A Man of Awesome Power Analysis - A Silent Song and Other Stories Easy Elimu Study Guide

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A Man of Awesome Power by Naquib Mahfouz

About the author

A Man of Awesome Power is a story created and written by Naquib Mahfouz. Naguib Mahfouz Abdelaziz Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Basha (11 December 1911 – 30 August 2006) an Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Mahfouz is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers in the Arabic literature.

The short story A Man with Awesome Power appears in Naguib Mahfouz's "The seventh Heaven of 2005, which is a series of short stories.

He published 35 novels, over 350 short stories, 26 screenplays, hundreds of op-ed columns for Egyptian newspapers, and seven plays over a 70-year career, from the 1930s until 2004.

All of his novels take place in Egypt, and always mentions the lane, which equals the world.

The Title

The title "A Man of Awesome Power" is appropriate for the story because it refers to Tayyib's miraculous ability to make things happen simply by saying "Be!"

This power is described as being "awesome" in the sense that it is beyond human understanding and beyond the scope of what most people would consider possible.

The title also suggests that Tayyib is a man who is transformed by his power, as he becomes someone with an unusual and almost divine ability to shape reality.

The title captures the central theme of the story, which is the idea of a man who has been granted an extraordinary power and must navigate the challenges and responsibilities that come with it. 

The story captures how an individual who is empowered when least expected utilises the power given to him.

His illusions of desire for a better country lead to his dream of power acquisition.

The Plot Summary

Tayyib al-Mahdi is a man who believes that he has completed his mission in life and is living a contented, retired existence in an apartment in Nasr City. His current life is peaceful and uneventful. He spends time watching television, reading newspapers or listening to the radio in the comfort of his apartment that he shares with his wife since his daughters are already married. 

One night, a man of radiant appearance appears to him in a dream and tells him that he has the power to make things happen simply by saying "Be!" At first, Tayyib is skeptical of the dream, but when he tries out his new power by commanding the television to change channels and makes it happen, he realizes that the dream was real. Endowed with the newly acquired power, he sets out to reform his country and the entire planet as he had often wished.

He begins to use his power in various ways, such as making a taxi driver's tires explode when the driver refuses to pick him up, making a television broadcaster sneeze uncontrollably, and forcing a corrupt businessman to go to the tax prosecutor's office to repent and pay his debts.

As he uses his power more and more, Tayyib becomes more confident and ambitious, and he begins to draw up a comprehensive plan for using his power to reform his country and the world.

However, after a brief period of happiness and success with using his power, Tayyib makes a grave mistake that cause his power to be taken from him.

The start of the mistake - Tayyib falls in love with a woman at the zoo.

Culmination of the mistake - Tayyib uses his power to make the woman at the zoo fall in love with him.

Consequence of the mistake - Their (Tayyib and  the woman at the zoo) intimacy costs him his incredible power. He pays this price for misusing the power that God had freely given him. 

After this realization that his power has disappeared Tayyib is left feeling sad and regretful.

For though Tayyib is busy planning to effectively utilise his power for the good of all sectors in the country the forementioned unfortunate incident (THE MISTAKE) caused by his greed (which is a bad and selfish use of his power) occurs and thus he loses it all.

Tayyib not only loses the power given to him freely by God but also the comfort and contentment that he had at the begining of the story. Afterall, Tayyib experiences a tremendous sadness that
will haunt him for the rest of his life. 

The plot tells a story of the ideal growth into power positions and how individuals grow from honest intentions to self-centeredness.
The short of it, "The moral man who eventually abuses his power."

Key moments in the story

  1. Tayyib's dream — pg 1-2
  2. Utilising the awesome power -pg 2-4
  3. Losing the awesome power- pg 5

All characters and their characterization

List of Characters

  • Tayyib al-Mahdi: the main character of the story, who has the power to make things happen just by thinking about them
  • Haniya: Tayyib's wife
  • The man of radiant appearance: an apparition who appears to Tayyib in a dream and gives him his powers
  • The television broadcaster: a man whose speech Tayyib interrupts by making him sneeze
  • Sulayman Bey al-Hamalawi: a man whom Tayyib forces to go to the tax prosecutor's office
  • The woman at the zoo: a woman whom Tayyib becomes attracted to while visiting the zoo


Though Tayyib al-Mahdi is the main character he is is not the narrator. 

Character Traits/ Characterization


  • Pious and observant: Tayyib is described as being devout and paying attention to his religious duties.

  • A lover of virtue: Tayyib values and seeks out good qualities and moral values.

  • A good man: The text describes Tayyib as a good man who tries to live his life in a virtuous way.

  • Regretful and sad: After he makes a mistake (sleeping with the woman at the zoo) and loses his power, Tayyib experiences feelings of regret and sadness.

