A Narratological Study of Nawal El Saadawi's Novels "God Dies by the Nile" and "Woman at Point Zero"

Master's Thesis, 2015

95 Pages


Table of Contents





Table of Contents

1.1. Background Information
1.2. Statement of the Research Problem
1.3. Purpose and Objectives of the Study
1.4. General Objective
1.4.1. Specific Objectives
1.4.2. Research Questions
1.5. Justification of the Study
1.6. Scope and Limitations
1.7. Literature Review
1.7.1. Critical Research on Saadawi’s Works
1.7.2. Critical Research on Narratology
1.8. Theoretical Framework
1.8.1. Feminist Narratology and its Significance to the Present Study
1.9. Research Methodology
1.9.1. Research Design
1.9.2. Sampling Procedure
1.9.3. Data Collection Procedure
1.9.4. Data Processing, Analysis and Interpretation

2.1. Introduction
2.2. Point of View in Woman at Point Zero
2.3. Theme of Oppression
2.3.1. Summary
2.4. Theme of Women Struggle for Self- identity
2.5. Theme of Female Genital Mutilation
2.6. Theme of Prostitution
2.7. Motifs in Woman at Point Zero

3.1. Introduction
3.2. Point of View in God Dies by the Nile
3.3. Theme of Oppression

4.1. Introduction
4.3. Findings
4.4. Recommendations


Primary Texts

Secondary Texts


I dedicate this thesis to my loving parents Papa Paschal Baraza and Mama Caroline Ajwang,and to all women in the world who suffer in silence.


I would like to begin by thanking God, the giver of all good things, for his providence. Good health and bringing people my way who helped me unreservedly during the course of my study.

I extent my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to my main supervisor, Dr. Remmy Shiundu Barasa for his direction and unwavering support he gave me in entire period of writing this thesis. His valuable contribution and timely criticism went along way to make my research a success.

I am most grateful to my co- supervisor, Prof Yakobo Mutiti for guiding me. Your academic expertise and positive criticism helped me shape the work. Thank you so much Prof.

To my family members, thank you so much. To my special friends, Elizabeth, Violet, Nguku Mercy, Grace, Zachery, Omar, Stanley, Japhet, Erick and Mwarua, for always being proud of me and accompanying me on this long journey, Asante.


Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


Analepsis:A form of flashback in which earlier parts of a narrative are related to others that have already been narrated.

Figural narrative: A narrative which presents the story’s events as seen through the eyes of a third person.

Focalization:this is a means of selecting and restricting narrative information, of seeing events and states of affairs from somebody's point of view, of foregrounding the focalizing agent, and of creating an empathetic or ironical view on the ‘focalizer’.

Homodiegetic Narrative: the story is told by a (homodiegetic) narrator who is present as a character in the story. The prefix 'homo-' points to the fact that the individual who acts as a narrator is also a character on the level of action.

Heterodiegetic Narrative: the story is told by a (heterodiegetic) narrator who isnotpresent as a character in the story. The prefix 'hetero-' alludes to the 'different nature' of the narrator's world as compared to the world of the action.

Literary semiotic:Approach to literary criticism informed by the theory of signs or semiotic.

Narrator: This is the speaker or voice of the narrative discourse. He/she is the agent who establishes communicative contact with an addressee.

Narratee: The mark or less individualised fictive interlocutor of the narrator who is presupposed or even explicitly addressed in the text.

Narrative: Anything that tells or presents a story be it by texts, picture, performance or combination of these.

Narration: The way a story is told either in first person narration or third person narration

Narrative design:This is narratological craft which focuses on the structuralist or literary semiotic creation of stories.

Narrative inquiry:Narrative analysis which uses stories, autobiography, journals, field notes, lectures, interviews and life experiences as a unit of analysis to research and understand the way people create meaning in their lives as narrative.

Narrative situation: Aspect of discourse that examines how a narrative is told.

Narrative voice:This is how the narrative is presented or conveyed to the reader.

Prolepsis:The representation of a thing as existing before it actually does.

Point of view: The mode of narration that an author employs to let the readers hear and see what takes place in a story.


This is a narratological study of God Dies by the Nile (1985) and W oman at Point Zero (1982) by Nawal El Saadawi, an Egyptian female writer. The study explores the narrative presentation of Saadawi’s struggle for women’s self-identity in the male dominated society. The study identifies and analyses the uses of aspects of the narrative design employed by Saadawi: namely homodiegetic narration and heterodiegetic narration in the two selected novels. The narrative design of the two novels were then analyzed against major themes such as corruption, women struggle for self-identity, oppression, female genital mutilation and prostitution. The analysis was guided by feminist narratology, a strand of narratology, a theory that explores how narrative functions. The objectives of the study were: to analyse how the use of homodiegetic narration presents particular themes in Woman at Point Zero (1982), to analyse how the use of heterodiegetic narration in God Dies by the Nile (1985) presents particular themes. Methods that were used in carrying out the research were interpretation, analysis and conceptualization through a close reading of the two texts. All were based on a qualitative research. Purposive sampling design was used to identify material for analysis. Samples were deliberately selected from Saadawi’s novels based on the degree of intensity in the narrative designs. In establishing how the use of homodiegetic narration presents particular themes in Woman at Point Zero it was observed that the narrator is an overt narrator who narrates everything that happened to her. She concentrates on her own experiences which are quite genuine. It is from these genuine experiences that themes of oppression, female genital mutilation, women fight for self-identity and prostitution are constructed. In God Dies by the Nile the narrator enjoys the power of omniscience and she is therefore, present at every stage of action of all characters in the novel. The narrator reads their actions and minds and it is from this observation that the theme of oppression and corruption are brought out. The analysis was then presented in chapters. The first and last chapters offer introduction and conclusion respectively. The remaining chapters are analytical and form the body of the thesis.



1.1. Background Information

People are storytellers: they give narratives about their experiences and the meaning that these experiences have for their lives. All cultures and societies possess their own stories or narratives about their past and their present and sometimes about their view of the future. These narratives include stories of greatness and heroism or stories of periods characterized by victimhood and suffering. The importance of stories and the value that they bring to the society has been captured by Achebe (1987) when he says, “It is only the story that can continue beyond war and warriors, it is the story that outlines the sound of war-drums and the exploits of brave fighters. It is the story that saves our progeny blundering like blind beggars into the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it we are blind” (Achebe, 1987). Achebe’s view is that; no society can stay without stories because the stories speak out what the society not only values but also what it has gone through. Therefore, stories are part and parcel of every community’s way of life. They act as the mouth piece of each given society and they give meaning and context to what would otherwise be a collection of easily forgotten facts. Stories invoke the imagination so that listeners begin to own them almost as much as the teller (Kelly, 2008).

