The Impact of Ideology on a Literary Work: The Example of Intibah

(Written in December 2014, updated in 2016)


Literature and politics are two fields that cannot be thought apart from each other. They feed each other. Therefore, some literary works cannot be understood unless their political context is taken into consideration. Namık Kemal’s İntibah is one of these literary works that cannot be separated from its political context. Namık Kemal’s İntibah published in the last half of the nineteenth century. The second half of the nineteenth century is quite important for Ottoman Empire. Because at that time it is well understood that the empire is on the decline and that some measures must be taken to save the empire. Namık Kemal is a governor who is a successful author at the same time. (Akün: 2006, p.361) He is in search of way of saving the empire. He has his own political agenda for saving the empire. He propagates his political thoughts and ideology via his literary works including; theatrical productions, novels, stories and articles. İntibah is one of his works that he uses to spread his ideological agenda. In fact, İntibah is an original work written by Namık Kemal, but it is significantly influenced by two literary works: Alexandre Dumas’s The Lady of The Camellias and a folktale named as Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi. Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar is the first one that mentions this influence. In addition to Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Erol Köroğlu also states that İntibah is influenced by these two works. My aim is to deal with this influence in details. When we analyze İntibah, we can easily see that its characters are mixture of multiple characters from both The Lady of The Camellias and Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi. Namık Kemal creates his main characters of İntibah under the effect of the characters of these two works. He takes the characters of these two stories and use them to create his own characters that are suitable for his political agenda.

The first work that Namık Kemal is influnced by is The Lady of The Camellias which is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils. It was written in mid-nineteenth century France. The novel is about the tragic love story of fictional characters Marguerite Gautier and a young bourgeois Armand Duval. Marguerite Gautier who is nicknamed as ‘the lady of the camellias’ makes her way in life as a courtesan, and she is mortally ill. Marguerite gives up her way of life after falling in love with Armand Duval. After becoming her lover the young bourgeois Armand Duval, persuades Marguerite Gautier to end being a courtesan and to live with him in the countryside. Ultimately Marguerite accepts his request and they move to the countryside where they have a happy life until Armand Duval’s father interrupt their ‘illicit relationship’. Armand Duval’s father is concerned with his family honour and thinks that his son’s scandalous relationship will harm the respectability of both his son and family. Despite all his efforts he cannot persuade his son to end his relationship with Marguerite, thus; he meets Marguerite quietly and request her to end his relationship with his son. Marguerite, without letting Armand Duval know about his father’s request, selflessly returns to her previous way of life. Armand Duval ultimately learns the truth, but it is too late. Marguerite is dead and gone.

The other work that has influnced İntibah is Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi which first published in 1851-1852. The story is one of the folktales of Sultan Murat IV period (1623-1640). It tells the life of a young fledgling boy, Süleyman, who have to face all evils and hostilities in his life in absence of his father. Süleyman is a very handsome boy who attracts the attention of people, especially of men. His father Halil Effendi keeps him away from people to protect him. However after he loses his father, Süleyman’s tragedy which is the result of his strangeness to the society starts. He loses all his property inherited from his father and he goes broke. After a short time, he finds a job in a store thanks to one of his acquintance. Süleyman falls in love with Kamer who is one of the slaves of Hançerli Hanım (the lady with the dagger). Hançerli Hanım falls in love with Süleyman at the same time. Whenever Süleyman notices Hançerli Hanım’s interest for himself, he uses this to be able to see Kamer who is also in love with Süleyman. Nonetheless, once Hançerli Hanım becomes aware of the relationship of Süleyman and Kamer, she attempts to kill Kamer, but Süleyman save Kamer’s life and marries her. Then Hançerli Hanım attempts to kill Süleyman several times, but she fails to kill him. Despite all her efforts Hançerli Hanım cannot separate them, Süleyman and Kamer finally become happy.

