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Sinbad the Sailor, a Commentary on the Ethics of Violence

Peter D. Molan
Journal of the American Oriental Society
Vol. 98, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1978), pp. 237-247
DOI: 10.2307/598685
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/598685
Page Count: 11
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Sinbad the Sailor, a Commentary on the Ethics of Violence
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Abstract

Sinbad the Sailor has come to be regarded as a Romantic hero by modern audiences. This article examines the Sinbad tales of the 1001 Nights from a structuralist point of view and concludes that an ironic disparity exists between the protagonist's actions and his ethical stance. Seen in this light, the Sinbad tales become a parable for the instruction of King Shahriyar in self-deception and injustice thus integrating the episodes of the sailor's voyages within the frame story of Shahrazad. The significance of this interpretation for an understanding of the development of narrative literature is profound. Literary historians generally assign such "proto-novelistic" features as first-person narration coupled with a consistent internal development of theme and their integration into the frame story to a much later, and Western, body of literature. The reassessment of the character of Sinbad, however (from Romantic hero to self-justifying immoralist, thus linking Sinbad with his analogues in Greek, Latin, and other literatures), is the focus of this essay.

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