Jahn (2005) argues that novels are extremely rich and varied media: everything you find in other types of narrative you find it in novels. This clearly implies that novels are narratives which can be best understood through how they are designed.

One of the Egyptian female story tellers who uses the novel as a medium and mode of expression is Nawal El Saadawi. Diamond (1989) observes that, a literary work can provide an in-depth depiction of the cultural, social, religious, economic and political outlook of a people more than history textbooks and anthropological records always do (Diamond,1989). Diamond, simply implies that novels are in a better position to explain or rather describe what the society goes through. Saadawi’s literary works provides the social, religious economic and political outlook of her people through her characters in the novel.

Through Saadawi’s literary work, her own story of protest against various Egyptian regimes for decades has been told. She has explored various topics such as prostitution, female genital mutilation, oppression and women’s self-identity. Saadawi has over fifty works, both fiction and non-fiction. The researcher was interested with the fiction works of Saadawi and more so the novels. Saadawi has fourteen novels under her name and that the researcher analyzed Womanat Point Zero (1982) and God Dies by the Nile (1985). This is because of the scholarly critical attention the two novels have received. Though many studies have dwelt so much on the thematic concern of the two novels, less has been done in terms of narrative designs and how they shape themes in the two novels.

The two novels are commentaries of women fight against abuse, lack of recognition by men because of the retrogressive cultures and oppression and therefore the urge to forge their own identity in the male- dominated society who are both supported by the Islam religion and those men who are in power. It is this tension that informs the narrative design of the two texts under study, hence leading us to believe that Saadawi is concerned with the predicament that befalls women.

Consequently, the present study dedicated itself and respected the concern of modern literary theory: organic form, authorial intrusion and the question of value, by exploring through a close reading against the background of Manfred Jahn’s (2005) A Guide to Narratology. Aspects of Saadawi’s narrative design and their thematic implication as evident in two novels are revealed.

1.2. Statement of the Research Problem

Narratological studies in Anglophone novels have received great scholarly interest. However, a gap exists in terms of the critical analysis of narratology in Saadawi’s works. Critical analysis done on Saadawi’s works have used other interpretive tools such as Postcolonial literary theory and Deconstruction, leaving out the understanding of Saadawi’s works in terms of narrative designs and how they shape the themes in her novels. The study in this connection, analyses how the use of homodiegetic and heterodiegetic narration present particular themes in the two novels.

1.3. Purpose and Objectives of the Study

The purpose of the study was to examine how aspects of narrative design were used to present particular themes in Saadawi’s two novels

1.4. General Objective

To engage a narratological study in God Dies by the Nile (1985) and Woman at PointZero (1982)

1.4.1. Specific Objectives

1. To analyse how the use of homodiegetic narration presents particular themes in Woman at Point Zero (1982)
2. To analyze how the use of heterodiegetic narration in God Dies by the Nile (1985) presents particular themes in the novel.

1.4.2. Research Questions

The following research questions drawn from the objectives of the study were addressed:

1. How does the use of homodiegetic narration present particular themes in Woman atPoint Zero (1982)?
2. How does the use of heterodiegetic narration present particular themes in God Dies bythe Nile (1985)?

1.5. Justification of the Study

This study will contribute to the scholarship on Saadawi’s novels in general, Woman at PointZero (1982) and God Dies by the Nile ( 1985) in particular. Saadawi’s novels have been the subject of many studies in literary criticism. Such research includes Augustine who looked at fighting patriarchal in Woman at Point Zero (Augustine, 2011), Issako who examined the situation of A woman in patriarchal African society in God Dies by the Nile and Woman atPoint Zero (Issako, 2010). However, there is paucity of research on narratological study on the two novels as the present study sought to do. By subjecting the two novels to a narratological treatment, this study adds a new dimension to the studies on Saadawi’s narrative style.

Many studies that have been done on Saadawi’s novels have focused on thematic concerns; that is, the researchers have dwelt so much on how Saadawi presents the female character and what the female character goes through in the male -dominated society. However, how Saadawi narrates and brings out these themes has not been studied, hence the need for the study.

1.6. Scope and Limitations

The research limited itself to the narratological framework advanced by Manfred Jahn (2005). This is because Jahn’s view updates what has been done by earlier narratologist, such as Genette (1972), Chatman (1978), Lanser (1981), Stanzel (1984) and Bal (1985), among others. The study also limited itself to Saadawi’s two novels Woman at Point Zero (1982) and God Dies by the Nile (1985), because they contain enough narrative designs that generated enough material to answer the research questions, hence achieve the objectives of the study.

1.7. Literature Review

1.7.1. Critical Research on Saadawi’s Works

Saadawi’s fictional works have received scholarly interest. Among all her works, Woman atPoint Zero (1982) and God Dies by the Nile (1985) have received more critical analysis than any other works.

Simola (2005) did a study on a journey to prison of two women, that is, Lemona and Firdaus the main characters in Woman at Point Zero (1982). He examined the predicament that befalls these two characters in prison. The researcher compares the life of Lemola and the life of Firdaus. Simola (2005), does not endeavour to analyse why the author of Woman atPoint Zero (1982) uses the first person point of view to bring out the predicaments that befall Firdaus. Therefore, the present study is dedicated to the analysis of these matters. The present study borrows Simola’s (2005) analysis of the experiences of Firdaus, who is the main character in Woman at Point Zero (1982), focusing on the theme of oppression. Moreover, the researcher was interested in unravelling the aspect of the narrative designs that present this particular theme.

Spath (2005) did a study on the life and works of Saadawi. In his thesis, he explored Saadawi’s work and examined how it is accepted by others as fellow activists and the government, and the impact that it has on the world. Though the researcher is dealing with Saadawi’s works, the present study moves away from the life of the author and focuses on the author’s narrative skill.

Ayoubi (2005) did a study on the reception of Arab women writers in the West. In his thesis, he explored the reception in the Anglophone west of the works of Arab women writers like Saadawi. The thesis used postcolonial literary theory and feminism theory. The present study borrows from this study in the sense that it is also dedicated to the plight of women in the society. Though the present study deals with the plight of women, it leans towards how women are able to narrate their plight, hence the advancement of feminist narratology rather than the broad feminism literary theory.

