It strikes Bella only now how child rearing requires a sort of unconditional internal commitment to the task. Everything to do with raising children has its own rationale, she thinks, constructed along the lines of a minor and a major premise and a conclusion bizarrely drawn from neither. For every child is in a world of his or her own making, and everyone else remains outside of it until there is need to involve them, to invite them in—and then only provisionally, and for self-serving reasons. She remembers a Somali saying something to the effect that one’s children are not one’s parents. Which means, in effect, that we think far more often about our children than they are likely to think of us. Even if you are sick or having money problems or other troubles, she realizes, you must not expect them to respond to your needs in the way you’ve responded to theirs. You won’t be able to sleep when they are sick, and you’ll do whatever you can to alleviate their pain or allay their fears. But do not expect them to feel anyone else’s pain the same way! Until, of course, the become parents themselves and have their own children. (Farah 84)
The novel Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah is story about a Somali family and their internal struggles with family life. In the novel, a man named Aar has two children, Dahaba and Salif, with his wife, Valerie. However, Valerie leaves Aar and the children early in their lives. Aar’s sister, Bella, comes to Aar’s side and helps care for the children. Bella acts as a mother for Dahaba and Salif after Valerie abandoned the two of them and Aar. Farah portrays Bella as a strong, independent woman throughout the novel. He shows her selflessness and genuine care for others as she acts as Dahaba and Salif’s mother. This passage grabs a hold of the reader and shows truly how Bella is able to deal with tending for the children with little to no reward. Through this passage’s use of the second person, diction, and native sayings, Farah shows the daily struggle that Bella faces by caring for Dahaba and Salif, and why she continues to look after the children even though she is not their real mother.
The passage is written entirely in the second person. Farah directly addresses the reader as he describes the manner in which Bella manages mothering Dahaba and Salif. Farah writes, “Even if you are sick or having money problems or other troubles, she realizes, you must not expect them to respond to your needs in the way you’ve responded to theirs” (84). Bella watches after Dahaba and Salif with no return whatsoever. One might wonder why she cares for the children so much when it is obvious the children do not share the same feeling for her. Bella realizes that she cannot expect Dahaba and Salif to show her the same attention that she shows to them. She cares for the children out of pure selflessness and love for her brother. By using the second person in this instance, Farah appears to be giving life advice to the reader. He wants the reader to know that children will not show a parent the same amount of attention that the parent shows them; however, this is not because of a lack of love, but simply because they are children. They are not capable of expressing their emotions as well as adults. The use of the second person in this passage brings the text to the reader on a personal level. Many readers may find they relate to the text due to the use of the second person.
In addition to his use of the second person, Farah’s diction in this passage is able to portray Bella’s view on childcare. In particular, Farah’s repetition of the word “expect” towards the end of the passage helps support the claim that a parent should not expect attention from a child. The child is the one that needs the attention. Bella shows Dahaba and Salif undivided attention while Valerie is away. She realizes that the children need a mother figure in their lives now that Valerie is gone. However, as Bella cares for the children, Dahaba and Salif continue to lust for Valerie’s attention, that is, the attention of their real mother. Some may consider this discouraging to Bella; she puts in so much effort to care for Dahaba and Salif, but they continue to only strive for their real mother’s attention, even though she abandoned them. Bella remembers that she cannot expect anything from the children. They need her care; she does not need there’s. The choice of the word “expect” expresses the basis for Bella’s parenting method. The children expect Bella’s care, but Bella does not expect anything in return. Bella’s reward is knowing she raised the children to the best of her ability.
The final way in which this passage shows the important role Bella plays as Dahaba and Salif’s caregiver is through the use of an old Somali saying. Farah writes, “She remembers a Somali saying something to the effect that one’s children are not one’s parents” (84). The saying means that the child is the one who needs the care, not the parent. The parent should not strive for attention from the child. The use of the saying shows that Bella’s parenting method is deeply routed in Somali culture. It is not taboo the Dahaba and Salif tend to not show Bella any attention. The two crave Valerie’s love because she is their real mother. Bella must understand this and not become discouraged. She must continue to support the children as they journey through life in order to ensure they grow to be fully functioning adults. The Somali saying supports the idea that the children are the only ones who should expect attention. It is the duty of the parent to fulfill this requirement.
In conclusion, Nuruddin Farah uses the second person, diction and repetition, and Somali sayings to express the main point of the passage. The purpose of the passage is to show why Bella continues to care for Dahaba and Salif, even though the two show her little love in return. When Bella takes over the mother role for the children, she takes on the responsibility of caring for them all day, every day. It is her job to assist them in life. It is not Dahaba and Salif’s job to support Bella. Many readers, especially parents reading the novel, can take this passage to heart. It shows them that it is okay if their children do not appear to appreciate their efforts. Deep down, the children will always remember who cared for them as they grew into adults.