As for İntibah, it tells the story of a young Ottoman-Turkish man, Mr. Ali, who after losing his father makes many mistakes. Mr. Ali has an illicit relationship with Mehpeyker who is a courtesan. Then he ends this relationship and marries Dilaşub. Mehpeyker attempts to take revenge on Mr. Ali and Dilaşub, but fails to kill them. However, all characters dies at the and of the novel.

Namık Kemal makes use of different characters from both Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi and The Lady of the Camellias to create the character of his protagonist Mr. Ali. The protagonist of Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi is one of these characters that Namık Kemal uses for characterization of Mr. Ali. The protagonist of Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi, Süleyman, loses his father at the beginning of the story. After the death of his father, Süleyman confronts the painful realities of life. He meets new people who introduces themselves as very good friends of his father, however; they are tricksters who want to make full use of his money and property as well as to use him as object of their sexual desire. They exploit him both sexually and economically. Süleyman loses everything he inherited from his father and goes bankrupt in a short time. During this time, he has sexual relation with both men and women, he also becomes an alcoholic. All these are bad habits with regard to the worldview of the society in the seventeenth century Ottoman Empire. Süleyman recover from this situation with the help of a man who is a real friend of his father. To a certain extent, Namık Kemal benefits from this part of the story for characterization of Mr. Ali. To begin with, the protagonist of İntibah, Mr. Ali, loses his father when he is 20 years old, just like Süleyman. Furthermore, Mr. Ali has a negative characteristic as a result of which he ignores everything other than one thing he is interested in. In other words, he becomes addicted to one thing and ignores all other things. For example, his love for books causes him to ignore all other things around him. As a result of this, Ali becomes estranged to the life and the society around him, just as the strangeness of the protagonist of Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi to the society he lives in. This strangeness leads Mr. Ali to make ‘mistakes’. After he loses his father, Mr. Ali goes out in public to escape the reality of his father death. He meets his friends and starts to drink alcohol with them. Once he drinks alcohol, he becomes alcoholic as a result of the negative characteristic he has. Moreover, Ali falls in love with a courtesan famous in İstanbul. Although the fact that Mehpeyker is a courtesan is known by everyone, as a result of his strangeness to the society Mr. Ali does not know about this fact and he sleeps with her. As a result, Namık Kemal wants the reader to think that Mr. Ali’s all ‘mistakes’ are due to the absence of his father, just as Süleyman’s mistakes are. Therefore, we can say that Namık Kemal tries to do the same thing, by copying Süleyman’s characteristics to Mr. Ali in İntibah, as the story of Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi wants to do. Namık Kemal creates a protagonist who was a good person when his father was still alive. Mr. Ali, just like Süleyman, is protected against any evil of society by his father. However, once his father is dead, Mr. Ali cannot stand on his own feet and changes into someone who cannot be approved by the moral sentiment that the author wants to impose on the reader, the moral sentiment for the society that he imagines. Since the message that Namık Kemal wants to give the reader is the same as the one in Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi, he almost uses every detail from this story, every detail that is coherent with his ideological perspective. The main goal of Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi is to make the reader feel the lack of father, that is to say; the lack of an authority. In Ottoman Empire, it is a man that rules the empire and maintains the order all around the empire, and father does the same in his family. This is what we call “patriarchal society.” In this kind of societies, it is the power of man that maintains the order which cannot be maintained by a child or a woman. Namık Kemal is the supporter of the patriarchal society. Thus, he benefits from this story by adapting Süleyman’s characteristics to his protagonist Mr. Ali. In order to impose the necessity of patriarchal society,  the protagonist Mr. Ali shown as a miserable and deviated person after his father death, just like Süleyman after his father death. Consequently, we can easily say that Namık Kemal in this part of the novel stresses the lack of father and the lack of authority that maintains the order and the outcomes of this lack by benefiting from Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi.

