Yashar Kemal is able to evoke the arid, yet effervescent, land of Taurus; from the ebullient sunsets to the incandescent moon-light, to the pellucid mountain slopes and parched plains or the baleful lives of the peasantry who struggle to survive beneath the oppression of feudalism, all of this is conjured up within the poetry of Kemal’s prose.
The central character-aside from the protagonist Memed, is the country in which the story is set. Kemal. Desolate, yet beautiful, Kemal captures the deciduous and ethereal sunsets which illuminate the country, transmogrifying everything into a kaleidoscope of different colours, textures and tones, shedding some light on the bleakness of the peasants lives-there is something almost religious about Kemal’s evocations of nature, something sacrosanct about the land which the workers toil under the turgid oppression of the landowners-even the prickly thistles are transformed in the sun-light;
“In spring the thistles are an anaemic, pale green. A light breeze can bend them to the earth. By midsummer the first blue veins appear on the stems. Then the branches and the whole stem turn a pale blue. Later this blue grows steadily deeper, till a field, the whole boundless plain, becomes a sea of the finest blue. If a wind blows, towards sunset, the blue thistles ripple like the sea and rustle; just as the sea turns road at sunset, so do the thistles.”
At times the novel seems to be bathed in sun-light, as the never-ending brightness of the sun shines upon the land, upon the mountains, the swamps and the brooks, as colours coalesce from purple, to blue, to green and a glaring yellow. In contrast to this is the pale luminescence of the moon-light, as the world becomes a colder and darker place, but with a beauty which is more delicate and ephemeral;if sunlight transforms, then moonlight enhances and draws out the beauty of nature, as the whole world seems to be drowning beneath a sea of melancholy as its torrents are washing over the characters.
The lead character, Memed, acts as a kind of Robin Hood for the local peasants who are struggling under the oppression of the landlords. The primary antagonist in the novel is the cruel land-owner Abdi Agha; whilst the characters are drawn out relatively well, what is more important is what they represent; the powerless peasants, whose fickle cowardice allows Abdi Agha to dominate them, Abdi Agha and other landowners such as Ali Safa Bey, whose greed and avarice are responsible for the poverty of the peasantry and of heroic figures such as Memed, who represents the key with which to unlock the vice of oppression and to free the workers from the shackles of their masters, who constantly seek to coerce and dehumanise them. Although Kemal is clearly sympathetic to the plight of the peasantry he is also critical of their inability to fight back and rely on others, such as Memed, to win back their lands and rights-without the active involvement of the workers. The workers will never free themselves from the tyranny of the land-owners until they themselves also begin to confront the injustice of the system which envelops them and although Kemal feels they were initially over-reliant on others to take back what is theirs, Memed’s actions in some ways act as the spark which will eventually set their revolution ablaze, just as the sun is able to transform the thickles into something radiant.