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Turkish Short Fiction in the Classroom:
Study Questions for Sevgi Soysal’s “Hanife”

Sevgi Soysal (1936-1976)
Turkish short story writer and novelist

The questions below are based on the English translation of “Hanife” that first appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Vol. XXVI, no. 2 (Spring 1992), pp. 145-152.

The same version is also available in “Short Stories by Turkish Women Writers” (1988, 1994) Translated by Nilüfer Mizanoğlu Reddy.
Publisher: Indiana University Turkish Studies.

  1. Comment on Sevgi Soysal’s use of setting in the first paragraph. How does it contribute to our understanding of the story?
  2. What is the reason for the emphasis on Hanife’s fists in the first paragraph?
  3. What link(s) can you establish between Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and Hanife as depicted in the first two paragraphs?
  4. How does the first paragraph introduce the theme of gender roles? Find other examples of gender roles in the rest of the story.
  5. Comment on Sevgi Soysal’s use of narrative voices in “Hanife”. How does the author’s technique affect our understanding of the story?
  6. Comment on Sevgi Soysal’s use of “darkness” and “light” in the first two paragraphs.
  7. Discuss the significance of guns as depicted in the second paragraph.
  8. What is the significance of the old woman’s song?
  9. How do women and children react to Hanife’s death? What makes them act in the way they do?
  10. Identify how Sevgi Soysal depicts the passing of time in the first three paragraphs.
  11. What is the function of the poplar tree in the story?
  12. What does “Ahmet Aga” represent in the story?
  13. At the end of the fifth paragraph, the narrator says that honor is “like the sky”? Why?
  14. What is the significance of Esma’s old shack in the story?
  15. Make a list of the adjectives, nouns and noun phrases used for describing Hanife. What do they reveal about the society in which Hanife lives?
  16. What is the connection between “land” and “women” in the story?
  17. What does the story tell you about women and economic (in)dependence?
  18. Do you think that women are the only victims in the story? What about men? Would you call them victims as well?
  19. Essay Topic: In “Who is who in contemporary women’s writing” (2001), Jane Eldridge Miller writes that Sevgi Soysal’s characters are “rebels, usually from provincial backgrounds, trying to find solutions to personal problems which are connected to larger social issues” (p. 306). In light of this quotation, discuss whether you would call Hanife a rebel.

© Ali Nihat Eken, İstanbul, June 2009
Useful link: Study Questions for “Bliss”

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