Essay – Literary Analysis: Short Story “Building Girls” by Randa Jarrar

Building Girl is a short story by an American author and translator Randa Jarrar, as a part of her book of story collection entitled “Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, published in 2016. In this collection of short stories, the reader is introduced to the experiences of Muslim men and women throughout the globe and in various situations, which alternates between realism and fiction. This collection of short stories is a wonderful work of literature. The writing is outstanding, the ideas are fascinating, and the characters are superbly captured. Despite having only a few pages with each character, the stories greatly engage readers and allow them to relate to them. It’s a creative assortment that simultaneously feels real and fantastical. The female characters in the book are the most intriguing and compelling ones, and it is humorous, unapologetic, and brazen. They are shown by the author as actual persons, complete with flaws, wants, and all the other characteristics that come with being a woman. Building Girl as one part of the collection is a part that has its own beauty as a short story. Randa Jarrar explores the complex relationship between Aisha and Perihan in “Building Girls,” two childhood friends who are now divided by distance, race, and social stratification, as well as their daughters separated by all that, plus language. While Aisha lives in Egypt full-time and rarely leaves the journeys of her daily routine, wealthy Perihan only travels there during the summer. She compares herself to a quirky pet crab on a leash and Perihan to a soaring kite while they are at the beach, creating an image that is both bizarre, funny, melodramatic, stunning, and genuinely moving.

The most powerful intrinsic element depicted in Building Girl is the characterization element, where the dynamics between the 2 main female characters are told full of twists and turns and complexes. M. H. Abrams in his work entitled A Glossary of Literary Terms (1985) stated that “the characters are presented in a work of dramatic or narrative, which is interpreted by the reader as being endowed with moral qualities and dispositional presented in what they say dialogue and with that, they’re doing actions”. The main characters in the story, Aisha and Perihan, are described as being able to unite the big difference between them is that it is clearly like a ship that is too big passing through a bridge so that it hits the bridge to ruin. That’s roughly the picture of the difference between Aisha and Perihan when viewed from the perspective of people who refer to how our social society usually applies. They were separated for so long that they met again when Perihan visited the area where Aisha lived. The emotional atmosphere is undeniable when 2 people who are so close but far apart for a time, finally meet again.

The dynamics begin to intertwine when they are able to spend time together again for the time they have, by doing many things together and enjoying the beauty that the area where Aisha lives has to offer. These two characters create a strong chemistry that deserves to be established, considering how close they were since childhood, even though they are now separated by distance and time, and only have the opportunity to meet again at certain times. As time goes by, Aisha and Perihan get deeper into their relationship which has tended to lead to some intimacy that seems out of control.

The depth of the relationship that exists between them during Perihan’s visit to Aisha’s place then directs the story to the abyss of conflict involving Aisha and her battle with herself. Aisha is afraid to be vulnerable in any relationship after her failed and violent marriage. The bitter failure seemed to be a deep trauma for Aisha who later built her character and personality into an independent figure and as much as possible distanced herself from involvement in any relationship with other people. The trust issue of hers that had already been embedded in her, made her trapped in the circle of irony when she found comfort in his time with Perihan because she was very aware that the time she had was very limited and the time would come for Perihan to return to her original place, and leave Aisha again all by herself. This is where the conflict arises in Aisha, where she must be overshadowed by every thought about what it will be like when Perihan has to go back, after the time they spent together so emotionally. Here is also a point in the short story “Building Girls” where the extrinsic element to be conveyed is illustrated, namely the psychological element of the character. Aisha must be faced with a battle within herself, where her psychology has to choose between continuing to enjoy the beautiful time she is living with Perihan and making good use of every moment that exists or starting to hold back and limit herself to fortify her own psychology from the possible feelings of deep sadness that will come later when she returns to have to live her own life without Perihan when later Perihan has to return to her place. In the end, Aisha had to spend the rest of the time with Perihan in a deep psychological battle inside her to get rid of thoughts about the day when Perihan would have to leave again, how she would go back to living her daily life without a physical pain figure, rather just being able to communicate in a long distance. Aisha is trapped in her own thoughts, which makes her no longer fully enjoy her time with Perihan. To conclude, “Building Girls” is a short story that depicts what really happens in many people, when trust has been broken, it’s hard to get back to trust in any form. However, there will come a time when a real person who can restore that trust will appear, but then the conflict that arises is doubts about the presence of this figure to survive and settle down or just return to being a temporary stopover that will only leave memories.


Abram, M. (1985). A Glossary of Literary Term. Boston : Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

BookRags. (n.d.). Him, Me, Muhammad Ali Summary & Study Guide Description.,

Citino, L. (2017). On Randa Jarrar’s ‘Him, Me, Muhammad Ali’. Retrieved from Medium :

Jarrar, R. (2016). Him, Me, Muhammad Ali. Louisville: Sarabande Books.


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