Regarding the above argument, it can be thought that Namık Kemal had copied everything that he saw in Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi to İntibah, however this is not the case. Notwithstanding the fact that Namık Kemal made use of Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi to create protagonist of İntibah, he seems to be not approving everything in Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi. For instance, he ignores the parts that contain homosexuality. When summarizing Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi, I have already talked about homosexuality. As a handsome boy, Süleyman is exploited by men around him, but he also kisses wine waiters and make love with them. He is not only the object of the homosexual relation, he is also the subject. In other words, he is a protagonist that fully performs his sexuality. In Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi, homosexuality is referred as something immoral, but it is still performed within the society. However, Namık Kemal does not want to speak about homosexuality at all, even as a something immoral. Because homosexuality has no place in Namık Kemal’s ideology, he imagine man as the husband of woman, as a father and as a authority that maintains the order. Nonetheless homosexuality is not a something that an ideology supporting patriarchy can tolerate, homosexuality is thought as something that damages the patriarchal society. Therefore, as a supporter of patriarchal society, Namık Kemal chooses to ignore and censor homosexuality in İntibah.

The characterization of Mr. Ali, the protagonist of İntibah, is also influenced by some characters of The Lady of The Camellias. However, this influence is also restricted by Namık Kemal’s ideology. Marguerite Gautier, the female character in The Lady of The Camellias, suffers from a lung disease and she is mortally ill. Therefore, she travels to Bagnéres to find a cure for her illness. At that time, an old man living in Bagnéres loses his daughter and mourns and grieves for his daughter. The old man within sorrow sees Marguerite who is almost identical with his dead daughter, he asks Marguerite to let him frequently meet her. Marguerite Gautier accepts his request after learning about his tragic story. The old man who is a rich prince provides Marguerite with everything she needs; he pays for all her expenses and also gives her money. He does all these just to see her. Consequently, it can easily be said that their relationship is nothing more than a father-daughter relationship which enables The Prince to ease his sorrow and grief caused by the death of his daughter. For that reason, when Marguerite leaves Bagnéres and turns back to Paris, The Prince also moves to Paris and continues to meet Marguerite. I have said that some characters of The Lady of The Camellias has influence on characterization of the protagonist of İntibah. The characteristics of The Prince in The Lady of The Camellias influenced the characterization of two characters in İntibah. One of these characters is the protagonist Mr. Ali whose relationship with Mehpeyker, to some extent, is quite similar to the relationship between Marguerite and The Prince in The Lady of The Camellias. The old man knows that Marguerite Gautier is a courtesan, he gently ask her to change her way of life. Marguerite accepts his request for a short time, but after that she understands that it is not easy to give up her habits, thus; she secretly continues to be with other men as a courtesan. Whenever The Prince becomes aware of this fact, he decides to end his relationship with her. Despite the fact that The Prince does not meet Marguerite for a few days, he can no longer be apart from her. Consequently, he turns back to Marguerite and begs her to forgive him and to let him meet her again. Regarding İntibah, we see a similar scene between Mr Ali and Mehpeyker. At the beginning, Ali does not know that Mehpeyker is a courtesan. Therefore, once Mr. Atıf and Mr. Mesut who are the friends of Mr. Ali tell him the truth about Mehpeyker, Ali decides to end his relationship with her. Moreover, Ali deeply angers Mehpeyker and holds a grudge against her until the day he meets her. However, on the day they meet Mr. Ali’s mood immediately change. Once he sees the beauty of Mehpeyker, he cannot rebuke her although he decided to do so. In order to see the similarity of the reactions of Mr. Ali and The Prince, it is beneficial to quote the following parts from The Lady of The Camellias and from İntibah:

“The old man was not shown up for eight days, but all he could do was this, on the eight day, he came to Marguerite and begged her, he asked her to accept him again, he promised to accept her as she is, and to never reproach her with something, as long as she lives.” (Dumas: 2009, p.13)

“Once Mr. Ali had seen the beauty of the girl, his heart was under the effect of the conflict of love and hatred. These feelings tried to destroy one another. In this mood, he forgot all his anger to Mehpeyker and could say nothing, but << I did not expect that from you.>>” (Kemal: 2014, p.73)