Mustofa and Mandakini (2014) did a study on dismantling prostitution as an institution in Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero (1982). They look at the negative portrait of prostitution which is depicted differently in Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero. The analysis used deconstruction as the theory of interpretation. The present study borrows from this study in that it also looks at prostitution as a theme in its analysis. It moves away from this study limiting the researcher to construct the themes from the experiences that the narrator goes through hence moving from deconstruction to feminist narratology.

Carminata (2012) did a study on colonized bodies in Saadawi’s works. She looked at the power relationship in Saadawi’s works. She observed that women are looked down upon by their male counterparts. This study informs the present study in the sense that it gives an insight on the theme of oppression and women struggle for self-identity. From the literature reviewed it is evident that there is paucity of research in terms of Saadawi’s narrative skill, hence a need for a narratological study of her works.

1.7.2. Critical Research on Narratology

The literature search established that no narratological study has been done on Saadawi’s God Dies by the Nile (1985) and Woman at Point Zero (1982 ). Four researches, however proved useful to this study. Tunai (2007) examined various modes of narration and their impact on meaning on Nuruddin Farah’s three novels. He argues that the three novels present phases of Farah’s novelistic career in which certain social and political perspectives have influenced the narrative technique in his novels. He concludes that the author uses a combination of many narrative voices and narrator to present themes (Tunai, 1997). This research is useful to the present study because the researcher will unravel how the social and political perspective may have influenced the presentation of themes in Saadawi’s two novels.

Mwinlaaru (2012) did a stylistic study of characterization and point of view in Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah (1987 ) taking a functional semantic perspective. This study informs the study under question because the point of view which Mwinlaaru (2012) explores is one of the narrative aspect that the researcher will endeavor to analyse in Saadawi’s two novels. Mwinlaaru (2012) also notes that Achebe employs particular kinds of transitivity patterns to stylistically weave into the text his thematic construction of a postcolonial African state. Though the researcher is not interested in Achebe’s Anthills of the savannah (1987), the application of particular kinds of transitivity patterns will inform the present study in the sense that the researcher will focus on how Saadawi does this in her two novels.

Simiyu (2012) analysed point of view and the meaning of such rendering in selected Kiswahili novels. The analysis covered four panels of point of view, that is, ‘phraseological’, ideological, perceptual and psychological. The analysis was guided by narratology and methods used for carrying out research were interpretation, analysis and conceptualization (Simiyu, 2012). The present study moves from the Kiswahili novels and focuses on Saadawi’s novels.

Barasa (2006) took a study on aspects of narrative design and their thematic significance in selected Abdulrazak Gurnah’s novels. He employs narratology as his canon of inquiry. His study leans towards rhetorical narratology. The study investigated the narration, narrative situation and focalization in Gurnah’s selected novels (Barasa, 2006). The present study moves its focus from rhetorical narratology to feminist narratology. Moreover, the novels under study are also different.

From the literature reviewed, it is evident that in the narratological field, little has been done on feminist narratology therefore either leaving the works of women out or not putting the issue of gender into question. Lanser (1986) claims that the narratives which have provided a foundation for narratology have either been men’s text or texts treated as men’s texts. She therefore suggests the rewriting of narratology that takes into account the contribution of women as both producers and interpreter of texts (Lanser, 1986). The researcher is not in any way suggesting the rewriting of narratology as a theory but simply advancing Lanser’s idea that since novels are narratives telling stories about people’s life, then women novels should consider using another angle of narratology for they tell stories about what women have gone through in the male- dominated society, hence the need to analyse women’s narrative skills differently.

1.8. Theoretical Framework

The study was guided by narratology and more specific focus on feminist narratology, a strand of narratology. Narratology originates from the work of a Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1959), in his endeavor to distinguish between specific instances of spoken language (Parole) and the grammar relating to all specific instances of speech (Langue). The distinction is the corner- stone of narratology. Roman Jakobson (1980) also influenced the study of narrative. He did this through revealing how literary language differs from ordinary language. Structuralism was further shaped by French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (1982) who concluded that myths found in various cultures can be interpreted in terms of their repetitive structures (Jahn, 2005).

After Levi-Strauss, some of the major tenets of narratology were well presented in the writings of Genette (1982) (Bal, 1985), (Stanzel, 1984), Chatman (1978) and Fludernick (1996). According to Jahn (2005), some of the recent advances within narratology as a school of thought include: Psychoanalytic narratology (Brooks, 1984), a historiographical narratology (Cohon, 1999), a Possible Worlds Narratology (Ryan 1991; 1998; Ronen 1994); Gutenberg 2000) Feminist Narratology (Warhol 1989; Lanser 1992; Mezei, ed. 1996), Gender Studies Narratology (Nunning, 2004), a Cognitive Narratology (Perry 1979, Steinberg, 1993), Jahn 1997), a Natural narratology (Fludernik 1996), a Postmodernist Narratology, Cultural studies Narratology (Nünning 2000), a Trans Generic Narratology (Nünning and ONünning, eds. 2002, Hühn 2004), a Political Narratology, and a Psycho- Narratology (Bortolussi and Dixon 2003 [psychometric empirical approach]). This study embraces feminist narratology because the study takes into account the contribution of women as both producers and interpreters of texts.

The narratological approach is characterized by its overriding concern with narrative structure, and the close attention it pays to the effects that this structure has on the shaping and unfolding of narratives. It scrutinizes the internal relations of a narrative's component parts, and dissects how these relations are constructed in practically any given aspect of the narrative text (such as plot, narration, sequence of events, and so on). For some narratologists, these structures are what bring narrative texts into being, and even provide them with meaning: if a text's narrative structure can be said to highlight a particular aspect of that text, it can also be said to highlight the structural mechanisms by which it does so. The text's construction can therefore be read as a system of meaning in its own right which interacts with any apparent message the text contains. At its most ambitious, narratology tried to diagnose the same basic abstract structures at work in a huge variety of different forms of texts (David, 1960).

The objective of narratology is to describe the constants, variables and combinations typical of narratives, and to clarify how these characteristics of narrative texts connect within the framework of theoretical models (Fludernik, 2006). The present study identifies aspect of narrative design such as homodiegetic and heterodiegetic narration in Saadawi’s selected novels and further explores how these narrative aspects work to articulate certain important themes in the novels. Therefore, narratology is the ensemble of theories of narratives that helps to understand, analyse and evaluate narratives (Bal, 2009)

1.8.1. Feminist Narratology and its Significance to the Present Study

Feminist narratology is one of the strands of narratology and its tenets helped answer research questions. Feminist narratology is part of the reconceptualization of narratology.

It is expressed as transition from early structuralism studies of narrative which approached texts as objects that could be analyzed in scientific and systematic manner to a post-modern position where different kinds of questions are asked of the analysis, with the recognition that both the text and analysis cannot be neutral but may be ideologically loaded in some way (Currie, 1998).

