neither of the main characters are given names.
no hints that they like each other or want to be together, dont seem a good match in many ways.
Leila Aboulela is commenting on the expecations of society on men and women, and what happens when we fail to meet those expectations.
she is commenting on the expectations of a man, they are supposed to be successful and if not shows how quickly things can deteriorate.
expectations of a muslim woman to marry in an arranged marriage, if that doesnt go to plan, again things deteriorate.
character analysis continued
a lot has happened to this man, he has become a muslim and is engaged to woman (sudanese), he doesn't want to be in this situation.
the man has failed in the eyes of society, for example line 111,
"In primary and secondary school, he had been the brightest in his class, the most able. He sat for the three sciences in his Standard Grades and got three As. It was the same when he did his Highers. There was no reason at all, his teachers said, why he should not sail through medical school. But he got his third year in Medicine and failed, failed again, and dropped out."
he's failed to be this image in society of what is expected.
and same for the woman.
we gather that she was once married but got a divorce. line 151.
"Would you believe it," she said, "his family now blames me for the divorce! They say I wasnt clever enough, I didnt try hard enough. They're going around Khartoum saying all these things about me."
this quote suggests that she too couldn't live up to what was expected of her in an arranged marriage, she couldn't keep the relationship to last.
she has failed in society's and cultures eyes of expectations.
both the man and the woman embrace a foreign culture.
we know that the man becomes a muslim and goes to marry a muslim woman.
we see clearly the man's parents are a part of that westernised culture, where people have the obsession with careers and employment and wealth.
"Ever since he had dropped out of medical school, they had feared for his well-being" line 173
we get the impression they thinks he's unwell or on drugs or up to no good because he doesnt have a stable career.
in failing in society, he then embraces Islam, to which his parents didn't understand.
they both turn to something foreign that is completely differnent to the western world.