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Commentary on A Winter in Arabia

A Winter in Arabia is a travel narrative written by Freya Stark. Through this article,
Stark not only explores herself but also learns about culture and leadership through
her experiences while traveling with a band of soldiers during a winter's night in
Arabia. Throughout the narrative, the group goes through arguments and
encounters problems as their emotions impart on their physical activity. However,
with a strong leader in the form of Nasir, high spirits and order within the group is
maintained. In the passage A Winter in Arabia, Freya Stark utilizes a vivid
description of setting, pronouns, the characterization of Nasir and the rising tension
to show the significance of cultural diversity between the narrator and the band
and thus the difference between Western and Eastern diversities.
The vivid description of setting allows us to delve deeper into the problems faced
by the soldiers and thus gain a deeper understanding of whats happening. The
shore of Cana grew forbidding in the twilight (1) automatically sets the scene of for
coming nightfall. Also the use of the word forbidding has a negative connotation
and ties in with the twilight as it allows the reader to visualize the surroundings of
the band getting progressively darker. With the introduction of Arabia (34) and
Arabian words such as huri (4), zamil (7), Wongar (24) and tariq (25) help
the reader learn the narrative is set in the Middle East, giving us an impression a
semi-desert environment and allow us to learn more about the origins of the

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Stark uses the first person narrative and pronouns such as we and our to
show the band's events and feelings. It also creates a sense of closeness despite
Stark being an outsider. The omniscience of the narrator indicates that the band
may be quite outward in expressing their opinions and welcoming to outsiders.
However, in line 9, Stark uses the word I to represent her own point of view and
not the group's. The narration focuses on Nasir, who through more sophisticated
speech and actions prove to the band that he is the true leader of the group.
The detailed description of the incidents involving Nasir helps to give us a strong
impression of Nasir. The speech in lines 6 to 10 permits us to learn about the
relationship between Nasir and the soldiers. Let us dance a zamil (7) gives us an
idea about the nationality of the soldiers - Middle Eastern. While the Why? (8) in
the next line gives us an indication that the soldiers may not agree with some of
Nasir's ideas. Following this speech, lines 20 to 24 evoke the idea that Nasir is a
selfless and is willing to go through personal suffering so that the other members
may have an easier time clearly an act of unselfish bearing of hardship(40). The
last paragraph, a detailed description of an incident where two soldiers get into a
fight, allow us to learn more about Nasir's relationship with the other members of
the band and his position as a leader. Lines 39 to 41 strengthen the earlier
impressions of Nasir and allow us to learn that Stark also has a positive impression
of him.
Throughout the passage, a sense of tension and anxiety builds up through
language and narration. The cleaning of rifles (5) gives us an indication that
weapons may be required in the near future. A sense of tension begins to build up
when Nasir says They may cut us of at the pass, (7) as there is a feeling of

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uncertainty and threat, and thus this foreshadows a negative outcome. The
shooting of rifles towards the hostile unresponsive walls (12) seems to show that
the soldiers have lost control over their own action as are so frantic and worried that
they are trying to destroy objects which pose no threat to them. The sharp teeth of
lava (14) represents a beast and allows the reader to get a sense of fear the band
is facing and the possible threat of enemies nearby. These events are linked with
negative diction such as Dark (29), Night (15), Ghost of Cana (16),
Blackness (17), Unlit (17) and Blind (18) help us to visualize how bleak and
gloomy the conditions are. It also tells us the band had to exercise extreme caution,
as every step could potentially be fatal; thus the tension on the soldiers who are in
constant fear of the bad bits ahead (27) increases. This tension climaxes when
two members of the band quarrel with each, which nearly results in a fight.
Luckily, Nasir is there to mediate the trouble as he seized the aggressors rifle,
wrestling with him (37).
Stark considers herself to be 'Western', while she sees the other members of the
band as being Eastern. The cultural gap between Stark and other members of
the 'band' caused a difference in ideas, which is shown Stark says I resisted the
western passion for giving advice (14). From the description of the actions and
speech of Nasir in lines 20 to 24, we can see that the author admires and respects
Nasir, who was walking cheerfully despite sharp invisible cinders under his foot
(23). Nasir also '[left] the other camel for his men' indicating selflessness and
concern for other members of the group. A sense of sympathy can also be seen
from these lines. In lines 39 to 41, the author greatly praises Nasir for his readiness
of wit, cheerfulness, quickness of decision and unselfish bearing of hardship

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(40). From this praise, we can see that the speaker is quite open to other cultures
and is willing to accept their ideas and beliefs.
In conclusion, through the setting, use of pronouns, characterization of Nasir and
a rising tension between the band and their surroundings, the passage explains
that we should learn to be more open other people's origins and cultural beliefs
even if we do not truly accept them. It also reminds us that not all people in the
world are selfish as there are altruistic people. Even if we cannot always bear
hardship in place of other people the way Nasir does, we should always strive to
help the community and people around us as much as possible.

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