The first quotation belongs to the part that The Prince decides to end his relationship with Marguerite, and the second quotation is from the scene that Mr. Ali makes his mind to end his relationship with Mehpeyker. Regarding these two quotations, we can easily maintain that Namık Kemal made use of the character of The Prince to create his novel’s protagonist. Just like The Prince decides to end his relationship with Marguerite and cannot do this, Mr. Ali also decides to end his relationship with Mehpeyker, but he cannot do this. The reason for the old man why he cannot end the relationship is the fact that he forgets his pain caused by the death of his daughter and that he cannot endure that pain unless he meets Marguerite, while the reason for Mr. Ali is his love for Mehpeyker. However, this nuance does not change the fact to a certain extent Mr. Ali is a copy of The Prince. Just as The Prince begs to Marguerite to accept him and let him meet her again, Mr. Ali says that he cannot leave Mehpeyker and confess his deep love for Mehpeyker as we see in the following lines: “I can never decide to leave you. Even if I decide to leave you, I cannot leave you. No matter how is the past, it had gone to the grave of the non-existence.” (Kemal: 2014, p.84) Consequently, Mr. Ali accepts Mehpeyker as she is, and continues to be with her, just as The Prince accepts Marguerite as she is and continues to meet her. However, Namık Kemal often stress that Mr. Ali is a fledgling boy whose father is dead and that he has a negative characteristic that causes him to direct all his interest to one thing and to ignore all other things around him. He refers to this characteristic as a disorder that leads Mr. Ali not to behave properly. That is to say, Namık Kemal expects the reader to see Mr. Ali’s relationship with Mehpeyker, a famous courtesan in İstanbul, as a result of this disorder. In addition to make the reader feel the lack of father, Namık Kemal’s struggle to stress these aspects of Mr. Ali originates from his desire to vindicate his protagonist who is an Ottoman-Turkish man. To speak from Namık Kemal’s viewpoint, although Mr. Ali as an Ottoman-Turkish boy does something that is not suitable for an Ottoman-Turkish man -for example, his relation with a prostitute- he must be excused. On the one hand, he does not has a father that can protect him against evils. On the other hand, he has a kind of psychological disorder that causes him to do wrong and immoral things. That is to say, Namık Kemal wants to specify that a normal Ottoman-Turkish man will not do what Mr. Ali does.

I have said that the character of The Prince in The Lady of The Camellias influenced the characterization of two characters in İntibah; one of these, as I argued above, is Mr. Ali, the other character is Mr. Abdullah who is a Syrian (Arab) rich man. He is depicted as a bad and rude man who is also a killer. Mr. Abdullah is one of the lovers of Mehpeyker and he is also her protector who help her in financial matters. Their relationship is based on mutual interests and benefits; Mehpeyker offers him her beauty, while Mr. Abdullah offers her his money and precious gifts. Consequently, it can easily be said that the relationship of Mr. Abdullah and Mehpeyker in İntibah is different from the relationship of the old man and Marguerite in The Lady of The Camellias, in that; the former is solely based on sexual and economical interests, whereas the latter is based on daughter-father relation. However, both The Prince and Mr. Abdullah are the protectors of a courtesan and they provide a courtesan with the money she needs. Therefore, we can assert that the characterization of Mr. Abdullah has affected by the character of The Prince in The Lady of The Camellias. When it comes to the reason why Namık Kemal chooses to divide the character of The Prince into two characters in İntibah, it can be explained by Namık Kemal’s ideological perspective. He wants to create an Ottoman-Turkish people image that neither a courtesan nor a protector of a courtesan can be tolerated by the society. Therefore, Namık Kemal does not want Mr. Ali, an Ottoman-Turkish man, to be narrated as the protector of a courtesan. Instead of Mr. Ali, he chooses Mr. Abdullah, an Arab man, as the protector of a courtesan. Regarding this choice, it can easily be stated that Namık Kemal’s ideological agenda is in favor of Ottoman-Turkish nationality and excludes other natinalities even those sharing the same religion. (Both Mr. Ali and Mr. Abdullah are muslims.)  As a result, the characteristics of The Prince in The Lady of The Camellias is used to create two different characters in İntibah. The one is the miserable Ottoman-Turkish boy who is deviated from the normal[1] due to the lack of an authority (father) and also due to the psychological disorder he has. The other is the bad Arab man who does not avoid to use his richness and power to harm people. Namık Kemal needs a little evil while he creates the character of Mr. Ali in order to stress the problems that the lack of father can cause. Therefore, he takes some characteristics of The Prince for his protagonist, and some for Mr. Abdullah. After completing the characterization of Mr. Ali, I will deal with the character of Mr. Abdullah in more details. However, I should say that Namık Kemal wants Mr. Abdullah to be a bad and sinful character and he starts to create this character by taking undesired characteristics of The Prince.

