humankind, upsetting commotions and slopes of decline which are all proof of the progressions that modernization and urbanization have made during the storyteller's day at school or rather, his whole lifetime.
Now he can see the street is out of nowhere; it is loaded up with uproarious and impervious traffic like taxis, a circus march, and a fire motor with its alarm booming, and trucks loaded up with fighters. As the storyteller considers how the entirety of this could have happened into equal parts a day, between early morning and dusk, he simply needs to be home with his father.
Be that as it may, he cannot go across the road in the upheaval. Subsequent to standing quite a while, the storyteller is helped across by a little boy who works at the ironing shop on the corner of the street. When the boy holds out his hand and addresses him as Grandpa and then the storyteller understands that he has now become old. He realized that a half-day at school was his entire life which passed quickly.
Half a Day by Naguib Mahfouz is an allegory, which is defined as “a complete narrative which involves characters, and events that stand for an abstract idea or an event.” However, the story Half a Day uses symbolism which is defined as a “specific word, idea, or objects that stand for ideas, values, persons or ways of life”. The short story is a focus on the pace of life from childhood to adulthood and how quickly life can pass you by.
As the story goes on it reflects a greater meaning of what was previously read and to understand what is actually occurring the reader must be able to pick up on what the narrator is actually saying. The descriptions of the plants and gardens on the travels of the first day of school that later changed to the high buildings, fields and plants were gone and the streets were no longer quiet and had become noisy and busy with growth. The narrator used a man passing by as a description of ageing, the length of time since spoke as a description of time passing and with a comment of how he was as a description of how the end of life was near.
The plot of the short story is simple and at the end of the story you find out what happened next; time quickly passed by and only the first day of school was a memory. By the end of the day when the bell rings and he is unable to locate his dad by the gate of the school as was promised to him, so he began to walk home, which can be considered as a lesson as life is rough and the day goes on. The narrator is always the person in the story, but at the school begins to identify as a group with the use of we, and then with the ring of the bell becomes the individual grown-up boy.