According to Knutson (1989),

Gender / power relations are encoded in narrative form, and at the three levels of fabula, story, and text, feminist narratology can break the code. A female obstacle, at the level of fabula, frequently signifies patriarchal overwriting. A male subject with a female object and / or obstacle always indicates conformity with patriarchal gender, and may also mark the erasure of a female hero. At the story level, events are focalized through an external focalizer or character-focalizer who experiences the events of the fabula: Who is sensing, seeing, hearing and interpreting based on what body of knowledge is there a woman's body in this story? Finally, at the level of text or words, a narrative agent can comment, argue, describe or render ironic. How is the power of the narrator represented or used? Who is speaking to whom, and what kind of world is created in the process? Would a woman be comfortable in this world? Or is a male narrator relying on the power of the masculine generic to naturalize the fact that a man is speaking to other men in a world where women are objects or obstacles? The masculine generic operates insidiously at all levels of language to sustain the system of binary oppositions of which it is a part. Thus narrative structure at its most abstract is a cultural producer of gender for gender/power relations are encoded at the narrative forms (Knutson, 1989)

Lanser (1986) argues that, narratology should be altered by understanding of feminist criticism and the experience of female texts, for feminist narratology considers texts not just to represent, but actually constitute transaction between author and the reader, for feminist narratology assumes that texts are always linked to the material circumstances of history that produces and receives them (Warhol, 2012). Richardson (2000) argues that narrative theory embraces matters of meaning, context and evaluation and therefore feminist narratology proved fruitful means of discussing both female texts and narratology itself. Therefore, this research, being a narratological study of God Dies by the Nile ( 1985) and Woman at PointZero (1982) written by Egyptian feminist writer, feminist narratology gives the insight in understanding Saadawi’s narrative skill and how she uses the narrative designs of focalization, narration and narrative situation to bring out the themes in the two selected novels.

Feminist narratology has the following tenets.

1. contextualization as a means of understanding the interplay between gender and narrative form within given texts such as God Dies by the Nile (1985 ) and Woman at Point Zero (1982).
2. Focuses on issues of class, gender and sexuality at the centre of inquiry; hence providing a gender-centered platform from which to review elements of narratives such as plot, perspective, voice and space within given texts such as God Dies by the Nile (1985 ) and

Woman at Point Zero (1982) .

1.9. Research Methodology

1.9.1. Research Design

The study employed qualitative research design given the textual nature of the research. Qualitative research allowed an in-depth and descriptive analysis and understanding of textual narratives, because the two novels are narratives of the struggle of women, the study falls within the confines of qualitative research. In determining whether qualitative research design is appropriate to any research, Bricci and Green (2007), propose that qualitative research can only be appropriate if the researcher wants to understand the perspective of the participants; or explore the meaning they give to the phenomena; or observe a process in depth. The study under question falls within the third tenet of the qualitative research as advanced by Bricci and Green (2007). This study too explores narrative designs that Saadawi employs in her two selected novels.

1.9.2. Sampling Procedure

The researcher selected two novels according to the predetermined criteria relevant to the research objectives and research questions. Since sampling technique is flexible and depends on the resources and time available for the researcher (Barasa, 2013). Two novels by Saadawi were considered sufficient to answer the research questions and meet the objectives of the study. In this regard, the study employed purposive sampling. The technique enabled the researcher to use cases that have the required information with respect to the research objectives and research questions of the study. The two novels by Saadawi, God Dies by the Nile (1985) and Woman at Point Zero (1982) were deliberately selected because they had the characteristics of focus for the study.

1.9.3. Data Collection Procedure

The study was based on library research because of its textual nature. The researcher first embarked on getting the primary and secondary data from relevant critical and creative works of literature both from the public, private and digital libraries. After critically reading and analysing the available material, the researcher then took a close reading of the two novels. Emphasis was placed on the narrative inquiry. The method assumes that people construct their realities through narrating their stories. The researcher explores a story told by the participant. Narrative inquiry values the signs, symbols and expression of feelings in language and other symbol systems validating how the narrator constructs meaning (Marshal and Rossman, 2011). It is from this narrative inquiry that the researcher was able to analyse how different aspects of narrative design have been employed by Saadawi hence drawing conclusions on her narrative skill.

1.9.4. Data Processing, Analysis and Interpretation

The data was processed and analysed within the framework of feminist narratology, a strand of narratology as advanced by Manfred Jahn (2005). This is because Jahn (2005) updates earlier works done by other narratologists. The analysis and interpretation were guided by feminist narratology advanced by Lanser (1986). The two texts being narratives, a narrative inquiry was used on the two novels.

Narrative inquiry values the signs, symbols and the expression of feelings in language and other symbol systems validating how the narrator constructs meaning (Marshal and Rossman, 2011). Therefore, the data was coded, segmented and categorized in attempt to conceptualize regularities. The findings were then presented in chapters.



2.1. Introduction

The chapter maps out the homodiegetic narrator in Woman at Point Zero. It identifies the point of view used by Saadawi in her narration and how the point of view shapes the theme of oppression, women struggle for self-identity, female genital mutilation and prostitution. It gives an in-depth analysis of homodiegetic narration with a critical focus on the homodiegetic narrator. It is observed that the narrator, who is highly overt, concentrates on her own life experiences which are too personal and quite genuine. It is from the confession of Firdaus, who is the homodiegetic narrator that the themes mentioned are constructed. The themes constructed are therefore as a result of the experiences that the homodiegetic narrator goes through.

2.2. Point of View in Woman at Point Zero

In identification of a narrative voice in any novel, the focus is on who speaks in the novel. All novels project a narrative voice, some more distinct, some less, some to greater degree, some to a lesser degree (Jahn, 2005). There are particular voice markers that project particular narrative voice. They include content matter, subjective expression and pragmatic signals. Anybody who wants to tell a story therefore decides whether to present his or her story in the first person narrative or third person narrative (Jahn, 2005). Genette (1980) refers the first person point of view and the third person point of view as homodiegetic narrative and heterodiegetic narrative respectively. In homodiegetic narrative, the story is told by a narrator who is also one of the story’s acting characters, while heterodiegetic narrative is the story told by a narrator who is not present as a character in the story. Jahn (2005) suggests that in order to determine the relationship type of narrative, one must check for the presence or absence of an experiencing I in the story’s plain action sentences.

Woman at Point Zero, just like all other novels, projects a specific point of view. Through an in-depth analysis of some parts of the novel, the distinctive point of view will come out. The key guiding factor will be if there is the presence or absence of the experiencing I in the story’s plain action sentences.