The characterization of Mr. Ali in İntibah is also affected by the character of Armand Duval in The Lady of The Camellias. Armand Duval is the lover of Marguerite, his love for Marguerite is not only sexual love but also emotional. Similarly, Mr. Ali’s love for Mehpeyker has both sexual and emotional aspects. Mr. Ali sees Mehpeyker in a horse-drawn carriage for the first time and falls in love with her. Similarly, Armand Duval sees Marguerite Gauiter in a horse-drawn carriage for the first time and falls in love with her. The similarities between Mr. Ali and Armand Duval are not only these. The relationship of Armand Duval and Marguerite lasts for a few months. In the meantime, Armand Duval requests Marguerite to become only his lover and to marry him, Marguerite accepts this proposal. After that, they move to a countryside and begin to live there together. Armand Duval’s father secretly meets Marguerite and requests her to leave his son, she selflessly accepts this and returns to Paris. Once Armand Duval learns that Marguerite left him, he disappointedly goes to his hometown with his father. However, he cannot endure the pain of being apart from Marguerite and turns back to Paris to meet her. Armand Duval’s jealousy causes him to hurt Marguerite emotionally, since he expects to find her sad, but he finds her very happy in Paris. This causes Marguerite to suffer from a great pain, and thus; she goes to Armand Duval’s home to request him not to hurt her anymore. Once they come together again, Armand Duval manages to persuade Marguerite to sleep with him again. In the morning, Armand Duval notices that Marguerite turned back to her home early morning, he goes to her home and learns that she is with another man. Therefore, he leaves a message to her by writing the following lines on a banknote: “This morning you left home so early that I could not pay your money. Here is your price.” Regarding the relationship of Armand Duval and Marguerite, we see a similar story in İntibah between Mr. Ali and Mehpeyker. After Ali learns the fact that Mehpeyker is a courtesan, he continues to be with her, and he stays at her home for days. Consequently, Mehpeyker asks Ali not to neglect his mother and to visit her for three days. Then, Ali goes to his home, but his mother harshly criticizes him due to his relationship with Mehpeyker. Therefore, he returns to Mehpeyker’s home, and learns that she is not at home. He immediately thinks that she is with another man and that she lies her. He waits at the door until Mehpeyker turns back to home, once Meypeyker comes he does not let her to say even a single word and rebukes her as follows: “It is enough! Here is your price. Take it and go to entertain your new friends.” As we see, the relationship of Armand Duval and that of Mr. Ali and Mehpeyker is quite similar. First of all, despite the fact that they have to face the social pressure directed on them, both Mr. Ali and Armand Duval decide to live with a courtesan. Secondly, their parents interfere with their relationship. Armand Duval’s father is the primary reason for the separation of Armand Duval and Marguerite. In the same way, Mr. Ali’s mother and her reaction to his son’s relationship is the reason for the separation of Mr. Ali and Mehpeyker, in that; it causes Mr. Ali to immediately return to Meypeyker rather than returning after three days and this causes Mehpeyker not to be at home at the time Ali returns. Furthermore, the way they end their relationship is almost the same, both Armand Duval and Mr. Ali try to humiliate the courtesans by offering them –so called- their price. Namık Kemal does not make so much change while adapting Mr. Ali to Armand Duval, because the story of Armand Duval is suitable for Namık Kemal’s ideological agenda. (For instance, the interference of one of the parents to his son’s life to end an illicit relationship and to be successful to do this.)