  • Secretive - He does not reveal to his wife that he had been bestowed with such power

  • Emotional - He causes one radio announcer to suffer massive sneezes after making an announcement that gave false hopes

  • Vengeful - He hits back a taxi driver who ignores him by wishing him an accident

  • Protector/virtuous - causes a man who had physically attacked a woman in a bus to suffer stomach cramps.

  • Adulterer - sleeps with a woman who isnt his wife

  • Flaky / inconsistent in behaviour - He utilises his power both for good and bad intentions

Sulayman Bey al-Hamalawi

  • Arrogant: Sulayman is described as being surrounded by slavish devotees and followers, which could suggest that he is arrogant or self-important.

  • Self-important: As above, the fact that Sulayman is surrounded by devoted followers could indicate that he sees himself as being important or influential.

  • Corrupt: The text mentions that Sulayman is counted among the city's poor by the tax authorities, which could suggest that he is seen as being dishonest or corrupt.



The theme of power is present in the story through the idea of Tayyib's miraculous ability to make things happen simply by saying "Be!" This power gives Tayyib a sense of control and influence over his surroundings, and he uses it to try to bring about positive change in the world. Also the abuse of power is a critical theme in this story. 

Key issues about power that are addressed in the story

  1. Where power comes from
    Unlike the common perception that power must be taken here contary to that belief we see that power is God-given. Tayyib's power is bestowed on him by God. As seen from his words, "All praise to God, Lord of the Worlds", and listening to radio channels devoted to the Quran (pg 1), his religious nature is one reason God willed to grant him power. The man who visits him in the dream tells him that starting that moment and as long as God willed, he had been bestowed with the power to order things to be and they would be. (pg l) 

  2. One can gain power at any stage of life.
    Tayyib believed that he had completed his mission in the world. Before acquiring power, he lives a peaceful life as he enjoys the fruits of retirement. The writer notes that 'He had generous insurance and more than adequate pension' pg 1 which do not prevent him from being given power by God.

  3. Utilisation of Power
    Tayyib utilises the power given to him in different incidents:

    • He orders his television to switch channels

    • Encounter with the taxi driver (pg 2)

    • In the bus, to deal with the conflict between a man and a woman (pg 3).

    • Performing memorable services along his way to the cafe (pg 3).

    • The radio announcer (pg 3).

    • Tayyib's wrath on Sulayman Bey al-Hamalawi (pg 3-4).

    • The beautiful woman in the Tea Garden (pg 4).

    • filling a gaping pothole, locking an electric box that was open and hanging dangerously, removing a pile of trash and draining sewer water that was flooding an alley. Many people in the neighbourhood appreciate these services. (p 3).

  4. Good utilisation of power
    The episode shows how a person bestowed with power should utilise it. Tayyib's soliloquy during his encounter with the taxi driver captures the need to use power for the well-being of others and to make things better. 'Whoever is granted with power like mine, must utilise it only for good.' (pg 2)
    He uses the power to do several good deeds. Some of the outstanding services that Tayyib performs include filling a gaping pothole, locking an electric box that was open and hanging dangerously, removing a pile of trash and draining sewer water that was flooding an alley. Many people in the neighbourhood appreciate these services. (p 3).
    He also does a good deed of making Sulayman, who has been evading tax, go to the taxi authorities and pay them millions of pounds he owed them. (pg3).

  5. Misuse of power
    Tayyib first falls to his anger and uses his power on an innocent driver. Eventually, He falls again by using his power for his benefit bysubconsciously coercing a woman to fall head over heels with him.
    SCENE: Tayyib notices a beautiful woman at the entrance of the tea garden and uses his ability to satisfy his desires for her. Their intimacy costs him his incredible power. He pays this price for misusing the power that God had freely given him. That price is its loss and eternal regrat and sadness as long as he lives.

  6. Consequences of the misuse of power

    He pays this price for misusing the power that God had freely given him. 
    After this realization that his power has disappeared Tayyib is left feeling sad and regretful.
    If power is not utilised for 'good', it will be lost. Tayyib loses his awesome power when he comes back to his senses and realises that he had made some mistake.
    ​Although he had been secretive about his power, his wife Haniya keenly observes that he was not in his usual mood that evening.
    Tayyib's deceitful/ dishonest nature is depicted when he easily lies to his wife that he had a cold. Unfortunately, for Tayyib, he loses his power due to his mistakes. 'The miracle was gone - like a dream.'  (pg 5)

How Tayyib uses his awesome power?

  • Changing the TV channel
  • Commands that the chairs stand up and then go back to their original positions.
  • Breaks the taxi's back wheels
  • Strikes a man with severe cramps
  • Closes gaping pothole
  • Locks a dangerously hanging electrical box
  • Removes agarbage pile.
  • Drains sewer water flooding an alley.
  • Makes the broadcaster sick.
  • Compels Sulayman Bey al-Hamalawi to pay taxes
  • Charms a beautiful woman


The theme of responsibility is explored through Tayyib's actions and decisions as he uses his power.

