Analysis of oppression in Woman at Point Zero

7 July 2016

How is oppression generalised in Al Saadawi? s Woman at Point Zero Firdaus? story begins in a grimy Cairo prison cell, where she welcomes her death sentence after a life of pain and suffering. Born to a low-class Egyptian family in the countryside, she suffers from a childhood of cruelty and disregard. Her passion of education is ignored by her family (symbolized by the Secondary School Certificate), and when she leaves school she is forced to marry a man much older than her, as it is tradition in their culture.

Following her escapes from violent relationships, she finally meets Sharifa, who tells her that “a man does not know a woman? s value…the higher you price yourself, the more he will realize what you are really worth”, which leads her to a life of prostitution. Unfortunately, Firdaus kills a man which was manipulating her, and is forced to death sentence, which accepts with no regression as pain and suffering have accompanied her through life: “All the men I did get to know, every single man of them, have filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down to his face.

Analysis of oppression in Woman at Point Zero Essay Example

But because I am a woman I have never had the courage to lift my hand. And because I am a prostitute I hid my fear under layers of make-up”. Social oppression appears when someone from a higher class uses his social power over someone of a lower class. For example, “On a cold night I told her (the servant girl) to come and sleep with me in bed, but when my uncle’s wife entered the room and saw us, she beat her. Then she beat me also. ” In this case, El Saadawi uses this as an example of social oppression as the uncle’s wife believes she has a higher status than the servant girl.

She does not want Firdaus to be on her level, and she is able to empower the servant girl because of her low social standing. Another major example of social oppression in the novel is when a Police man approaches Firdaus: “you’re a prostitute, and it is my duty to arrest you, and other of your kind. To clean up the country, and protect respectable families from the likes of you”. In this case, El Saadawi applies the symbol of patriarchy and working status (as women in Egypt still do not have the same rights over jobs) to show to the reader the highest level of social female oppre ssion that one can find in Egypt.

Talking about working status, El Saadawi also uses social oppression in association with politicians: “(politicians) draw a feeling of supremacy of their power over other”. Along the novel El Saadawi uses social oppression to express the theme of social class and to proof that social class plays a major role in the Arab world, as well of the rest of the world. Gender oppression is when one gender abuses other gender, either physically or psychologically. Unfortunately, Firdaus experiences from both types of abuse, and the damage of oppression makes her despise men.

The author uses feminism as a form of oppression to develop the theme that women are sexist to the men as the way they are being treated by men. The first time this theme of sexism appears is “the picture of a man – she spits on it”. Firdaus has been treated badly by men, and carrying so much hatred towards men, has now made a new personality of sexism against men. El Saadawi further demonstrates the sexism of men when Firdaus discovers that all male rulers have the same things in common, having “an avaricious and di sported personality”.

Also, sexism is also developed towards women to create the theme that men mistreated women in all forms of society: upper, middle and lower classes; showing how a male child has more value than his sister, as when one of Firdaus’ sisters died, her father would act “just like he did every night”. Continuing more inside the novel, the bosses at her new job oppress their lower employees by taking advantage of the women: the women in the office, in order not to be “discriminated against or transferred” feel they must give their bodies to the men in charge.

The last form of oppression in the novel is cultural oppression. Because in Firdaus’ culture women are less respected, El Saadawi? s last symbol of oppression appears Firdaus feels that she cannot leave due to the pressure from her culture (this is where the metaphor of the prison comes from). In every house Firdaus lives in that is not her own, she experiences oppression. For example, with her husband she doesn’t have the opportunity to stop him as he “beats her whether he had a reason for it or not”. Again, the concept of female violence reappears.

She feels as though she cannot leave as she has nowhere else to go and it is her duty as an obedient wife: “locking her in the flat before going out. When Firdaus gets beated, she goes to her uncle’s wife, and explains her that that is quite normal among husbands. Because of their culture, Firdaus believes as a wife, her “duty was perfect obedience”, as it is what it is expected from her. Because of this expectation from those around her, Firdaus believes she is in no place to stand up to her husband’s oppression.

She learns the expectation of her culture from her mother when Firdaus father would “beat his wife, then have his supper and lie down”. Because of the oppression the protagonist faces throughout her whole life, her anger towards men now controls her, forcing her to kill a man. This lends to the theme El Saadawi develops of the experiences a person has in life shape the person they become. She shows how oppression traumatizes Firdaus as everything in the world is “less frightening than the vision of those two eyes, which send a cold shiver” entirely through Firdaus’s body.

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