Summary of “The Answer Is No” by Naguib Mahfouz

The Answer Is No Naguib Mahfouz Summary
“The Answer Is No” Summary

“The Answer Is No” is a short story by Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian author who wrote many novels and short stories, among other pieces. Themes of existentialism recurred in his works. He won the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature. This story is about a teacher who gets the news that the new headmaster of her school is a former tutor who took advantage of her years earlier, and how she responded to the situation. Here’s a summary of “The Answer Is No”.

“The Answer Is No” Summary

A new headmaster, Badran Badawi, arrives at the school. When one of the teachers hears about it, she shudders and goes pale. She knows she’ll have to join everyone in congratulating him. When the time comes, he stands behind his desk while all the teachers take turns shaking his hand and welcoming him. She avoids eye-contact, shakes his hand and stays silent.

She gets distracted by her daily tasks but doesn’t look the same. Some students comment on her bad mood.

Eating supper that evening with her mother, she tells her her old tutor has become the new headmaster. She claims it’s not important.

She corrects papers in her study after supper and thinks. Badawi gave her private math lessons when she was almost fourteen and he was almost forty. He looked like a mess but he explained the lessons clearly. They got along well and she never noticed anything.

When they were left alone one day, without her wanting it, it happened. After, she was terrified. He told her to keep it quiet and he would propose when she came of age.

Badawi keeps his promise and proposes years later. She doesn’t love or respect him as a moral person. Her father has died and her mother leaves the decision to her. He abused her innocence and now has the upper hand years later because of his trap. She realized he was after the family money. She was angry at the situation and didn’t mind being on her own.

She turned him down. Her blocked her way and pressured her to reconsider. She’d take anything over being married to him.

After finishing her studies, she became a teacher. Chances to marry came along but she turned them down. She was content by herself.

As she gets older, she avoids love and fears it. She tells herself that she doesn’t need love and motherhood to be happy, but she doesn’t expect happiness either.

She doesn’t regret her decision. She is unhappy that Badawi is a part of her life now, a daily reminder of the painful past.

The first time they’re alone in his office he asks how she is. She replies coldly that she’s fine. He enquires if she got married. She coldly repeats that she’s fine.

I hope this summary of “The Answer Is No” by Naguib Mahfouz was helpful.