Write a 1500-word argument (about 4-5 pages double-spaced) about how you know that
something is true.
Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth
In Naguib Mahfouz’s Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth, fourteen different stories of the
heretic king Akhenaten are told. Some praise the king and his beliefs, some condemn him as a
plague to Egypt, but all of the stories are unique in their detail and perspective. From
Akhenaten’s teacher Ay, to his doctor Bento, to his wife Nefertiti, each character presents new
and different details about Akhenaten’s life. In order to determine the truth about Akhenaten,
each character’s statements must be considered closely, keeping in mind the biases and ulterior
motivations that may exist. The full history of Akhenaten can only be found after examining his
life through all fourteen perspectives.
Some characteristics of Akhenaten are described similarly by nearly all of the characters
in the novel. The agreement serves as reason to deem these things matters of fact. The
characters agreed that Akhenaten was an effeminate-looking man, that he developed a belief in
the One and Only God, that he claimed to have heard the voice of the One God, and that he
preached a policy of absolute non-violence when he became pharaoh. Because so many of the
details of Akhenaten’s life are unclear in the novel, these basic truths can be used to determine
the truthfulness of certain characters. For example, the High Priest of Amun described
Akhenaten as “ a man of questionable birth, effeminate and grotesque (13).” Ay, on the other
hand, describes Akhenaten as, “dark, tall, and slender, with small, feminine features (28).”
Based on these descriptions, it is clear that the High Priest did not like Akhenaten and that Ay
was more sympathetic. Though these descriptions do not provide details into Akhenaten’s life
and rule, they display the biases of the story tellers, which serves as a reference when
considering the validity of the character’s stories.
Though all of the characters that Meriamun speaks to provide some insight into the
history of Akhenaten, some are more helpful than others. The relationship between the
characters and Akhenaten is an important detail when determining which characters to believe
and which to doubt. Those who remained loyal to Akhenaten will likely tell a much different
story than those who did not. As Kahane writes, “it is part of human nature to find it easy or
natural to believe what everyone else in our society believes and foolish to believe what others
find foolish (120).” Since most people in Egypt believed that Akhenaten was insane, those who
agree with this sentiment may have been influenced by the established cultural idea. In the
novel, these characters include the High Priest of Amun, Haremhab, Toto, Mutnedjmet and Mae.
Though their testimonies still yield important information, it is less valuable because of its
cultural context. On the other hand, loyalty can also lead...