Sparrows by K.A. Abbas
In Sparrows by K.A. Abbas we have the theme of cruelty, fear, resentment, tradition, connection, redemption and change. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises from the beginning of the story that Abbas may be exploring the theme of cruelty. As Rahim is walking home his neighbours silently talk about how cruel he has been to some of the animals in the village. The reader is also aware that both of Rahim’s sons have left him due to his cruelty and his continuous beating of each son for no reason. This may be important as there is a sense that not only is Rahim cruel towards both animals and other human beings but his sons may have lived their lives in fear of Rahim. Never knowing as to why or when they might be beaten. It is also noticeable that all of Rahim’s neighbours stay clear of him. Possibly like Rahim’s sons they too are afraid of what Rahim might do to them should he lose his temper. A temper that has been solidly built up over the years since Rahim was a teenager and his parents forced him to follow tradition rather than allowing him to join the circus or marry the girl that he loved.
If anything Rahim resents his parents enforcing tradition onto him and he has spent the entirety of his life taking his bitterness towards his parents out on his own family and others. Which would leave the reader understanding as to why Rahim may have no friends or why people in the village are afraid of him. On the surface Rahim is not a pleasant man though he does manage to change when he sees the sparrows in his hut. It is as though without knowing it Rahim has an epiphany and changes as a man. No longer is he cruel to either animals or others in the village and appears to redirect his life in a more positive direction. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Rahim calls out to the children who run away when they see him. Rather than wanting to beat the children he wants to show them that there is no reason to be afraid of him. All this has been achieved through Rahim’s ability to make a connection with the sparrows in his hut.
It is as though the sparrows allow for Rahim to redeem himself. Even if others are unable to see Rahim’s redemption. He becomes a kinder gentler man. Though again those in the village do not notice this change in Rahim such is the fear they feel with regard to Rahim. They do not take the opportunity to engage with him in a meaningful way and assume that Rahim is the same man that he has always been. Which really isn’t the neighbours fault. It would be difficult to engage with someone productively who has a tendency to use violence at the drop of a hat. Also Rahim is a private man who had been embittered by his past so change would not have been something that would have been expected of Rahim. People would prefer to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to engaging with Rahim. Which is understandable. It would be foolish for a person to engage with another person who is prone to violence without having their guard up. To protect themselves and the best guard Rahim’s neighbours have is to stay clear of Rahim.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a sense that Rahim though he may have died alone. He has died a content man. Having changed his life and seen the beauty in the simple things Rahim manages to let go of all his anger and understand life that little bit better. The reader aware that the change in Rahim is based on his caring for the sparrows in his hut. Unfortunately for Rahim he was not able to show others that he was a changed man and this may have been the reason as to why people thread carefully when it came to seeing if Rahim was okay at the end of the story. Though concerned about his well-being the neighbours were still nonetheless careful of their actions. Which may be the point that Abbas is making. He may be suggesting that it is difficult for people to see a change in another individual when they are so used to seeing only one (violent) side of that person. Though it is interesting that when the neighbours see Rahim in his hut before he dies they assume that he is going mad. Rather than helping Rahim the neighbours take a protective stance and place responsibility for Rahim with his wife. Which leaves the reader wondering that if the neighbours had intervened when Rahim was dying from fever. Could they have saved his life? Perhaps their fear of Rahim was too overpowering.