This is the story of a real woman [ This account of what happened to a woman whom the narrator is an observer. From the onset the narrator reveals that she is going to talk about a woman.] I met her [ Self–characterization of the narrating I. The narrator is referring toherself ] in the Qanatir prison a few years ago [ self-confession on where she encountered the woman ]. I was doing a research [The narrator is a researcher] on the personalities of a group of women prisoners and detainees convicted or accused of various offences [ Thenarrator reveals that she is a researcher with interest in accused women hence the reason why she is in prison]. The prison doctor told me [ The homodiegetic narrator is remembering. She reveals herinformant ] that this woman had been sentenced to death for killing a man [ The female character that the narrator is meeting isintroduced as a prisoner accused of killing a man]. Yet she was not like the other female murderers held in the prison [ The homodiegeticnarrator gives out reasons on her choice of the female character. The character is an extraordinary prisoner]. ‘You will never meet anyone like her in and out of prison [ Further re- affirmation of the choice of the character. The female character is a peculiar character ]. She refuses all visitors, and won’t speak to anyone [ The homodiegeticnarrator is observant of the female prisoner ]. She usually leaves her food and won’t speak to anyone [ The female character is defiant andunapologetic ]. She usually leaves her food untouched, and remains wide awake until dawn [ Further observation of the female characterby the narrator ]. Sometimes the prison warder observes her as she sits staring vacantly into the space for hours [ The female character issometimes lost in thought. The unusual character of the female prisoner revealed to the narrator]. One day she asked for a pen and paper, then spent hours hunched over them without moving [ Thehomodiegetic narrator is remembering, giving account of the state of the female character as told to her by the warder ]. The warder could not tell whether she was writing a letter or something else [ Thehomodiegetic narrator reveals that the female character is strange in doing things until the people around her do not understand her ] Perhaps she was not writing anything at all’ [ Further revelation of thestrange acts of the female character]. (El Saadawi, 1)

The excerpt above is from the first page of Woman at Point Zero. From the beginning, the novel projects a distinctive voice that is the homodiegetic narration. The narrator presents the homodiegetic narrator; she experiences the actions and quotes what she has been told by other characters. The story changes course when we meet the woman that the narrator calls a real woman. In Chapter Two, the woman who has been introduced by the narrator in Chapter One picks up the narration.

Let me speak [ Willingness of the introduced woman to narrate thestory hence being the homodiegetic narrator]. Do not interrupt me [ narrator referring back to herself and gives her opinion never to beinterrupted ]. I have no time to listen to you [ Self- characterization of the narrating I ] . They are coming to take me at six o’clock this evening [ narrator drawing attention to what she wants to talk about ]. Tomorrow morning, I shall no longer be here [ Self reference to whatshe is about to face ]. Nor will I be in any place known to man [ narrator still referring to what is going to happen to her ]. This journey to a place unknown to everybody on this earth fills me with pride [ narrator happy for the experience that she is about to undergo. She isready to face her executer ]. All my life I have been searching for something that would fill me with pride, make me feel superior to everyone else, including kings, princes and rulers [ narratorconfession of what her inspiration in life has been ]. Each time I picked up a newspaper and found the picture of a man who was one of them [ a female voice projected ] I would spit on it [ narratorconfession of the hatred she has towards men ]. I knew I was only spitting on a piece of paper [ narrator acknowledges that she cannotchange the position of men in the society ] which I needed for covering the kitchen shelves [ narrator aware that her action was not solvingany social injustices in the society ]. Nevertheless, I spat [ narrator gets consolation from spitting on the paper ], and then left the spit where it was to dry [ Self-consciousness of her actions ]. Anyone who saw me spitting on the picture might think I knew that particular man personally [ Self characterization of the narrating I ]. But I did not. Am just one woman [ The narrator affirms that she is a woman so thisis a voice of a woman ]. And there is no single woman who could possibly know all the men who get their picture published in newspapers. For after all, I was only a successful prostitute [ narratorreveals that she was a prostitute ]. And no matter how successful a prostitute is, she cannot get to know all the men [ self-confession ofinadequacy to know all men that she sleeps with ]. However, every single man I did get to know filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and to bring it smashing down on his face [ narrator confessionof hatred she has towards men ]. But because I am a woman [ Self reference and inadequacies associated with being a woman in a partriachial society ] I have never had the courage to lift my hand [ The narrator is conscious about gender identity and occupations ofevery sex in the society] (El Saadawi, 9-10)

From the analysis, Woman at Point Zero portrays a distinctive voice. The first narrator who happens to be the author of the novel tells her experience as a researcher. The second narrator who is the main narrator, Firdaus, tells her life experience and what has transpired until she is about to be convicted of having killed a pimp. The first narrator recalls all the episodes and circumstances that made her meet the female prisoner. Everything that she saw by her eye is captured by the narrator and everything that is told by the warder is quoted.

The second narrator, who is the female prisoner, brings out her experiences right from the beginning of the story; thus, the first part is the background of what informs the whole narrative. Basically, the narrator in the first part introduces the second narrator, who remains the reliable narrator and the protagonist in the novel. Therefore, Woman at Point Zero is a homodiegetic narrative on the strength of the single relation condition that the narrator is present as a character in her story. This is because the narrators in Woman at Point Zero show their life experiences.

Stanzel (1984) posits that in a typical first-person narrative, the narrator tells an autobiographical story about asset of past experiences, experiences that evidently shaped and changed her life and made her what she is today. It is on this basis that Woman at Point Zero qualifies to be a first person narrative. Like other typical first- person narratives, the narrator is subject to ordinary human limitations, she is restricted to a personal subjective view; has no direct access to events she did not witness, she cannot be in two places at the same time and she has no way of knowing for certain what went on in the minds of other characters (Lanser, 1986). Firdaus shows all the experiences that she has gone through as an individual from being sexually assaulted by the uncle to being a prostitute. From the onset of the story where Firdaus picks up, she goes to confess what she has gone through. All the events that she shows have either happened to her or else she did witness them being done. Firdaus is restricted to a personal subjective point of view; she has no direct access to events she did not witness in person.

This implies that the narrator in Woman at Point Zero is expressing what she exactly went through and every event that she says has not been in any way interfered with by anybody or by any character. It is a confession that she is telling her audience. Therefore, the story of Womanat Point Zero is ‘focalised’ by an internal focalizer who is a witness in the narrated event; she experiences the events herself and moreover the actions are happening to her. Every action is therefore seen through her eye. She is the one to decide what to tell her audience because she is the one who witnessed the events. Therefore, it is from that eye that themes are constructed and shaped.

