Disclaimer: The novel of Nawal El Saadawi “Woman at point zero” was written in Egypt in 1975. This is a kind of a new Egyptian novel where the author does not limit her work to any modern and literary canons. The reader can find the bold realism and frank psychologism in the novel of Nawal El Saadawi. The author has made it one of the most famous examples of Arab women’s emancipated prose. It is not surprising because the writer herself is a persecuted fighter for the rights of Egyptian women.
In order to understand the main aim of writing the book, it is necessary to learn more about this great author whose story is worth your attention. Nawal Saadawi who wrote “Woman at point zero” is 82 years old. She is a famous feminist, activist, writer, and doctor. All her life, she is against the crippling practice of genital cutting of girls. Moreover, she has had the same procedure in her childhood.
The novel is built in the form of the confession of the main heroine – prostitute Ferdaus, awaiting the death penalty in a female prison for the murder of her pimp. At the same time, the author herself is a confessor: a doctor-psychoanalyst, whose presence is evident to the reader only in the first and the last chapters of the novel. The author identifies herself with the main character, and sometimes reflects all the feelings and experiences of Ferdaus.
At the end of the novel, the author realizes that she isn’t better than Ferdaus because there is a protest in her heart as well but she did not have the courage to express it, as her patient did. The peculiarity of the confession of Ferdaus lies in the shocking realism and frankness that the author enjoys in order to have a maximum effect on the reader.
The reader is offered to plunge into the depths of Ferdaus’ experiences and to understand the whole hopelessness of her position in the society, her alienation and isolation from the environment, and eventually realize her main problem: an incompatibility with the world where she came from and with the world, the part of which she wanted to become.
The novel “Woman at the point of zero” is a product of a completely new period for Arabic literature and for the Arab society in general. First and foremost, it is obvious in relation to the male images: in the majority, they are marked with a stamp of defectiveness and serve to spread the motive of impotence as an expression of spiritual insolvency not only of men themselves but of the entire Arab society in their person.
The heroine of the novel is depicted in the aspect of the ratio of the old and new, traditional and modern. She embodies the conflict that is engendered by the inconsistency of Egypt’s modern society. Nawal El Saadawi puts emphasis on the acute social ulcers of the Arab society, which she expresses thanks to stylistically and compositionally new techniques such as an internal monologue and a flood of consciousness full of hidden tension and despair.
In her novel, Nawal El Saadawi covers a wide range of topics and problems that were not only close to her, but also to many women in Egypt: the theme of the true nature of power, the theme of education, the problem of women’s position in the Arab society, the problem of public opinion and many other equally important questions.
In this essay, I have preferred to consider the main motives, which are revealed in the analysis of this work: the motive of captivity and the motive of choice. It is important for us to realize that both of these motives in the novel “Woman at the point of zero” are closely interrelated both with each other and with other themes of the work, and flow from one another.
Ferdaus, even at the beginning of her monologue, says that her entire life until she was arrested, was captured. Despite some of the physical freedom in the role of a daughter, wife or prostitute, she never achieved psychological freedom, free will. For her captivity is to live under someone else’s power, whether it is the power of a husband or a president. Killing her pimp, Ferdaus transgresses not only the law but also the line of captivity, in which she has long been kept by the morality and the law. She made her choice.
That’s why it was so important for her to wait for the death penalty and not to interact with the system, which was represented by the lawyers and prison staff. The appeal would be an act of surrender to the world of powerful men. According to her, she agrees to talk with the doctor-psychoanalyst (author) solely from the urge to spread her idea and the truth about the world and the system of power that offended her and broke her life.
The author of the novel helps us to understand that for her captivity is not the prison, where Ferdaus was imprisoned for the murder. Slavery is an internal state that does not allow a person to admit to himself or herself that the system oppresses him or her, driving him or her into a cage like a defenseless animal.
- Matko, L. Kendra “Woman at Point Zero”, 2 May 2002, “Colonial and Postcolonial Literary Dialogues”, https://wmich.edu/dialogues/texts/womanatpointzero.html. Accessed 21 May 2018.
- “Woman at Point Zero: Summary, Analysis and Quotes”, https://study.com/academy/lesson/woman-at-point-zero-summary-analysis-quotes.html. Accessed 21 May 2018.
- Salami, Minna. “ An Egyptian Classic of Feminist Fiction”, 7 October 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/oct/07/an-egyptian-classic-of-feminist-fiction. Accessed 21 May 2018.