Towfik’s Utopia, set in a dystopian Egypt, does something that other novels of its genre do not do often. Rather than tell the events of the story only through the perspective of an underprivileged person in the cruel society they live in, Towfik ventures to constantly switch the narrative’s point of view between oppressor and oppressed. Not only that, but he uses language in a way that dehumanizes both characters. While this partially serves to highlight their similarities, it also brings to light their differences as well.
Perhaps the most obvious use of such words can be seen in how the story is split into parts titled “Predator” and “Prey”. The titles do not merely exist to bring emphasis to the power imbalance between the two main characters. Rather, it gives them more bestial traits. These titles beg the reader to really think about the things both men say and do and how they connect to the labels that the narrative has assigned to them from the start.
Notably, one of the first things we learn about the unnamed “Predator” is that he spends a lot of time sleeping with women. When confronted about it, he says, “It’s not my fault. It’s hormones” (Towfik 9), echoing the words of many guilty of sexual assault, and effectively painting himself as a literal sexual predator. More importantly, however, are his apathy towards the poverty-stricken, his fascination with death (even referring to it as seductive and as a game), and his thrill-seeking nature. Those three things make the narrator someone who wants to hunt people that he deems are lower than him. It makes the narrator someone who wants to be a predator that hunts for prey.
On the other hand, the “Prey” Gaber is presented as a completely different person. The second thing he says is that he knows he’s “going to die two days from now” and refuses to listen to anyone that tries to tell him otherwise (Towfik 47). He never states how he knows this, or what his cause of death will be, but we know that he’s already resigned himself to his doom—he is prey that already knows that it will die. He also recalls a film with a knight that lays out his cloak on a puddle for a woman to walk over. However, he refers to himself as the cloak instead of the knight. He is not someone that exists to serve, but someone that exists to be used and perhaps even hurt for someone else’s benefit, not much unlike how prey exists to be killed for a predator’s benefit. Gaber is ultimately not just dehumanized by Utopian predators, but by himself as well.
The chapter titles act as both labels for the two main characters and as a way to create a contrast between them. The unnamed narrator is consistently predatory, whereas Gaber’s defeatist nature makes him a perfect fit for someone’s prey. Over the course of the novel, however, this changes, as the narrator is put at the mercy of Gaber’s will, perhaps giving both chapter titles a new meaning for each character.