The homodiegetic narration in Woman at Point Zero ha s been tactfully used to give female characters a chance to express what they are going through. The writer chooses her characters wisely in order to drive the point home. It is from this perspective that Lanser (1986) says that women texts should be interpreted differently. She further suggests that in the analysis of women texts, feminist narratology should be used in interpretation of such texts. This is because feminist narratology considers texts not just to represent but constitute transaction between author and reader (Lanser, 1986). Firdaus is left to talk herself rather than being observed and the actions reported. Firdaus is an overt narrator who is present and reliable in her narration. It is from this reliability that she is able to narrate what befalls her. From the narration, different themes are revealed.

2.3. Theme of Oppression

The theme of oppression is evident in Woman at Point Zero. Firdaus the narrator of the story narrates what she has gone through in her life until she is about to be convicted. Through her narration, the reader is able to know the forms of oppression that Firdaus has gone through.

Firdaus experiences oppression from childhood to adulthood and whenever she tries to run from one form of oppression, she finds herself in another. From childhood, Firdaus is oppressed by her biological father and her uncle, in adulthood men of different calibers sexually oppress her. It is from this painful act that when the researcher meets Firdaus, she openly tells her the hatred she has towards men, arising from the male oppression throughout her life. She is even happy to face the executer because the world is full of oppression. She narrates:

Tomorrow morning, I shall no longer be here [ The homodiegetic narrator aware of the grave charges facing her ]. Nor will I be in any place known to man [ She is aware that death awaits her]. This journey to a place unknown to everybody on this earth fills me with pride [ The narrator is happy to die ]. All my life I have been searching for something that will fill me with pride, make me feel superior to everyone else including kings and princes [ Confession of having never lived a deserving life ]. (El Saadawi, 9)

The narrator confesses of having lived a life full of troubles. She is aware of the crime levelled against her and she is happy and eagerly awaiting the conviction because to her, the world has been unfair and exiting from it is a great relief. The narrator then goes ahead to narrate what she has gone through in her entire life. She takes the audience through her childhood life experience where she was oppressed by her real biological father.

She narrates:

My father, a poor peasant farmer [ The narrator confesses of comingfrom a poor family ], who could neither read nor write [ The narrators father is illiterate ], knew very few things in life [ The narrators father is ignorant ] How to grow crops, how to sell buffalo poisoned by his enemy before it died [ The narrator’s father is lazy ], how to exchange his virgin daughter for dowry when there was still time [ homodiegeticnarrator’s description of her father who is a representative of patriarchy ], how to be quicker than his neighbor in stealing from the fields once the crop was ripe [ narrator’s father openly steals frompeoples field ]. How to bend over the headman’s hand and pretend to kiss it [ Revelation of her father’s hypocrisy ], how to beat his wife and make her bite the dust each night [ Homodiegetic narrator revealsbrutal nature of her father ] (El Saadawi, 10)

Through a first person point of view, Firdaus lets the reader know the ruthless nature of her father. Firdaus’ father is an illiterate, ignorant and lazy father who does not understand what is happening around him. He still holds to the old traditional practices of looking down upon women. It is from this point of view that all the women that are around him face oppression. For example, Firdaus’ father constantly batters his wife. Women characters in Woman at Point Zero are oppressed by males in the text. The homodiegetic narrator being one of the characters, retells the ordeal that they go through in the hands of men. The homodiegetic narrator gives out a detailed account of what happened to her right from her childhood up to adulthood. She endures and experiences the brutality in the hands of different men in the society hence exposing the theme of oppression. Firdaus confession further reveals the brutality of her biological father. She confesses what happens in her father’s house. She narrates:

When one of his female children died, my father would eat his supper [ Narrators father unperturbed because it is a female child, a clearshow of preference to male children ], my mother would wash his legs [ narrator living in the society governed by patriarchy hence themother is submissive ] and he would go to sleep, just as he did every night [ a female child is of no concern to the narrator’s father hence ifshe dies the narrator’s father does not in any way bother because she is not useful to him ]. When the child that died was a boy, he would beat my mother [ Preference of boy child over girl child ], then have his supper and lie down to sleep [ The narrator’s father alwaysconcerned of male child, an impression of favor towards male children]. My father never went to bed without supper, no matter [ narrator’s father is egocentric and does not care for anybody ]. Sometimes when there was no food at home we would all go with empty stomachs [ The narrator reflects on her sufferings ]. But he would never fail to have a meal [ the confirmation of the selfishness ofthe narrator’s father by the narrator ]. My mother would hide his food from us at the bottom of one of the holes in the oven [ revelation of a partriachial society where men were to be given priority over everybody else ]. He would sit eating alone while we watched him [ the narrators father is greedy and selfish ]. One evening I dared to stretch out my hand to his plate [ The narrator is courageous and determinedto eat ], but he struck me a sharp blow [ resistance from the father ] over the back of my fingers [ Brutal treatment the homodiegeticnarrator encountered from her father ]. I was so hungry that I could not cry [ perseverance of the homodiegetic narrator ]. I sat in front of him watching as he ate [ the homodiegetic narrator is persistent ], following his hand from the moment his fingers plunged into the bowl until it rose into the air [ The narrator is determined ], and carried the food into the mouth [ The narrator is observant ]. His mouth was like that of a camel [ Narrator’s father is greedy ], with a big opening and wide jaws [ Gluttonous nature of the homodiegetic narrator’s father ]. His upper jaw kept clamping down on his lower jaw with aloud grinding noise [ The narrator’s father insensitive of his child aroundhim ], and chewed through each morsel so thoroughly that we could hear his teeth striking against each other [ The narrator’s father is sogreedy that he does not care that the narrator is hungry ]. His tongue kept rolling round in his mouth as though it was also chewing [ narrators father is gluttonous ] darting out every now and then to lick off some particle of food that had stuck to his lips, or dropped on his chin [ greediness of the narrator’s father furtherrevealed ]. At the end of his meal my mother would bring him a glass of water [ Submissiveness of thenarrator’smother revealed ]. He drunk it then belched loudly [ Deliberate action to show that he is incontrol ], expelling the air from the mouth or belly with a prolonged noise [ an action to show that he is satisfied and doesn’t care for therest of the family ]. After that, he smoked his water pipe, filling the room around him with thick clouds of smoke [ homodiegetic narratorcontinues to expose the ill behavior of the father that one of never being concerned with the people around him ], coughing, snorting and inhaling deeply through his mouth and nose [ Deliberate disturbingnoise to show that he is the head of the family ]. Once over with his Pipe, he lay down [ The narrator further exposes the father as beinglazy ], and moment later the hut would be filled with his loud snoring [ The narrator’s father is dominant and overpowers everybody in thehouse. An indicator of a partriachial society ] (El Saadawi, 17-18)