He initially tries to use his power only for good, but eventually comes to realize that he must be more careful and thoughtful in how he uses it, as his actions can have unintended consequences.


The theme of consequences is present in the story as Tayyib experiences both the positive and negative consequences of using his power.

On the one hand, his power allows him to bring about positive change and helps him to achieve his goals.

On the other hand, his actions also have negative consequences, such as causing the television broadcaster to sneeze and causing the woman at the zoo to fall in love with him.

Dreams and reality:

The theme of the relationship between dreams and reality is explored through Tayyib's experiences with his miraculous power. The power initially appears to him in a dream, but then becomes a reality that he can use to shape the world around him. However, eventually the power disappears, leading Tayyib to question whether it was real or just a dream.

Corruption / Immorality

Sulayman Bey al-Hamalawi is referred to as one of the "fat cats of the reforms" which can be interpreted as a reference to corrupt officials who use their positions of power for personal gain.

Though he (Sulayman Bey al-Hamalawi) uses his position to get great personal wealth, he is described as being counted among the city's poor by the tax authorities as he continually evades paying tax.

Tax evasion is an immorality. Many leaders use their powerful positions to evade paying their taxes, such as Sulayman Bey al- Hamalawi.

​When Tayyib notices him, he commands, "Sulayman Bey, go straight to the tax prosecutor's office to repent and say you are sorry up the millions of pounds you owe." (pg 3)

​Another corruption as seen in the short story is sexual immorality is seen when Tayyib utilises his power to make the beautiful woman he notices in the Tea Garden fall for his advances.

The woman barely notices Tayyib when she gets to the garden, but Tayyib shifts her attention to himself through the power he has. He forgets his faith and his life (Lack of self- control) and surrenders to fate.

Stylistic Devices


Repeating words or phrases.

(There are actually many different types of repetition like anaphora and epiphora.)

The phrase "All praise to God, Lord of the Worlds" is repeated several times throughout the story, as Tayyib mutters it to himself in contentment. This repetition helps to emphasize the importance of this phrase to Tayyib and to create a sense of rhythm in the story.


Symbolism is a literary device that uses symbols, be they words, people, marks, locations, or abstract ideas to represent something beyond the literal meaning.

The concept of symbolism is not confined to works of literature: symbols inhabit every corner of our daily life.

The man of radiant appearance who appears to Tayyib in a dream could be seen as a symbol of Tayyib's miraculous power.

The fact that the man appears in a dream could symbolize the dream-like, otherworldly nature of the power, while the radiant appearance could symbolize the transformative, almost divine nature of the power.


Imagery is a literary device used in poetry, novels, and other writing that uses vivid description that appeals to a readers' senses to create an image or idea in their head.

Through language, imagery does not only paint a picture, but aims to portray the sensational and emotional experience within text.

The description of the man of radiant appearance being "bathed in light and wrapped in a snow-white robe" creates a vivid image in the reader's mind and helps to convey the otherworldly nature of the man.


When an idea or animal is given human characteristics. “The sky weeps.”

When Tayyib commands the television to change channels, the channel is described as "disappearing," which could be seen as personification, as it gives the channel human-like qualities.


Hyperbole, a figure of speech that is an intentional exaggeration for emphasis or comic effect.

The description of Sulayman Bey al-Hamalawi being "inflated" with arrogance and conceit could be seen as an example of hyperbole, as it exaggerates the degree to which Sulayman is conceited.

Revision questions for  A Man of Awesome Powers

  1. How does Tayyib acquires his power?
  2. How does Tayyib use his power for:
    • selfish interests
    • the good of all
    • To harm others
  3. How does power change Tayyib?
  4. What role does the media play in the story, ' A man of Awesome Powers?'
  5. What causes Tayyib to lose his incredible power?

Sample essay question

  1. When one is given power, he/she should use it only for good but more often than not people use it for wrong purposes. Support this statement basing your argument from Naguib Mahfouz's 'A Man of Awesome Power'
  2. Lack of sound judgment results in regret. Making reference to A Man of Awesome Power, write an essay to justify this claim.

For tips on how to answer this question well and get as many marks as possible on it go here and read the article titled, "How to write effective KCSE English Paper 3 Essays."

Critical thought on the theme of power in A Man of Awesome Power

Consistent with the theme of power abuse the author engages individual readers with the debate on whether the plague of abuse of power, especially political power,actually depends on independent individuals.

From a neutral position, Naguib Mahfouz (the author) elaborates to the reader how one in a position of power abandons his faith and moral standing to a state of selfishness.

Within a three page short story, a reader elevates themselves from an ordinary citizen to a political figure with power.

The story creatively convicts and critics the reader as a possible part of the problem.

What if in the constraints of power we can bend to grow personal interest, then perhaps the abuse of power is not going to end through a change of the people in positions of power.

Maybe then change in the socio-political issue of abuse of power must begin from each individual.

In essence, the author is questioning the actual source for the solution of abuse of power.


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