I have only talked about the characterization of Mr. Ali and partially that of Mr. Abdullah in İntibah. However, there are other characters which are also influenced by the characters of both Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi and The Lady of The Camellias. One of these is Mehpeyker who is a courtesan. As we said before, she is the beloved of Mr. Ali and to a certain extent she can be seen as the counterpart of Marguerite whose character has an important influence on the characterization of Mehpeyker. Marguerite is a prostitute who is a quite honest, kind-hearted and has a good character. In deed, the only thing can be refferred as bad about Marguerite is the fact that she cannot keep her word to The Prince. As I mentioned before, Marguerite says that she will no longer be a courtesan and that she will not be with any other man anymore. Nevertheless, she breaks her word. Nonetheless, even in this case she cannot be regarded as a bad person. The following quotation also supports this argument: “When she was asked, Marguerite told everything to him (to The Prince), and then, advised him not to meet her any longer, because she could not find a way to keep her word (…)” (Dumas: 2009, p.12) She bravely chooses to tell the truth, not to lie or to find a excuse. However, being a courtesan is a quite sufficient reason for conservatives especially those of religious groups to label a woman as a bad and sinful person. Namık Kemal seems to have a conservetive muslim worldview. Because, the character of Marguerite is divided into two character in İntibah. Only Marguerite’s characteristics related to being a courtesan adapted to Mehpeyker, since Namık Kemal does not want to ascribe any good characteristic to a courtesan. In Namık Kemal’s ideology, a courtesan is nothing more than a scarlet woman who thought to possess almost all evils and immoralities. However, the reader cannot see anything to blame Mehpeyker except for the fact that she is a prostitute, just as Marguerite cannot be blamed for anything, but the fact that she makes her way in life as a courtesan. That is to say, Namık Kemal –according to his ideological perspective- takes only the ‘negative characteristics’ of Marguerite to create his own character of a courtesan, but he cannot prevent the character of Mehpeyker from standing out as quite honest and good character.

