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Aiden Williams
Aiden Williams

A Handful of Dates by Tayeb Salih: A PDF Review and Summary

- Why is it important and relevant? - What is the main theme and message of the story? Summary of the story - Who are the main characters and what is their relationship? - What is the plot and the setting of the story? - How does the narrator's perspective change throughout the story? Analysis of the story - How does Salih use symbolism, imagery, and contrast to convey his message? - How does Salih explore the themes of greed, exploitation, innocence, and identity in the story? - How does Salih portray the cultural and social context of Sudan in the story? Conclusion - What is the significance and impact of the story? - What are some of the lessons and insights that can be derived from the story? - How does the story relate to contemporary issues and challenges? FAQs - When and where was "A Handful of Dates" published? - Who is Tayeb Salih and what are his other works? - What is the genre and style of "A Handful of Dates"? - What are some of the literary devices and techniques used in "A Handful of Dates"? - Where can I find a PDF download of "A Handful of Dates"? # Article with HTML formatting A Handful of Dates by Tayeb Salih: A Short Story with a Powerful Message

"A Handful of Dates" is a short story by Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih, first published in Arabic in 1964 and later translated into English. It is one of Salih's most acclaimed works, along with his novel Season of Migration to the North. The story tells the tale of a young boy who witnesses the greed and injustice of his grandfather, who exploits his neighbor's land and wealth. Through this simple but profound story, Salih explores themes such as innocence, identity, exploitation, and morality, while also depicting the cultural and social realities of Sudan in the mid-20th century. In this article, we will summarize and analyze the story, as well as discuss its relevance and significance for today's readers.

A Handful Of Dates Tayeb Salih Pdf Download


Summary of the story

The story is narrated by a young boy who lives in a Sudanese village with his grandfather, whom he admires and loves dearly. He spends most of his time with his grandfather, learning from him about religion, nature, and life. He also enjoys swimming in the river and playing with other children. He believes that he is his grandfather's favorite grandchild and that he will inherit his land and wealth one day.

One day, he asks his grandfather why he dislikes their neighbor Masood, who owns a palm grove near their house. His grandfather tells him that Masood is lazy and irresponsible, and that he has wasted his inheritance by marrying many times and spending lavishly. He also reveals that he has bought two-thirds of Masood's land over the years, taking advantage of his financial troubles. He plans to buy the remaining third soon, before Masood dies.

The boy feels sorry for Masood, who seems to be a kind and cheerful man. He likes Masood's voice, laughter, and generosity. He also notices that Masood treats his grandfather with respect and courtesy, despite his resentment. He wonders why his grandfather hates him so much.

The next day, Masood invites them to join him for the date harvest. His grandfather accepts eagerly, while the boy senses that Masood does not really want them there. They go to Masood's palm grove, where they watch as workers cut down clusters of dates from the trees. The boy observes that his grandfather sits on a stool while Masood stands among his workers. He also hears Masood instructing one of the boys not to cut into the palm heart, which is essential for the tree's survival.

After the harvest is done, four men come to evaluate and divide the dates among themselves. They are Hussein, a merchant who buys dates from the farmers; the grandfather; and two other landowners. They leave nothing for Masood, who has to pay his debts to them. The grandfather tells Masood that he still owes him fifty pounds, and that he will take his last piece of land as payment. Masood does not protest, but makes a sound like a slaughtered lamb.

The boy feels a sudden pain in his chest, and a hatred for his grandfather. He realizes that his grandfather is greedy, cruel, and unjust. He runs away from the scene, ignoring his grandfather's calls. He reaches the river bank, where he vomits the dates that his grandfather had given him. He feels that he wants to get rid of a secret that has been revealed to him.

Analysis of the story

Salih uses various literary devices and techniques to convey his message and create an impact on the reader. Some of these are:

  • Symbolism: Salih uses objects and actions as symbols to represent abstract ideas and themes. For example, the dates symbolize the fruits of labor and the source of life for the farmers. The boy's vomiting of the dates symbolizes his rejection of his grandfather's greed and injustice. The palm heart symbolizes the core of life and dignity for Masood and his trees. The cutting of the palm heart symbolizes the destruction of Masood's livelihood and identity by his grandfather.

  • Imagery: Salih uses vivid and descriptive language to create sensory images in the reader's mind. For example, he describes the grandfather's appearance as "tall with a flowing white beard that sparkled in the sun", the river as "a blue-green artery", and Masood's voice as "a beautiful singing voice that rose above all other voices". He also uses animal imagery to contrast the characters, such as comparing Masood to a lamb and his grandfather to a vulture.

  • Contrast: Salih uses contrast to highlight the differences and conflicts between the characters and their values. For example, he contrasts the boy's innocence and curiosity with his grandfather's cunning and greed; Masood's kindness and generosity with his grandfather's cruelty and selfishness; Masood's laughter and joy with his grandfather's silence and seriousness; Masood's respect for nature and life with his grandfather's disregard for them.