UNICEF (2007) posits that, every child should be given a fatherly care which is opposite of what Firdaus is given. Through a homodiegetic narration, Firdaus is oppressed as a child; she is denied the fatherly care that every child should have. Firdaus’ basic needs are not well provided by the family. She has been fathered by a ruthless and inhuman father who is insensitive, not only to Firdaus, but to all family female characters in the story. He eats alone as the family goes hungry. He does not care about his children, especially the female characters and when he eats Firdaus watches. Firdaus is courageous and determined and therefore goes ahead to eat with the father. This act of courage is met with a lot of resistance. Firdaus act is seen as the change of social norms that a partriachial society holds most. If Firdaus is allowed to take the food, it would have been seen as allowing women who are looked down upon to take up the position held by men. Women are inferior beings who are not supposed to question what men are doing. They are supposed to receive instructions and act on them as directed by men. This is exemplified by Firdaus’ mother. Therefore, Firdaus act was unheard of and hence met with a lot of resistance. This makes Firdaus to be psychologically and physically tortured. Firdaus is not the only female character that is subjected to this particular oppression. In fact, all the characters in Firdaus’ family are oppressed by her father. Firdaus confesses that whenever a female child died, the father was not bothered. In fact, he continued with his normal programs as if nothing had happened unlike when the male child died. He favors the male children and treats them better than the female children and that is why Firdaus’ mother is battered when a male child dies. Patriarchy is evident in Firdaus’ society. Female characters are seen as lesser beings who does not deserve even to live. That is why, when they die, male characters represented by Firdaus’ father are less concerned.

The female characters in Firdaus father’s house are oppressed by Firdaus’ father. They are looked down upon and they are expected to be always submissive. Firdaus’ father is the head of the family and dictates everything in the family. He dominates in everything that is done and all rights belong to him. Therefore, all the female characters in this house are his subjects, and he oppresses them as he likes.

Firdaus’ oppression does not end in her father’s house. The oppression follows her to her uncle’s house. At her uncle’s house she is denied food and she is also molested by her uncle’s wife. It is from her uncle’s house that the idea of being married to Sheik Mohmoud was planned by the uncle and his wife. Firdaus goes on to narrate the whole episode:

I walked with heavy steps behind my uncle [ The homodiegeticnarrator unwillingly goes to her uncle’s house ], carrying the image of that closed door engraved in my mind [ Homodiegetic narrator oldview of the uncle still fresh in her mind ]. When I ate my meals, or drank, or lay down to sleep it was here in front of me [ Homodiegeticnarrator remembering ]. I knew that I was in my uncle’s house [ Constant reminder that she is living with her molester ] (El Saadawi, 36)

Firdaus gives an analepsis of what the uncle did to her. In her childhood, Firdaus’ uncle uses every opportunity he has to exploit her sexually. This whole experience seems to linger in Firdaus’ mind and as she comes to the uncle’s house, she is afraid of the uncle and seems to anticipate more sexual attacks from the uncle. Firdaus then gives the analepsis to the readers.

My galabeya [ Thenarrator’sloose, full-length gown with widesleeves of poor quality a symbol of poverty ] often slipped my thighs [ Firdaus clothing too wide to fit her hence exposed her body ], but I paid no attention [ The homodiegetic narrator unconcerned with herdress code ] until the moment when I would glimpse my uncle’s hand moving slowly from behind the book he was reading to touch my leg [ Self confession of sexual molestation by the uncle ]. The next moment I could feel the hand travelling up my thigh with cautious, stealthy, trembling movement [ The description on how the narrator wascaressed by the uncle ]. Every time there was the sound of footstep at the entrance to our house [ confession by the homodiegetic narratorthat everything was done in secretive ], his hand would withdraw quickly [ The homodiegetic narrator’s uncle is afraid of being caughtin the sexual act ]. But whenever everything around us lapsed into silence [ The homodiegetic narrator’s uncle repeats the sexual act wheneverhe feels that nobody sees him ], broken only every now and then by the snap of dry twigs between my fingers as I fed the oven [ The unclewill repeatedly have sex ], and the sound of his regular breathing reaching me from behind the book so that I could not tell whether he was snoring quietly in his sleep or wide awake and panting [ Thehomodiegetic narrator unaware of what was happening to her ], his hand would continue to press against my thigh with grasping, almost brutal insistence [ The homodiegetic narrator admits that the act is notgentle but brutal ]. He was doing to me what Muhammadain had done to me before [ Self confession of the homodiegetic narrator of havinghad sex before ]. In fact, he was doing even more [ Self confession of the homodiegetic narrator on the intensity of the uncle’s sexual act ], but I no longer felt the strong sensation of pleasure that radiated from unknown and yet familiar part of my body [ The homodiegeticnarrator admits that the uncle does not give her sexual pleasure like the one she once got from Muhammadain ]. I closed my eyes and tried to reach pleasure I had known before but in vain [ The homodiegeticnarrator does not enjoy sexual act] (El Saadawi, 13)

The homodiegetic narrator lets her reader into the world of her uncle and the way he sexually oppresses her. To him, Firdaus is an object of sex. Firdaus at first does not understand the sexual advances that the uncle is making towards her. Because of her ignorance on sexual acts the uncle continually assaults her. The whole sexual act between Firdaus and her uncle was a form of oppression subjected to her. Firdaus admits that in the whole act she is just but a spectator while the uncle is the player yet everything was being done on her. In the whole sexual act, Firdaus does not enjoy but gets a lot of pain. Therefore, Firdaus does not in any way enjoy the sexual act hence being oppressed in the whole sexual act physically and psychologically.

Firdaus’ uncle, just like other men, is the oppressor who uses every opportunity to exploit Firdaus. Through a homodiegetic narrator the evil that men have subjected to women are revealed through Firdaus. Firdaus’ confession of the brutal acts that the uncle subjected to her questions the dominance of this act that has gone through from time in memorial. The girl child’s plight is traced through Firdaus eye, being a symbol of all girls who have and still experience those horrific acts from men. Warhol (2012) posits that novels written by women have certain characteristics that they expose. These particular novels carry the plight of women and in one way or the other they are gendered. These particular novels highlight the issues that are facing women which are different from men’s issues. Woman at Point Zero is thus gendered, because it carries the issues advanced by women. The main character in the novel who is also a homodiegetic narrator confesses what she is undergoing. She exposes all the evil that she undergoes in the hands of men. Through the use of the homodiegetic narrator who experiences actions, oppression of women is vividly revealed not by the observer but from the person who is experiencing it and more so a woman. Woman at PointZero advances the issues of women and the social evils that these women have undergone. The use of a female character confessing what she undergoes through in the hands of men clearly unravels these social evils.

