Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts


Rebecca Bahnam 

A History of the Phoenicians

Chris Bohjalian’s Characters’ Search for Self-Worth

Chris Bohjalian’s novels portray the conflict between the individual and society. Outsiders’ perceptions of the central characters influence and shift their self-perceptions, forcing them to seek out their true identities. With each obstacle they face, the protagonists struggle with losing relationships, which they overcome by creating new ones that are beneficial to them and their search. Furthermore, they resort to behavior they would not normally consider, such as committing adultery, being accused of medical malpractice, and having to make serious life decisions based on romantic connections with near strangers–all of which results in their alienation from family and friends. Alexandra, from Bohjalian’s novel The Guest Room, initially loses autonomy to authoritative male figures who take away her control, but seize her freedom once she kills these overpowering men with the help of her accomplice, Crystal. Although the journeys to reach the characters’ identities are arduous, with enough will, they are able to find their self-worth and who they are meant to be.

After many years, the Phoenician people developed their own identities through their successes as a civilized group of people. Beginning in 1500 a small body of people, the Phoenicians eventually multiplied and prospered because of trading cedar wood and purple dye, innovations, such as the alphabet, and peaceful encounters with neighboring lands that enabled them to become a unified civilization. This unified civilization included the flourishing cities: Byblos, Tyre, and Sidon, powerful colonies, like Carthage, and crucial ports on the coasts of the cities and colonies. Their expertise in making purple dyes and developing an alphabet created an affluent society which enticed many newcomers. These newcomers became a part of Phoenician society, which included a variety of Middle Eastern cultures and art that gave life to Phoenicia and its people. Without the major cities and favored colonies, the Phoenician people would not have been able to thrive in the ways that they did. However, because of their inexperience and ineptitude during the Punic Wars, Phoenicia ceased to exist at around 300 B.C.

Major Works Consulted:

Bohjalian, Chris. The Guest Room. New York: Doubleday, 2016.
---.Midwives. New York: Vintage, 1997.
Dijkstra, Henk. History of the Ancient and Medieval World: Western Asia and the Mediterranean. Vol. 2. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2009.
Marston, Elsa.The Phoenicians.New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2002.
Photo Credit: Chris Bohjalian.Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016. lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9zqn8sJDLAhVIdD4KHc18A4YQ_AUICCgD#imgrc =e8NZJu_kZeyp7M%3A.