The Seven Voyages of Sinbad Studying the Literary Themes and Techniques

September 2, 2017 Cultural

THE SEVEN VOYAGES OF SINBAD Studying the Literary themes and techniques The One Thousand and One Nights and various tales within it make use of many innovative literary techniques which the storytellers of the tales rely on for increased drama, suspense, or other emotions. The tales vary widely: they include historical tales, love stories, tragedies, comedies, poems, burlesques and various forms of erotica. Since the twentieth century The Arabian Nights have also received serious critical attention and scholars have been almost unanimous in their praise of the way in which these tales transcend cultural and linguistic boundaries.

The following are the literary themes and techniques used in The Seven Voyages of Sinbad. FRAME STORY The main frame story concerns a Persian king Shahryar and his new bride. He is shocked to discover his wife’s infidelity and has her executed, but in his bitterness and grief labels all women to be unfaithful. The king, Shahryar, begins to marry a succession of virgins only to execute each one the next morning, before she has a chance to dishonor him. Eventually the vizier, whose duty it is to provide them, cannot find any more virgins.

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Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter, offers herself as the next bride and her father reluctantly agrees. On the night of their marriage, Scheherazade begins to tell the king a tale, but does not end it. The king is thus forced to postpone her execution in order to hear the conclusion. Each evening she tells a story leaving it incomplete with a promise of finishing it the following night; this continues till 1001 nights. This frame story of Scheherazade immediately introduces important themes of power, gender, justice, forgiveness, and the ability of art to transform beliefs and vanquish death.

The theme of the transforming power of art is also most obvious in the frame story as King Shahryar, entranced by his wife’s tales, in the end understands forgiveness, justice, and humanity. CLIFF-HANGERS A cliffhanger or cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction. A cliffhanger is hoped to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.

In the Arabian Nights stories, the uses of cliffhangers are broader than in modern literature and used in exaggeration. The queen Scheherazade, who is facing a morning execution on the orders of her husband, King Shahryar, devises the solution of telling him a story but leaving it at a cliffhanger, thus forcing the king to postpone her execution to hear the rest of the tale. STORY WITHIN A STORY This technique can be traced back to earlier Persian and Indian storytelling traditions, most notably the Panchatantra of ancient Sanskrit literature.

In One Thousand and One Nights the story of a Scheherazade narrating different stories enriches the whole reading experience. Within the “Sinbad the Sailor” story itself, the protagonist Sinbad the Sailor narrates the stories of his seven voyages to Sinbad the Porter. So the “story within the story within the story” takes this technique to another level of difficulty and intricacy FATE AND DESTINY The role of fate and destiny in the stories of Sinbad play a substantial part.

When Sinbad the porter complains about his poverty which is heard by Sinbad the sailor, the rich Sinbad exclaims that he has become wealthy ‘by fortune and fate. ’ Sinbad is always saved from dangers by lucky coincidences due to the ‘grace of Allah’. Also self-fulfilling prophecy is another form of foreshadowing, which dates back to the story of Krishna in ancient Sanskrit literature. A variation of this device is the self-fulfilling dream, which dates back to medieval Arabic literature.

Several tales in the One Thousand and One Nights use this device to foreshadow what is going to happen. DRAMATIC VISUALIZATION Dramatic visualization is the representing of an object or character with an abundance of descriptive detail, or the mimetic gestures and dialogue in such a way as to make a given scene ‘visual’ or imaginatively present to an audience. In the sixth voyage, Sinbad awakes in the city of king Serendib; describing the city’s prosperity, he says “diamonds are in its rivers and pearls in its valleys. There are many such examples of this technique being used in Sinbad the Sailor. REPITITION There are many common elements that can be picked out from the stories of Sinbad. The most apparent repetition is that his ship gets ship-wrecked almost every time and by the end, there is always a ship waiting to take him to Baghdad. His restlessness to travel is quoted before he ventures to every journey. HORROR FICTION ELEMENTS The dramatic adventures of Sinbad include outwitting and saving himself from monstrous creatures described with lot of detail.

In his second voyage, Sinbad found himself in an inaccessible valley of giant snakes which swallowed elephants and a gigantic bird called ‘roc’ that preyed on such snakes. Sinbad describes a Cyclops: “…a huge creature in the likeness of man, black in color …with eyes like coals of fire and teeth like boar’s tusks and a vast big gape like the mouth of a well…” These horror fiction elements create plenty of drama and thrill. There are no futuristic science fiction elements in the stories of Sinbad.


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