The Symbolism of the Sun in Ghassan Kanafani's Fiction: A Political Critique

Shadi S. Neimneh


This article explores the symbolism of the sun in Ghassan Kanafani's fiction, in particular his novella Men in the Sun (originally written and published in Arabic under the title Rijal fi al-Shams). The article argues that the sun is a naturalistic emblem standing for the harsh realities encountered by Palestinian refugees. Hence, it is employed as a political metaphor representing the "hellish" life of exiled Palestinians. In this light, the metaphorical employment of the motif of the sun serves the protest message of Kanafani's postcolonial literature of resistance. It is part of a larger project of employing gritty, harsh realism to depict a wretched world of agony, loneliness, despair, and helplessness. In Kanafani’s fiction, the sun directly figures pain, alienation and suffering, rather than hope, light, and renewal as commonly viewed in literary and mythical depictions. Instead of embodying light and birth, the sun figures loss and death in Kanafani’s fictional world. Therefore, it gives Kanafani’s fiction a mythical dimension when this fiction is viewed in its entirety. At the individual level of singular pieces, the sun underscores the realistic weight of such pieces, adding to their ideological, political and historical value. In Men in the Sun, the sun as a dominant symbol functions contra abstract metaphorical language by making the brutal realities of exile and suffering more concrete, more immediate, and more perceptible for the reader. Thus, it is a pessimistic symbol for Kanafani used to create realistic portraits of Palestinian life rather than an optimistic one as traditionally viewed.                                                                                                                             


Symbolism, Resistance Literature, Palestinian Literature, Ecocriticism

Full Text:



Abufarha, N. (2008). Land of Symbols: Cactus, Poppies, Orange and Olive Trees in Palestine, Identities, Vol.15, 343-368. DOI: 10.1080/10702890802073274

Al-Madhoon, R. (2012). Ghassan Kanafani: The Symbol of the Palestinian Tragedy, Jadaliyya. Retrieved from 17/4/2017

Alwadhaf, Y. H. and Noritah, O. (2011). Narrating the Nation and Its Other: The Emergence of Palestine in the Postcolonial Arabic Novel, 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, Vol.17 , 109-119.

Baldick, C. (1990). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Dobie, A. B. (2012). Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. 3rd ed. Australia: Wadsworth.

Eid, H. (2013). Men in the Sun: The Palestinian Diaspora. New Academia, Vol. 2.4, 1-9.

Fadaee, E. (2011). Symbols, Metaphors and Similes in Literature: A Case Study of ‘Animal Farm.’ Journal of English and Literature, Vol. 2.2 , 19-27.

Ferber, M. (1999). A Dictionary of Literary Symbols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gomaa, S and Raymond, C. (2014). Lost in Non-Translation: Politics of Misrepresenting Arabs. Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 36.1, 27-42,

Harlow, B. (1985). History and Endings: Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun and Tawfiq Salih’s The Duped. Minnesota Review, Vol. 25,102-113.

Hemingway, Ernest. (1926). The Sun Also Rises. New York: Charles Scribner’s. Ebook. Project Gutenberg.

Kanafani, G. (1999). Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories. Trans. Hilary

Kilpatrick. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Kanafani, G. (2013).Umm Saad. Cyprus: Rimal Books House.

Kanafani, G. (2013). The Stolen Shirt and Other Stories. Cyprus: Rimal Books House.

Kanafani, G. (2014). About Men and Guns. Cyprus: Rimal Books House.

Kanafani, G. (2014). What’s Left to You. Cyprus: Rimal Books House.

Kanafani, G. (2016). Returning to Haifa. My Translation of excerpts from the Arabic text.

Kilpatrick, H. (1999).“Introduction.” In Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories. Ghassan Kanafani., 9-15, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, Inc.

Shaker, N. (2015). “Men in the Sun” and the Modern Allegory, The Postcolonialist. allegory.3/4/2017 .

Shakespeare, W. “Sonnet 18”.

Shakespeare, W. “Sonnet 130”. n.d.

Stevenson, R. L.”Summer Sun.”n.d. 2/5/2017

Webb, A. (2009). Literature from the Modern Middle East: Making a Living Connection, English Journal, Vol. 98.3, 80-88.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2013-2022 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.