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Study Of Woman At Point Zero English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1580 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In “Woman at Point Zero” a novel written by Nawal el Saadawi in 1983, and can be proved in Medea by Euripides 413B.C. These texts are clearly influenced by the social context in which they are written and the personal opinion and experience of their writers. Both texts are set in patriarchal societies, where rights of women are strictly limited by men. Women have no freedom, no economic power, and are always forced to accomplish in domestic tasks. According to dictionary a patriarchal society is a system whereby men are the ones who have control over women; they are the ones who hold positions of power and prestige. [1] However in both of these texts women disobey these norms. Medea and Firdaus rebel aggressively against male dominance, both of them kill men and fight against what society is expecting from them.

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This is paralleled by Saadawi’s battle against male dominance, as she was also born in the same patriarchal society as Firdaus. It is true that Saadawi was born in a superior class than Firdaus, but during her existence she realizes how deplorable the situation of women in society is. She consequently decides that as she was in a favorable position she should fight for women’s rights. Her family was as traditional as any other family at the time. Saadawi’s genitals were mutilated at the age of six. Since she was small her family taught her that as a woman she would have to be docile and to obey all men in her life. This is reflected in her novel, when Firdaus is narrating her story, she says: “A woman who was carrying a knife…They cut off a piece of flesh…between my thighs” [2] . Her father decided that all his children should have a proper education. Despite the social coercion Saadawi manages to study psychiatry at the University of Cairo. These are similarities between Saadawi’s life and Firdaus’s that show how Saadawi’s experiences are reflected on her writing.

She has a successful career as a psychiatrist; she became Egypt’s Director of Public Health. Some years later she decided to write, since the beginning her books were about prohibited themes of women, sexuality, politics and religion; all themes that were main concerns of her life. As Saadawi also suffered from sexism during her life she decided to become a feminist, confronting the majority of people on her society at that time, consequently she was relieved from her position on the Ministry of Health. Saadawi also went several times to prison due to her political activities that confronted the Islamic law. In Woman at Point Zero aggressions to women are repeated constantly during the story, and at the end Firdaus is sent to prison for confronting men, once again this is similar to Saadawi’s life.

In “Woman at Point Zero”, Saadawi use Firdaus life to show the reality about woman in a Islamic society, there are many quotes that Nawal El Saadawi utilizes against male society, when Firdaus says: “I prefer to die for a crime I have committed rather than to die for one of the crimes which you have committed” [3] and “To be a criminal one must be a man..”4 This is one of the strongest accusations that Saadawi makes against male on her novel. All crimes that Saadawi has seen or experience during her life, are reflected in Firdaus life, by doing this Saadawi defends women by giving them a voice on her book, in this case Firdaus voice. The narrator has suffered all that during her life, she knows what she is writing about, she lived in that society during a important time of her life, and she has seen many women being mistreated by males like for example her mother, or even herself.

During most of her life Nawal el Saadawi had to accomplish the role of a woman in an Arab Society, where woman are always mistreated. This is shown on her novel, when the protagonist says: “All women are prostitutes”5 and “I preferred to be a prostitute rather than a slaved wife”6. This reflects what her life and experience as a woman in a patriarchal society was. Saadawi observed how terrible women situation was in her society. She realized that for some people it would be better to become a prostitute than to be someone’s wife. Those were the two options of a woman in her society, prostitution or marriage, to be free or enslaved.

The tone of “Woman at Point Zero” is essential to show that the author’s experience influence her writing. The tone expresses feelings of the author towards the story, and through the novel it helps the readers to sympathize with the protagonist in order to create aversion against males. There are several quotes that help to feel sorry for Firdaus and women society, like “To be quite honest, I do not really feel she is a murderer…you will never believe that so gentle a woman can commit murder.”7 Or “All women are victims of deception…Men impose deception on women and punish them for being deceived”8. Firdaus is portrayed as a pitiable woman to make readers feel compassion toward her. These quotes are against male and make us feel sorry for Firdaus, furthermore they express perfectly the feelings of anger that Saadawi feels. Firdaus is portrayed as a pitiable woman to make readers feel consideration toward her. The tone is also extremely useful to create the atmosphere, in this novel it expresses the anger toward men and the compassion for Firdaus that Nawal el Saadawi feels.

During his life, Euripides also fought against sexism; his plays were very criticized by people that were unable of understanding his vision that was too advanced for his time. Same as Saadawi he also gave a voice to oppressed women as Ancient Greek society was male dominated. Euripides was known for being a feminist, therefore an extremely innovative playwright; this is proved on his plays where he provided important roles to women, something that wasn’t accepted on his time period. The reason why Euripides started giving central roles to women on his plays is because during his life experience he realized that oppressed women could be powerful. Medea is not the perfect way of defending or representing women as she commits many inhuman crimes like for example killing her own children, however the purpose of Medea is to show that women can be as strong as males, like Medea. This is something that Euripides realizes in his life, living in a blind society where males do not realize that women are strong, and he decides to be the voice of women. Surprised by how blind the society was, Euripides decides to give a voice to women on his plays, showing their power.

In the play the Nurse says: “Like a lioness with her cubs…You could say that men have got things wrong, they’ve been very clever”9. Proving how Euripides is trying to tell men that they are not as intelligent as they think they are, and that women are potent, like lionesses. Further on the play there is another interesting quote employed, when Creon says to Medea: “You frighten me-no point in cloaking what I mean.”10The use of caesura is noteworthy because it shows that Creon is so scared of the protagonist (a woman) that he needs to take a time to organize his mind. The scene is significant because it represents a man being afraid of a woman, reinforcing the idea that Euripides want to show in his play, about how women are as powerful as men.

In Medea, the idea of importance of gods is repetitive during the play. This is because at that time Greek Society was theocentric, since he was a kid Euripides was raised to think that everything in earth was related to gods, and that later at the Olympus, Zeus would accomplish justice punishing those who did wrong on their life. His plays are clearly influenced by this set of mind. Medea keeps on saying that Zeus will make justice, she says: “Zeus, mark who caused these troubles”11 or when she says: “Zeus, you granted men sure signs to tell”12. Both of these quotes are said by Medea claiming justice, and used by Euripides to tell men that even if women are not able to achieve justice by themselves, Zeus might do it later.

Both of the texts are influenced in a similar way, in Woman at Point Zero it is easy to see that Saadawi’s feelings are reflected on her words, and both writers mentioned themes that were extremely significant on their lives. These texts have been very affected by events and experiences that happened to their owners.


1 Definition of Patriarchal Society, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/patriarchal

2 Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero, translated by Sherif Hetata, Zed books Ltd: London and New York, 2006 p. 13

3 Ibid,p.101

4 Ibid,p.100


6 Ibid,p.86-87

7 Euripides, Medea, Cambridge University translations by John Harrison, line 179

8 Ibid,Line270

9 Ibid,line 321

10 Ibid,line 495


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