De Niro’s Game “De Niro’s Game” by Rawi Hage is a coming of age story about a boy named Bassam from war torn Lebanon. The main settings are the headings of the three parts of the novel; Roma, Beirut and Paris. The settings help to illustrate character development, the novel’s themes and are important symbols throughout. The first section of the novel is entitled “Roma,” but the events all occur in Beirut. Bassam never goes to Roma, however it is always present in the novel and an important symbol throughout. Roma is a place that Bassam has wanted to go his entire life.
Roma symbolizes Bassam’s hope for a better life. He fantasizes that it is a perfect place, almost a heaven. When a little girl from his neighborhood dies he says “I went to the little girl’s funeral, the little girl who was on her way to Roma. ” pg. 25. While visiting his friend George he says that they “whispered conspiracies, exchanged money, drank beer, rolled hash in soft, white paper and I praised Roma. ” pg. 34. In the Roma section Bassam is younger and more innocent than in the other sections. Bassam is still a petty criminal.
He only commits small crimes such as vandalism and drug use. The fact that the first section is called Roma, yet it is not in Roma, is a form of foreshadowing, suggesting this fantasy may never become reality. The second part of the novel is called “Beirut. ” This section is the turning point of Bassam’s life. In this section Bassam stops dreaming about Roma. Beirut symbolizes Bassam’s loss of innocence. He starts committing major crimes, such as murdering the militiaman ‘Rambo. ’ Bassam starts to learn about the brutality of the war and the slaughter being committed by the militia.
Beirut is a symbol of the horror in the world. In Beirut, Bassam realizes how harsh reality and the war are. Soon after realizing this he says “Ten thousand coffins had slipped underground and the living still danced above ground with firearms in their hands” pg. 88. At one point Bassam says “From the roof I could see West Beirut on fire. The Israelis bombarded the inhabitants for days, orange light glowed in the night, machine gun bullets left the ground and darted into the air in red arches. The city burned and drowned in sirens, loud blood and death” pg. 163.
Not only does Bassam learn about the horrific things going on in the war but he also witnesses his best friend George killing himself, because George cannot go on knowing that he has committed such heinous crimes against humanity. Because of the war Bassam is betrayed by his best friend, tortured by the militia for a crime he did not commit and is forced to realize that the militia and war are not good, but rather morally wrong and pointless. Part III, of the novel is called Paris. Bassam escapes from Beirut and goes to Paris searching for George’s father. After Bassam finds Georges family, they soon betray him.
Paris is a symbol of Bassam’s complete and utter hopelessness. In Paris Bassam thinks “I had no plans, and realized that I could not think of any. Other than Rhea, no one in Paris knew me, no one was expecting me for dinner, nor to walk in a funeral procession, nor to work, eat, carry the wounded, speed around on motorcycles” pg. 215. He has almost no place in Beirut and even less of a place in Paris. Paris symbolizes that Bassam is ruined by the war in Lebanon. Bassam is an outsider in Paris because of his twisted morals and values that were corrupted due to the war.
He reads “The Outsider” by Albert Camus, which talks about the meaninglessness of existence and realizes there are many similarities between him and the character in the book. No matter where he goes, Bassam will always be an outsider. Paris helps Bassam develop as a person, realizing that things are horrible everywhere, and he cannot escape his past. Near the end of the novel, Bassam says “And so I drifted for hours, trying and failing to reconcile Paris with the phantasm of my youth, with the books I had read, with my teachers stories” pg. 204. Bassam realizes Roma is a fantasy.
Setting and place are vital literary devices in “De Niro’s Game”. The settings are linked to the themes, in that Beirut is a city destroyed by war as Bassam is destroyed by war, and due to his journey through Paris he realizes his dreams of Roma are unattainable. The changes in setting also parallel and mark the stages of his coming of age. In Roma Bassam was a boy, in Beirut his transformation began and in Paris, Bassam became a man. While Bassam is in no way a perfect or even good person, he has made a transformation into adulthood. Without the setting his transformation into manhood would have been less clear and with
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