In order to make the character of Mehpeyker more evil and sinful, Namık Kemal make use of the character of Hançerli Hanım (the lady with the dagger) from Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi. I have already said that Hançerli Hanım is in love with Süleyman who is in love with Kamer who is the slave or the servant of Hançerli Hanım. Süleyman knows that it is impossible to meet Kamer unless Hançerli Hanım allows. Therefore, he pretends to be in love with Hançerli Hanım and meets her at her home. Thanks to his meeting with Hançerli Hanım, he can see Kamer. While Süleyman and Kamer make love, Hançerli Hanım sees them. As a result of that their secret love become known by Hançerli Hanım. Nevertheless, she pretends to be aware of nothing, but begins to torture Kamer once Süleyman is gone. Hançerli Hanım’s torture and torment continues until Kamer loses her consciousness. Then, she say that she does not want to quickly kill her and gives the following order to her servants: “Give her to the watermans, tell them to bring her to Beykoz wood where is the nest of snakes and centipedes. Tell the watermans to throw her there. If they do not obey my order, I will punish them, too.” (Çelik: 1999, p. 37) As we see in these quoted lines, Hançerli Hanım is a very cruel and barbaric person. Moreover, she is a quite rich and has a powerful authority on people around her. She threatens even the watermans to kill them. Furthermore, she attempts to kill Süleyman, but she fails to kill him. All of these characteristics causes Namık Kemal to divide this character into two characters in İntibah. That is to say, Hançerli Hanım has ifluence on two characters of İntibah. One of these characters that created with the characteristics of Hançerli Hanım is Mehpeyker. Namık Kemal takes evil and sinful sides of the character of Hançerli Hanım to make Mehpeyker evil and sinful. After Mr. Ali decides to leave her, the character of Mehpeyker evolves and Mehpeyker begins to be a monster. This change can only be explained by the effect of the character of Hançerli Hanım. Mehpeyker thinks that Mr. Ali will return to her again, but her expectations are in vain, because Mr. Ali marries Dilaşub who is a servant that was bought by Mr. Ali’s mother. Once Mehpeyker learns that Ali is married, she makes a plan so as to take revenge on Ali and his wife, Dilaşub. Therefore, she ask Mr. Abdullah, who were once her lover and protector, to help her in her plans for the revenge. Mr. Abdullah makes a plan as a result of which Mr. Ali believes that Dilaşub is a prostitute, thus; he beats her. After a short time, Mr. Ali decides to get rid of Dilaşub by selling her. Whenever Mehpeyker hears that Dilaşub will be sold, she orders another person to buy Dilaşub for her. Eventually Mehpeyker manages to buy Dilaşub and begins to torment Dilaşub. She tortures and torments Dilaşub all the time. Nonetheless, she is not content with only torturing Dilaşub, she also wants to kill Mr. Ali. Therefore, she gets help from Mr. Abdullah once again.  According to their plan, Hırvat (The Croation) will kill Mr. Ali. However, Dilaşub hears about their plan and manages to prevent them from killing her husband, Mr. Ali. Consequently, Mehpeyker changes into someone who is as evil as Namık Kemal desires. It is important to note that Mehpeyker’s torture and torment of Dilaşub is a copy of torture and torment of Kamer by Hançerli Hanım. In this way, Namık Kemal reaches his goal to discredit Mehpeyker in the novel. He avoids to provide Mehpeyker with any positive characteristic, as he wants to discredit being a prostitute in the society. That is, according to Namık Kemal’s ideological perspective, a prostitute is a someone that must not be tolerated within the society.  This is why he tries to create a demonic image of a prostitute that he wants to impose on the reader as the source of all evils and sins throughout the novel.

However, Namık Kemal make use of only some characteristics of Hançerli Hanım to complete the characterization of Mehpeyker. The second character that is shaped under the influence of Hançerli Hanım’s character is Mr. Abdullah whose character also shaped by the influence of The Prince character of The Lady of The Camellias. As we stated before, Hançerli Hanım is a very powerful and rich woman who has a strong authority on her slaves and even on men outside her home. She tortures Kamer and gives order to get her killed. Morover, she attempts to kill Süleyman several times. She makes her own way on life without needing someone else. All these characteristics cannot be welcomed by a patriarchal society. The society that Namık Kemal imagines is a male-dominated patriarchal society. In this kind of a society, a woman is esteemed very highly, but only as wife, as a mother, as a caregiver of the children who are going to be the next generation of the society. Hançerli Hanım has none of these characteristics, her power, richness and authority can only be tolerated when they are belong to a man. That is to say, Namık Kemal does not want to create a powerful woman figure like Hançerli Hanım in the novel, since it will not be suitable for the society that he imagines. Therefore, he takes only some characterictics of Hançerli Hanım to shape the character of Mehpeyker, he uses other characteristics of Hançerli Hanım to shape the character of Mr. Abdullah. As a result of this, it is Mr. Abdullah that makes plan to kill Süleyman, and it is Hırvat that attempts to kill Süleyman, but not Mehpeyker. Furthermore, Mehpeyker needs help of Mr. Abdullah even to make plans for her revenge on Dilaşub and Süleyman, since Namık Kemal wants to create a passive woman image. Consequently, in regard to his attempts to passivize Mehpeyker, we can easily state that Namık Kemal has a view of women who are mostly passive and depends on man. He reflects his view to his novel in order to create the ideal woman figure for the society that he imagines.

