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WOMAN AT POINT ZERONAWAL EL SAADAWI How is Firdaus different to the other female characters in the novel?Firdaus fought to be in control of her own body, Firdaus, however, did not have much time to devote self exploration. Furthermore, Firdaus wanted to be equal with men. Unlike her mother, she vividly demonstrated against the social norms in the society by standing up for herself. Her mother never once stood up for herself against her husband, even though he beat her. When the child who died was a boy, he would beat Firdaus’s mother. Her mother never fought back or defended herself against him, Firdaus on the other hand killed her husband and ran away from home because she did not want to be taken control of. Despite coming from a very poor family Firdaus still managed to get a school certificate unlike some of the other female characters such as her mother and Sharifa. In the coffee shop, Bayoumi asked Firdaus what she wanted, he let her choose between oranges and tangerines. Firdaus was not sure what to say because nobody had ever asked her that question before. Her husband and uncle never asked her what she preferred because it did not matter to them. The men made all the decisions. Everything evolved around the men; hence her reaction. “I tried to reply but my voice failed me. No one had asked me before whether I preferred oranges or tangerines. My father never bought us fruit. My uncle and my husband used to buy it without asking me what I preferred”. People had always been making decisions for her. Nobody cared about her opinions or what she wanted because after all she was just a woman, it did not matter because people would not care about her opinions anyway. Women had to be obedient in that society. She did not want to get married, but it did not matter what she wanted because of her gender. During her childhood and until she got married she was never in control of her life just like her mother and the other women in that society. When she lived with her parents, her father was in command. When she lived with her husband he was in command and Firdaus had to be obedient. The males in the society exulted the power they had over the females in the society. Her life evolved around living in opposition to the men in her life. She wanted to be treated like an equal, she wanted freedom and did not want to be taken advantage of. She never got treated like an equal by a man just like the other female characters in the novel, the men and women in her life always found a way to take advantage of her.Furthermore, when Firdaus became a prostitute she discovered that she could exploit the desire men have for her and get paid for it. The other female characters such as her mother and her uncle’s wife did not have their own income sources, their husbands supported them, Firdaus on the other hand was making rapid progress in making her own money. Firdaus realised that people with money could command respect. But commanding respect and lots of money did not make Firdaus feel respectable. The life of a prostitute was a huge dissappointment to Firdaus who dreamed of studying and becoming a scholar. Firdause thought that the life of a prostitute would be a better way of getting dignity and self determination than working as an office assistant. However Sharifa did not care about dignity; in fact, she did not mind if men took advantage of her. Sharifa only wanted money and a comfortable life and she was ready to play the game to attain that. When Sharifa took Firdaus to her ritzy house she realised that one day she could have a lavish home of her own if she joined Sharifa. This is where her ideas of power began to change. Sharifa gave Firdaus makeup to make herself look more attractive. However Sharifa only did it in furtherance to make Firdaus look more appealing to the men. Sharifa had the power and money to help Firdaus, but rather than helping Firdaus to become independent and possess power of her own she took advantage of her to make even more money. Sharifa was in control and took the opportunity to take advantage of her, just like the men in Firdaus’s life. With sharifa Firdaus learnt that women could have power, but she realised she could not fully wield her own power under Sharifa’s control. Sharfia took Firdaus under her wings for the sake of earning more money. Firdaus saw Sharifa as a mother figure, and it was under Sharifa’s care that it first appeared to Firdaus that she might be able to live without a man. Firdaus’s mother and Sharifa undermined Firdaus. Under the care of Sharifa, Firdaus was reborn as an attractive woman aware of the power that she had over men. Both Firdaus’s mother and Sharifa were jealous of the attention men gave her, and they seeked to control her. Firdaus was not controlling, she never seeked to control other women. When Firdaus lived with her parents, her mother controlled her. Firdaus’s mother performed FGM on her. Her uncle’s wife took disadvantage of her by forcing her into marriage. Most women ultimately lacked the courage to fight against this society. Firdaus’s mother did not have the courage to stand up against her husband. When there was no food her mother would hide the food from her children so her husband could eat it instead. Her mother prioritised her husband over her own children. When one of Firdaus’s brothers died her father would beat his wife. But he did not seem to care as much when one of his daughters died. Firdaus’s mother did not have the courage to speak up for herself. Women were taught to be obedient to the men in the society and those who refused to be obedient got punished. Firdaus left her husband because she was unhappy with the way he treated her, her mother could have done the same. She was different from the other female characters in the way she stood up for herself. Her mother and uncle’s wife supported this patriarchal society but Firdaus made it clear that she was against it. When Firdaus’s husband Sheikh mahmoud beat her, her uncle’s wife tried to convince her that it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife. It was not acceptable for a virtuous woman to complain to her husband and her duty was perfect obedience; “On one occasion he hit me all over with his shoe. My face and body became swollen and bruised. So I left the house and went to my uncle. But my uncle told me that all husbands beat their wives, and my uncle’s wife added that her husband often beat her. I said my uncle was a respected Sheikh, well versed in the teachings of religion, and he therefore, could not possibly be in the habit of beating his wife. She replied that it was men well versed in their religion who beat their wives”. Her uncle’s wife was from a higher class than her husband so he did not beat her out of fear. He was scared of his wife. Unlike the other female characters she wanted to be in control of her own life and body, she stood up for her beliefs and tried to make a living despite the circumstances. She did not have a husband she could rely on, economically, like her uncle’s wife and her mother. Firdaus could share someone else’s feelings unlike the other female characters. She showed emotions. One night Iqbal, Firdaus’s teacher at secondary school, joined Firdaus at the playground and they cried together. However her uncle’s wife and her mother’s actions demonstrated lack of empathy and emotions. They never showed any emotions or empathy towards Firdaus. 

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