Crystal has a bachelor's degree in English, a certification in General Studies, and has assisted in teaching both middle and high school English.
Woman at Point Zero
Woman at Point Zero, by Nawal El Sadaawi, tells the fictional story of a reluctant prostitute who has been sent to prison in Cairo, Egypt, for murdering her pimp and who's preparing to be executed. Having herself been previously jailed in 1981 for protesting the mistreatment of women, Nawal El Sadaawi empathizes with the victim in this fictitious tale of what happens when a person has long since passed his or her breaking point.
Firdaus, the protagonist, has been a victim throughout her entire life. After confessing to the murder of her pimp, she is sent to prison to die. Firdaus eventually agrees to share her life story with a female psychologist and writer, including how she saw her father hurting her mother and how her own uncle assaulted her as a child. As a young lady, Firdaus was genitally mutilated and endured a forced teenage marriage to a man nearly five decades her senior. She had no relationships that did not end in abandonment, even with the pimps who carelessly took advantage of her. As a female in Egypt, any attempts to improve her financial and social positions never came to fruition. Now her destiny is to live without free will, education, or ambition.
With no idea of how to have healthy, positive interactions with others, Firdaus flails her way through life, simply trying to survive its tortures. After being hit by Marzouk, her current pimp, she finally reaches the point of no return, unapologetically killing Marzouk out of rage and terror. Waiving several opportunities to appeal her death sentence, Firdaus welcomes her fate. Ironically, she is excited about the prospect of dying as a means of living. After her hanging, she believes that she will finally possess herself, instead of being owned by the government, religion, and the opposite sex.
Nadal El Sadaawi illustrates the tormented and downtrodden life of Firdaus, an Egyptian woman whose futile attempts at happiness and success are ever-present throughout the novel. Although a convicted criminal, her plight results in sympathy from the reading audience. The author uses vivid imagery to evoke an emotional response from the reader. By describing the poverty-stricken environment in which Firdaus spent first her childhood and then her adult years, readers may sympathize with, and even relate to, her unstable environment.
The plot of the story is a bit out of order, but it gives the events of Firdaus' life a chance to unfold in her own time. Instead of beginning with foreshadowing, the story skips straight to the crisis, in that Firdaus is already on death row for murder. Narrative exposition is used to reveal the details of Firdaus' life, from her abusive and neglectful childhood, to her lost educational and financial opportunities, to the harm she suffered at the hands of men, and the poverty she endured through it all. Throughout the exposition, there is both conflict and rising action. Firdaus struggles with everyone: her parents, her uncle, her boyfriends, and her pimps. Most of all, she struggles with herself and her unsuccessful attempts at living a happy and fulfilling life. Her many crises are the foundation for the rising action, which leads to a feeling of anticipation.
The author builds suspense through Firdaus' multiple conflicts and her increasing unhappiness, leaving the reader to wonder how much more she can take. In the midst of her struggles, foreshadowing indicates that she is prepared to die soon and is actually looking forward to the physical and spiritual release that will follow. The story's resolution occurs when Firdaus is hanged, bringing to an end the tumultuous uphill battle that has not even vaguely resembled a life. Although it may seem that she has been defeated by her tormentors, Firdaus is actually the victor.
Woman at Point Zero is peppered with quotes that reflect its haunting protagonist and both her helplessness and hopelessness in a world designed to favor men and to oppress women. For example:
- ''No one noticed me as I stood there alone.''
- ''Was I going to spend the rest of my life sweeping the dung out from under the animals, carrying manure on my head, kneading dough, and baking bread?''
- ''However, every single man I did get to know filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face.''
- ''I kept my eyes closed and abandoned my body. It lay there under him without movement, emptied of all desire, or pleasure, or even pain, feeling nothing. A dead body with no life in it at all. . .''
- ''Who am I? Firdaus, that is how they call me.''
Woman at Point Zero, by Nawal El Sawaadi, takes the reader on a journey with Firdaus, an Egyptian woman who is in prison and awaiting her death by the gallows. After living a life of degradation, poverty, shame, and violence, she reaches her breaking point and kills Marzouk, her pimp.
Living in a society that devalues women, Firdaus is denied an education, and love and respect from her family and from the men who wander in and out of her life. After Firdaus details her struggles to a visiting female psychologist and author, her story comes to its conclusion, which brings her life full circle.
Through the use of descriptive imagery, exposition, foreshadowing, plot, and suspense, Nawal El Sadaawi conveys Firdaus' story graphically and realistically. Employing such stylistic literary elements paints the pages of this book with a raw account of a life in reverse.
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