As for the characterization of Dilaşub in İntibah, this character also has shaped under the influence of the characters of Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi and The Lady of The Camellias. I have already said that the character of Marguerite is used to shape two different characters in İntibah. One of them is Mehpeyker, the other is Dilaşub. And I have already said that Marguerite is a courtesan who is a quite good person. It is because of this reason that Namık Kemal divides the character of Marguerite into two different characters in his novel. Dilaşub is a very beautiful slave girl who is bought by Mr. Ali’s mother for his son’s sexual desires. Mr. Ali’s mother thinks that she can dissuade Mr. Ali from being with Mehpeyker, a courtesan. She reaches this aim when Mr. Ali ends his relationship with Mehpeyker. Then, Mr. Ali marries Dilaşub and they become happy until Mehpeyker begins to take her revenge on them. Dilaşub is an extremely passive woman, she do nothing for herself. All she does is to obey, in other words; to do what is ordered her. The only decision that she makes is to sacrifice herself to save Mr. Ali’s life. Dilaşub escapes from Mehpeyker’s home and warn Mr. Ali about Mehpeyker and Mr. Abdullah’s terrific plan. After Dilaşub warns him, Mr. Ali goes to police office, while Dilaşub is killed by Hırvat who thinks that he killed Mr. Ali. This is only one example of similarities between Marguerite and Dilaşub. Dilaşub selflessly sacrifice herself for Mr. Ali just as Marguerite selflessly returns to her old way of life to avoid damaging Armand Duval’s respectability. Consequently, Marguerite’s positive characteristics are used to shape the character of Dilaşub who is an obedient slave, while he uses Marguerite’s negative characteristics for characterization of Mehpeyker who is a prostitute. Namık Kemal’s ideal woman figure for the society that he imagines is exactly Dilaşub, an obedient servant and wife, a self-sacrificing angel. In order to support this figure of woman he makes use of the character of Kamer, the slave of Hançerli Hanım in Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi. Kamer is a completely passive female figure. She is in love with Süleyman, but do nothing for her love until Süleyman marries her. Namık Kemal uses her characteristics, which can be summarized as being a slave and an obedient woman, to create his own ideal woman figure, Dilaşub. As a result, it is clear that Namık Kemal makes use of both Marguerite and Kamer to complete the characterization of Dilaşub and that he does this in a way that is suitable for his ideological perspective.

All in all, taking all these into consideration, we can certainly state that Namık Kemal is influenced by the main characters of both Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi and The Lady of The Camellias in İntibah. He takes the characters of Hançerli Hanım Hikâye-i Garibesi and The Lady of The Camellias and rewrites them to create his own characters that are suitable for his ideological agenda. We can summarize the characterization of İntibah’s characters as follows: the character of Mr. Ali has the influence of; Süleyman, The Prince and Armand Duval. The character of Mehpeyker is under influence of; Marguerite and Hançerli Hanım. The characterization of Mr. Abdullah is affected by: The Prince and Hançerli Hanım. Lastly, the character of Dilaşub has the influence of; Marguerite and Kamer.




(Prepared by) Çelik, Y. (1999). Hançerli Hanım Hikaye-i Garibesi. Ankara: Akçağ Yayınları.

Akün, Ö. F. (2006). Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Araştırmaları Merkezi. İslam Ansiklopedisi: adresinden alındı

Dumas, A. (2009). Kamelyalı Kadın. İstanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları.

Kemal, N. (2014). İntibah. İstanbul : Özgür Yayınları.

[1] In this essay, I take the society that Namık Kemal imagines as the center that determines what is normal and what is not, who is referred as deviated and who as ideal. That is to say, all value judgements (the normal, deviated, bad, desired-undesired behaviour) are made according to Namık Kemal’s ideological perspective.

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