The Journey into Adulthood: Study of Military Service as a Rite of Passage in Ahmad Mahmoud’s The Neighbors

Document Type : Research Papers


Lecturer at Western Languages and Literature Department, Karadeniz Technical University (KTU), Trabzon, Turkey.


This paper attempts to investigate the adolescent narrator’s journey into adulthood in Ahmad Mahmoud’s The Neighbor. Considering the central character’s growth into adulthood, the paper argues that the compulsory military service can be fulfilled as a certain ‘rite of passage’ conventionalized within the society, as represented in the narrative. That is because, through this convention, Khaled is finally approved as an adult by his society. However, he is captured by anxiety of his military service, but he finally overcomes it towards the end of the novel. He is then claimed to have achieved a status in society, the bipolar structure of which shapes social attitudes, and this experience leads to his transition from ‘childhood’ to ‘adulthood’. Moreover, people in the storyworld are considered either grown-ups or non-grown-ups. Khaled, the protagonist, is part of the former group. The reader’s knowledge about the storyworld, however, is restricted to the character-narrator’s account, that is, the narrative perspective in this novel is oriented by narrating-I (Khaled-the adult), recounting retrospectively four years of his own adolescence. The act of narration does not refer to the experiencing-I (Khaled-the adolescent). According to the modern developmental models, the character in transition is supposed to be considered as an adolescent. But in the society into which Khaled was born, ‘adolescence’ is not ‘discovered’ as a stage of ‘life cycle.’ The so-called rite of passage, Khaled’s transformation, is seemingly achieved through military service from a modernist perspective, but it is questionable to what extent Khaled himself is aware of such transformation. Yet, it can be said that his development is affected by his political activities and his military service as well as by the other social subjects such as his family, neighbors, peers and party members.


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