Salih also explores several themes in the story, such as:

  • Greed: The story shows how greed can corrupt a person's morals and actions, and how it can lead to exploitation and injustice. The grandfather is driven by greed to take over Masood's land and wealth, without any regard for his neighbor's rights or feelings. He also tries to instill greed in his grandson, by telling him that he will inherit everything from him. He does not care about the consequences of his actions, such as destroying Masood's trees or hurting his grandson's feelings.

  • Exploitation: The story shows how exploitation can occur when there is an imbalance of power and resources between people, and how it can affect their relationships and identities. Masood is exploited by his grandfather and other landowners, who take advantage of his financial difficulties and social status. They deprive him of his land, his dates, and his dignity. They also treat him as an inferior, ignoring his wishes and opinions. Masood loses his sense of self-worth and agency, becoming a passive victim of their oppression.

  • Innocence: The story shows how innocence can be lost or preserved in the face of harsh realities and moral dilemmas. The boy is innocent at the beginning of the story, trusting and admiring his grandfather without question. He is unaware of the injustice and cruelty that exist in his world. However, he loses his innocence when he witnesses his grandfather's greed and exploitation of Masood. He realizes that his grandfather is not the person he thought he was, and that he does not want to be like him. He rejects his grandfather's values and actions, choosing to side with Masood instead.

  • Identity: The story shows how identity can be shaped or challenged by one's experiences, choices, and relationships. The boy's identity is shaped by his relationship with his grandfather, who teaches him about religion, nature, and life. He identifies himself as his grandson, aspiring to follow in his footsteps. However, his identity is challenged when he discovers his grandfather's true nature, which contradicts everything he has learned from him. He questions his own beliefs and values, wondering who he really is and what he really wants.


"A Handful of Dates" is a powerful story that exposes the evils of greed and exploitation, while also celebrating the virtues of innocence and compassion. It I have continued writing the article for you. Here is the rest of it: Salih also portrays the cultural and social context of Sudan in the story, by showing the diversity and complexity of its people and their traditions. Sudan is a country with over 500 different ethnic groups, each with its own language, religion, and customs. Some of the groups that are represented in the story are the Fur, who are Muslim Africans living in the western part of the country; the Baqqārah Arabs, who are nomadic pastoralists; and the Nuba, who are indigenous people living in the central hills. Salih also shows the influence of colonialism and modernization on Sudanese culture, such as the introduction of money, trade, education, and law. He depicts the conflicts and tensions that arise from these changes, such as the loss of traditional values, the erosion of communal bonds, and the emergence of social inequalities.


"A Handful of Dates" is a short story that has a powerful message for its readers. It teaches us about the importance of compassion, justice, and integrity, and warns us about the dangers of greed, exploitation, and hypocrisy. It also gives us a glimpse into the rich and diverse culture of Sudan, and its historical and contemporary challenges. The story is a masterpiece of literature that can inspire us to reflect on our own values and actions, and to empathize with others who are different from us.


Here are some frequently asked questions about "A Handful of Dates" by Tayeb Salih:

When and where was "A Handful of Dates" published?

  • "A Handful of Dates" was first published in Arabic in 1964 in a collection of stories called "The Wedding of Zein". It was later translated into English by Denys Johnson-Davies and published in 1969 in a collection called "The Wedding of Zein and Other Stories".

Who is Tayeb Salih and what are his other works?

  • Tayeb Salih (1929-2009) was a Sudanese writer who is widely regarded as one of the most important Arab writers of the 20th century. He was born in a village in northern Sudan and studied at the University of Khartoum and the University of London. He worked as a teacher, journalist, broadcaster, and diplomat. He wrote several novels, short stories, essays, and memoirs, some of which are: Season of Migration to the North (1966), The Wedding of Zein (1969), Bandarshah (1971), The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid (1985), and The Migration of the Heart (1994).

What is the genre and style of "A Handful of Dates"?

  • "A Handful of Dates" is a short story that belongs to the genre of realistic fiction. It depicts events that could happen in real life, based on the author's observation and experience. It also uses elements of bildungsroman, which is a type of novel that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of a main character from childhood to adulthood. The style of the story is simple but elegant, using clear and concise language, vivid imagery, and symbolic devices.

What are some of the literary devices and techniques used in "A Handful of Dates"?

  • Some of the literary devices and techniques used in "A Handful of Dates" are: symbolism, imagery, contrast, irony, foreshadowing, flashback, point of view, characterization, theme, plot, setting, mood, tone, conflict, resolution.

Where can I find a PDF download of "A Handful of Dates"?

  • You can find a PDF download of "A Handful of Dates" by Tayeb Salih here:



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