I also wrote mine on numbers! Sorry about the repeat, I focused however only on the significance of the number three in the tree apples story.
A Numbers Game
In the story The Story of the Three Apples the role of quantitative description is more prevalent than in previous Nights stories. I wanted to examine the role of numbers in this story specifically the recurrence of the number three.
The number first appears within the title and the subject of the story. It is titled The Story of the Three Apples and the subject of the story in the Nights version revolves around the attainment of these three apples. When the plot opens you meet the caliph and his vizier Ja’far just before they discover the butchered body of the woman in question. The Caliph gives Ja’far only three days to discover what the cause of her death was and to bring the murderer before him. This is the first time the number is introduced, I believe a foreshadowing to the story they will later hear about the three apples. It is on the third day that the husband and father of the ‘women in pieces’ come forward both admitting to the murder. When her husband retells his own story, the story of the Three apples, he tells of how he traveled day and night to purchase these three apples, each for a dinar, to equal three dinars.
I first wondered if there was a link in Islamic theology to the number three, similar to the importance of the trilogy in Christianity. However, after further research I found that there was no historical link to the number. Instead, I believe that the author of the story put an emphasis on the number in order to further signify what occurs when it is no longer intact. For also referenced in her husband’s story, the murdered woman bore three sons. It is when the eldest son breaks the trilogy of the apples, stealing one from her bedside (and later having it stolen from him) that leads to the death of his mother. When one son is singled out, and one apple is removed from the rest, there is no longer harmony and symmetry in the story and thus chaos ensues and the wife is murdered. This could be seen as a type of Repetitive Designation that David Pinault talks about in his essay “Story-Telling Techniques in The Arabian Nights”. As Pinault said, “Repetitive designation creates thereby an effect of apparently casual foreshadowing and allows the audience the pleasure of recognition at that later moment when the object reappears and proves significant”. The repetitive use of the number three prepares the reader to notice the discord when there are only two apples remaining.