(AGG) The author of “Under The Persimmon Tree” often uses symbolism throughout the book. (BS-1) The author of UTPT uses the stars to give Najmah a superstitious belief, and give her hope and guidance to drive her towards her goals. (BS-2) The stars are used to help Nusrat accept loss, she looks to them for hope and guidance, and they have a religious meaning to her. (BS-3)
The author uses changes in the stars to convey events and changes in Najmah’s life. TS) The stars are used to portray changes in the characters lives, and the author uses them to give the characters hope, guidance, and an important meaning, as well as the ability to deal with loss. (MIP) Najmah associated a specific type of “star” with a bad omen, and they provide her with a symbol of hope and guidance. (SIP-A) Najmah believes that the stars will always guide her and her family, and in some cases they do literally guide her. (STEWE-1) Najmah believes she can never get lost if she follows the stars. “As long as you know the stars you will never be lost,” (10).
Najmah’s father taught her to use a certain star, the al-Qutb, as a central point to tell where she is going. “Moon and starlight guide us through the mountains,” (109). Here, Najmah is literally being guided by the stars. She is trying to get to a refugee camp, and the stars are shining and lighting up the path ahead of her, making it visible and not as dangerous. (STEWE-2) Najmah occasionally seeks guidance from the stars. “Staring at the stars and praying for guidance,” (131). Since Najmah believes the stars will always guide her, she prays towards them for guidance, because they have not yet failed to help her along.
Obviously, they are not literally guiding her most of the time, but praying to them gives Najmah a mental signal that everything will be alright, and Allah is watching over her. In a way, this is a bit like the placebo effect, because the author is. (SIP-B) Sometimes, Najmah sees the stars as omens of what is to come. (STEWE-1) “I have never seen such bursts of light… I lie awake the rest of the night in terror, with the stars exploding in a heaven that seems close enough to touch,” (64). Najmah is seeing stars “exploding” everywhere, which is just a meteor shower.
She believed in a superstition that said meteors were omens of death, and the next day her mother and Habib are killed by American bombs. The two events are unrelated, but Najmah has now associated meteors with death. (STEWE-2) “That sword… someone will die,” (224). Since Najmah has now made this association of meteors and death, she is terrified when she sees a meteor in the sky while at Nusrat’s house. However, Nusrat disapproves of Najmah’s fear, and tells her that meteors are actually good, because the holy Black Stone in Mecca is a meteor.
Although meteors are not stars, the author is still technically using stars as a symbol for Najmah’s superstition, because she has referred to them as “exploding stars. ” (CS) Clearly, the author has used stars as a symbol of hope and guidance for Najmah, as well as a basis for fear that Nusrat clears away. These are only surface connections, and there are much deeper connections under the surface. (MIP) The stars have a religious meaning to Nusrat, they are used to help her accept loss, and they connect her to her family. SIP-A)
The stars connect Nusrat to her family, in a way. (STEWE-1) She believes she can communicate to Faiz through the stars. “Faiz will be under those same stars,” (46). Nusrat thinks that since both she and Faiz are under the stars, they can send each other messages, in a way. (SIP-B) The author uses the stars to help Nusrat deal with loss, and part of this is because of Nusrat’s religious belief in the stars and universe. (STEWE-1) When Nusrat was a child, her sister Margaret had died. Nusrat had become very closed, and tried to block herself away from people.
She eventually opened up to Faiz, and upon meeting him she converted to Islam. In her teachings, she had learned that Margaret was still out there in the universe somewhere. She has not quite learned to deal with Margaret’s death, but she has stopped worrying about it. (STEWE-2) Then, the stars appear again. Nusrat is looking up at the sky, and trying to find a message or sign that Faiz is alive. But, nothing is there. “But this night the stars and planets send back to her nothing but cold, brilliant light and silence… In that second she knows Faiz will not me back,” (220-221).
The author had built Nusrat’s faith in the stars, and now reversed that faith to show that Faiz had died. The author has sent a sign that the stars do not always bring good news. They can convey messages that someone is dead, as well as that someone is alive. Later, Nusrat has a dream, and in her dream she is floating in space, with stars all around her. Then, Faiz and Margaret come up to her. This is another place where the author uses the stars. Here, Nusrat finally learns to accept the deaths of her loved ones.
Faiz and Margaret eventually leave Nusrat, and go off into the stars again. The author has put the stars all around Nusrat to symbolize that Margaret and Faiz may be dead, but they are still with her. (CS) Clearly, the stars are being used to affect Nusrat without her realizing it. (MIP) The author uses the stars to convey changes in Najmah’s life. (SIP-A) “Phantom stars” appear whenever Najmah is in danger. (STEWE-1) There are two references to phantoms in UTPT, both from Najmah’s perspective. These “phantoms” are stars in a way, because a phantom is a ghost, and the phantoms appear in daylight.
The phantoms are the equivalent to a ghost star, because they appear in daylight, when the stars are not visible. These phantoms are actually missiles, but the author has made them appear as “ghost stars. ” “where in the distance a white trail is visible behind an arrow shaped phantom,” (65). This phantom appears right before Najmah’s family is killed. The author has put this “ghost star” to appear when Najmah is in danger. (STEWE-2)
Later, the phantoms appear again. “together we look for an arrow shaped phantom… few minutes later we feel dull thumping underneath our feet,” (102). The phantoms have been put here by the author once again, at the same time while Naimah is in danger. Of course, this time Najmah is not harmed at all, she was too far from the explosions to be harmed. (SIP-B) The stars are mentioned more often at important times in Najmah’s life. (STEWE-1) Before Mada-jan and Habib were killed, the stars are mentioned. “I lie awake the rest of the night in terror, with the stars exploding in a heaven that seems close enough to touch,” (64).
Here, the author is mentioning the stars. They are being used to foreshadow that a big change in Najmah’s life is coming. Since Najmah is afraid, clearly something bad is coming. The stars are used again to symbolize another big change in Najmah’s life. “The stars shine brightly overhead… a plan has been forming in my head,” (130-131). This time the stars are showing a more positive change. They are shining brightly, and Najmah has realized that a plan has been formulating in her head. (CS) Clearly, the author has made many connections to Najmah’s life in the stars. RTS)
The author uses the stars to portray how characters connect to their families, how the stars give a meaning to the characters, and the stars portray changes in the character’s lives. (BS-3) The stars are used to portray how Najmah’s life changes. (BS-2) The stars are used to show Nusrat’s connection with her family, and she seeks hope and guidance from them. (BS-1) The stars are used to give hope and guidance to Najmah, and she associates them with an omen. ® Quite clearly, the stars are used both to guide the characters along and connect them to their families, as well as to e is their lives.