The fictitious short story was an effort to humanize a particular face entwined in an image that has somewhat steadily grown notorious and monstrous in the past years because of their actions which was considered by many as detestable, inhuman and barbaric.
Oddly, the process of achieving this particular goal in humanizing the agents of terrorism through the portrayal of the mundane struggles, concerns and what-nots of a particular terrorist was ironically done by allowing the character to stand in a backdrop that represents that biggest act of wanton disregard for innocent human lives in the name of nationalism, radicalism and Jihadist cause. This is particularly in the case of Muhammad Atta and his role in the crashing of the aircraft that landed in one of the two towers of the World Trade Center in September 11, 2001.
The paper, through the analysis of character, setting, point of view and symbolism, leans towards the analysis that the short story of Martin Amis has the effect of showing a real person. The rest of the world that has openly opposed terrorism has continued to hate and despise terrorists and terrorism that either in the present or in retrospect people, like Atta, was already bereft of human characteristics and was left only with the machinations that can enable the person to undertake tasks that only an unfeeling monster or devil can do.
Amis pointed in the story that while Atta maybe viewed by some as a monster, the world should not forget that Atta was also human and has many human characteristics, however, mundane and trivial. Character Despite the presence of many different characters, the focus of the story is on Atta. It may not be directly intended to humanize the terrorist especially in the minds of Europe/American readers, but that was the effect.
Some critics believed that an important aspect of the impact of the story after reading is moving the readers towards questioning the possible trauma that led to the level of derangement that Atta seemed to be inflicted with (Jones 8), to be not heavily motivated and yet excited in the death of people including his own. Ostrem believed that the short story was created so that the author and/or the reader can understand Atta’s state of mind (Ostrem 1).
But other critics believe that the presentation of the character in the short story shows an important flaw that counters the idea of humanizing the terrorist. According to Kumar, the “absence of true empathy (Kumar 1)” to Atta and the individuals Atta is representing in the story. Kelly points that the average-individual routine Atta went through in his last day can be considered as an effort to humanize Atta even when the Kelly herself believes “humanizing Atta was not what Amis is trying to do in the first place (Kelly 3). ” Setting
Situated in different neighboring places where Atta was believed to have stayed and went 24 hours before he smashed the aircraft at the side of the WTC, the setting allowed the readers to mesh fiction with reality, allowing for a more emotional, dramatic and connected effect among readers. Since the 9/11 tragedy was felt all over the world, a writing style that some critics like blogger Madison Guy believes to be a little to uncomfortable especially when the tragedy was “too recent for fiction (Guy 5),” although other critics like Rapa believed otherwise (Rapa 1).
Point-of-view The first person point of view proved critical and problematic because the flaws in the character of Atta in the story was attributed largely to the British author’s lack of understanding and insight to the mind, heart and soul of his lead antagonist. Even if the effort to justify the flaws in Atta’s personality by pointing out that Atta was a committed zealot but not a fanatic and not a genuine faithful was by no means any more effective in remedying the problem.
On the contrary, it worsened the situation because readers were either starting to get very confused and skeptical of Atta because of his “contrasting mindset and attitude throughout the story or they think it was a poorly written (Charles and Leah 1), “poorly researched material, that mocked Jihadists and Islam (Madison Guy 8). ” Kumar pointed out that because of the flaws of the story and the lack of strength to tie everything up together as a solid work of fiction, the story failed to act as a means to get inside the head of a mass murderer.
Instead, it was reduced into something akin to getting inside the head of Martin Amis and his personal thoughts on the 9/11 attack (Kumar 1). And that is not surprising, since some critics believe that it was Amis’ trademark especially among his post 9/11 fictions to respond in a personal tone, “as if he… were targeted (Review of Martin Amis: The last days of Muhammad Atta 1). ” Symbolism Atta’s pondering on the possibility that Jihadists were misled by the belief of receiving virgins in the after life (and instead, raisins) point to the idea that Atta is cognizant.
It offers the readers the insight to the probability that one of the attitudes of the suicide terrorists include the blindly holding on to a particular belief even when the belief is flawed. The raisin/virgin handle was the microcosm, an important symbolism of a bigger issue – throughout the story Atta time and again confessed to the readers how he was just trying to “play along,” cooperating with other members of the cell in this mission sans the fanatic belief in fighting for religion, its ideals and perceived benefits, even its exemptions.
Conclusion How the humanizing of Atta and the Atta-types affects the readers is something that is left to the readers for them to decide for themselves. What the paper is trying to point out is the conscious or unconscious effort of the author to “humanize” Atta and educate the readers about understanding terrorists like Atta, who are also human individuals whose problems that led them to such actions should be addressed and remedied.
Unlike other stories about how terrorists are profiled (in literary or film) where the focus is on establishing the absence of mercy and remorse, Atta was presented by Amis as an ordinary man with ordinary problems – with himself, his peers and with the world. If not for the gravity of his action Atta is an ordinary individual. And as an ordinary individual, the story points that it is possible that despite the amount of religious belief, political motivation or a mastered sense of calm in the face of killing and death, everyone, including terrorists also feels fear for his/her own death as well as remorse.
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