In Men in the Sun, Ghassan Kanafani describes the political, social and human realities which characterize the lives of the Palestinian people at a critical period in their history, when the traditional order and structure of their existence are being profoundly altered by events on both a regional and international scale. Men in the Sun details the hardship and struggle of three Palestine men; Abu Qais, Assad and Marwan, all of whom are on a quest for a better life. Their individual struggles represent the harsh realities of the lives of many Palestinian people forced into exile. Men in the Sun was the result of Kanafani’s own experience when he “... had to remain hidden at home for more than a month because of his lack of official papers". As a refugee himself, Kanafani was able to demonstrate to us the pain and suffering of the three protagonists whose journey to freedom became their journey to death.
There are six chapters: the first three introduce each protagonist and explain why they have chosen this path to Kuwait; the final three present their quest to what they imagined would be stability and happiness. We are firstly introduced to Abu Qais: he is the father of a young boy Qais and a baby girl Hosna who died because "she was extremely emaciated". Abu Qais reminisces about his past, his friendship with Ustaz Selim, the birth of Hosna and the loss of his main source of income, his olive trees. He had realised that "in the last ten years” he had “done nothing but wait" and he decided to change his and his family’s lives for the better, by making his way to Kuwait, which "only lived in his mind as a dream and a fantasy".
The second protagonist we meet is Assad, a shrewd young man. He tells his story to a character only referred to as "the fat man", who smuggles people from Basra to Kuwait. This is Assad's second attempt to travel to Kuwait; he failed the first time because the fat man "took advantage of his innocence and ignorance, tricking him, making him get out of the lorry after the journey on a burning hot day, telling him he must walk round H4".
And finally there is Marwan, the youngest, whose concern for his family's future caused him to neglect school because he felt he needed to provide for them. Even though Marwan had to grow up quickly, he still possesses a child-like mentality. After trying to confront "the fat man" and failing, Marwan meets Abul Khaizuran, who becomes the only hope for the three men; he can drive them in a water lorry owned by a well-known businessman in Kuwait. But, tragically, this last hope turns out to be fatally misplaced.