Marcellus Lopez Mr. Buckley Honors American Literature September 20, 2011 Abdulrahman Zeitoun, Not Clark Kent Zeitoun, a fantastic novel by author Dave Eggers is a heroic tale of faith and courage set during Hurricane Katrina of August 2005, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The hardy protagonist of the chronicle is Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian man, living in Louisiana with his wife, Kathy, and his three daughters and stepson. Zeitoun, a former sailor, used to storms and seas, at the time of the hurricane owned a contracting business, building, repairing, and painting.
Zeitoun’s heroism and bravery have made very clear to me that being a hero is … well, really damned stupid. If not that, then at the very least, being a hero is inadvisable and unwise. Zeitoun went far out of his way to help others in a whirlwind of charity and self-assurance. In doing so, he caused great damage to himself and those closest to him. Zeitoun went above and beyond what was asked of him to assist members of his community, ignoring the one thing asked of him by his worried wife, who demanded he evacuate with her and the family.
Just as he had gotten into the momentum of routinely feeding some dogs abandoned by their owners daily, Zeitoun was arrested under false charges, rendering him unable to contact Kathy. His absence left his family distressed and disoriented. Kathy panicked hour by hour, praying to hear from her husband, with no such luck until much later. While Abdulrahman was missing, his family overseas was just as worried about him. His brother would call Kathy, personally urged to bend the truth about her husband’s whereabouts. While Zeitoun was imprisoned, his family scrambled to get but a word from, him, not to mention the dogs died.
I would stop and think at times in the story, does Zeitoun take the time to assess whether the possible consequences are worth the good he is trying to do? His time in prison shows him reflecting on the good he’d done, as well as praying for a better situation, but I do not recall one time at which he says to himself that he definitely should have left New Orleans. Did he not expect at all that in all the paranoia of a critical hurricane in a post-9/11 society that a Middle Eastern Muslim man would be a target for bigotry and used as a scapegoat?
Although, his imprisonment was completely unwarranted, along with the charges brought against him and accusations made against him, nothing should have been a surprise to Zeitoun. Zeitoun was either unequipped with the knowledge that this country’s ideals of justice are far from perfect and that the executive branch of our government is very prone to quick, harsh decisions and quick, definitive judgments… or just not very thoughtful. The results of Zeitoun’s poor decision to stay in New Orleans stuck to Kathy for the rest of what we read of her life in Zeitoun.
Kathy’s mental healthy was sacrificed all because Zeitoun foolishly remained in the city, with knowledge that a particularly dangerous storm was approaching. By the end of the story, I couldn’t help but notice how much Abdulrahman’s “courage” and “faith” resemble naivete. He stayed in New Orleans to ride out Katrina because he was obstinate and over-confident. It’s fair to say that having been a sailor, he was rugged enough to handle a hurricane, but with a family and the understanding that many other people get mixed up in the spiraling torrent of a natural disaster, it is also fair to say that he could not have been prepared enough.
Zeitoun tells that he felt called by God to help people in the storm, but this, I deduce, was no more than a rush he felt from completing a successful rescue. Everyone wants to be a hero. The sensation of doing good for others does more good for the good-doer than should be done. One of my favorite lyrics says, “When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself. ” For a man to be so complacent with an unpredictable force of nature that he would be willing to let it come and see what happens is indubitably foolish.
Abdulrahman refusing to evacuate with his wife very closely resembles a child on a playground, shouting to his mother, “No, Mommy! I don’t wanna go! ” Zeitoun, an informative novel by author Dave Eggers is a tale about how faith and “courage” can really screw things up. The foolhardy protagonist of the chronicle, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, shows us how being over-confident and letting ourselves become too comfortable can lastingly repercuss on the lives of our wife and family. Zeitoun’s over-confidence and naivete have made it absolutely clear that trying to be a hero is really damned stupid.