The narrator confirms that she does not like what the uncle is doing to her. This has really affected Firdaus in one way or another and still thinks about it. What she experiences in the hands of the uncle lingers in her mind and does not wish to experience it anymore. Though sexually molested by the uncle, Firdaus has no option but to stay with the uncle. In her uncle’s house her stay is not well received by her uncle’s wife who constantly complains. She sees Firdaus as a burden and the more Firdaus stays with her, the more she oppresses her.

Firdaus goes ahead to vividly confess what happens at her uncle’s place and the experiences She had with her uncle’s wife.

The woman who lived with him was his wife [Homodiegeticnarrator introduces her uncle’s wife ], and the children who ran around the house were their children [ Introduction of the narrator’s uncle’sfamily ]. There was no place for me in this house except on the sofa [ The homodiegetic narrator confined to a sofa ], a small wooden couch placed in the dining room close up against the thin wall which separated it from the bathroom [ Homodiegetic narrator is observant ]. And so every night, I could hear their subdued voices whispering on the other side of the partition [ Homodiegetic narrator is sensitive andeavesdrops] … ‘What can she do then? Nothing. These secondary school don’t teach them anything. I should have sent her to a commercial training school ‘It’s no use talking of what you have done. What are you going to do now?’ she can stay with us until I find her a job’ [ The homodiegetic narrator’s uncle’s wifeuncomfortable with her stay there ]. The house is small and life is expensive [ The homodiegetic realisation that she isnot needed in the house ]. She eats as much as any of our children’ [ The homodiegetic narrator witnesses the accusation levelled againsther of being greedy ]. (El Saadawi, 36)

Waloch (2003) posits that a homodiegetic narrator must witness and experience events with her own senses. This voice brings greater focus on the feelings, opinions and perception of particular character in the story. Firdaus is very observant on what happens in her uncle’s house. She eavesdrops on the conversation between her uncle and his wife and what comes out clearly is that she is not needed in the house. The uncle’s wife falsely accuses her of being greedy. It is from this perspective that Firdaus strongly believes that the uncle’s wife does not like her. Moreover, she does not want her to live with them. Therefore, through a homodiegetic narrator, Firdaus elicits the emotion of pity hence letting the audience a feel what Firdaus herself felt and this is oppression. This is confirmed when the uncle’s wife hatches a plan to marry off Firdaus. Therefore, at a tender age, she is forced to marry an old man and goes through humiliating experiences. Through a vivid description of Sheik Mahmoud, it is clear that Firdaus does not like him. She narrates:

The day came when I departed from my uncle’s house and went to live with Sheik Mahmood. [ Homodiegetic narrator moves to herhusband’s house ] Now I slept on a comfortable bed instead of the wooden couch [ Homodiegetic narrator confesses that it was her firsttime to sleep on a comfortable bed ]. But no sooner did I stretch out my body on it to rest from the fatigue of cooking [ Homodiegeticnarrator overworked ], and washing and cleaning the large house with its rooms full of furniture, then Sheikh Mahmood would appear by my side [ homodiegetic narrator gets a rude shock the comfort is shortlived ]. He was already over sixty, whereas I had not turned nineteen [ The homodiegetic narrator reveals the age-gap]. On his chin, below the lip, was a large swelling with a hole in the idle [ Description ofSheikh Mahmood by the homodiegetic narrator ]. Someday the hole will be dry, but on the others it would turn into a rusty old tap excluding drops red in colour like blood, or whitish yellow, like pus [ Vivid description of the condition of Sheikh Mahmood which isunpleasant to the homodiegetic narrator ]. When the hole dried-up, I left him kiss me [ The narrator reluctantly leaves the husband to kissher ]. I could feel the swelling on my face and lips like a small purse or a water skin full of a stagnant greasy fluid [The homodiegeticnarrator is irritated by her husband ]. But on days when it was not dry I would turn my lips and face away to avoid the odor of dead dogs which emanated from it [ The homodiegetic narrator cannot endurethe odor. (El Saadawi, 44- 45)

Firdaus gives an account of her earlier marriage life. She thinks that in her husband’s house, things will change and she will have a good life. She reveals that she is only eighteen when she gets married off to an old man. Though eighteen years is a ripe age of marriage (UNICEF, 2007), the kind of a man that Firdaus gets is more than three times her age. Moreover, Firdaus is never consulted. From Firdaus’ vivid description, it is clear that the husband is very sick and his body stinks. This irritates Firdaus so much but the husband insists on kissing her. It is from this confession that Firdaus elicits the emotion of sympathy. Her audience sympathises with her and sees an oppressed woman who has to endure all this just because she is married to this man. Firdaus has no option but to stay in this marriage because she has no place to go. Firdaus is a symbol of many young girls who are forced into marriages that they know less about.

Through the use of homodiegetic narrator, who is a woman, the narrative of Woman at Point Zero, puts the issue of gender in marriage into question and evaluates the institution of marriage as whole; how prepared are the women and what position do they occupy in that marriage institution. The use of homodiegetic narration gives the character a voice to speak out, therefore, whatever she speaks is taken as truth because the narrator has experienced it.

Firdaus is not given opportunity to choose a husband and therefore she marries a person who She does not like, more so, the husband is very old. Though marriage is commonly supposed to be a union of two people from different gender who have accepted to come and live together (Karen and David, 2012), Firdaus’ case is different. Both Firdaus and the husband did not have a prior plan to live together. No wonder the two are not incompatible. There is no love between them and therefore Sheikh Mahmood sees Firdaus as a sex object. The homodiegetic narrator shows what women go through and how the forced marriages make the women suffer. Through Firdaus’ experiences, the reader is able to see the whole issue of marriage through a woman’s eye. Firdaus suffers a brutal beating in the hands her husband. She is constantly molested and mistreated by the husband. She is not given an opportunity to express her views in the house. Instead, she has to follow what the husband says. She narrates:

He had retired from his job [ Homodiegetic narrator reference to thehusband and revelation of his age ], was without work [ The homodiegetic narrators husband idol ], and without friends [ Homodiegetic narrators husband is anti-social ]. He never went out of the house or sat at the coffee house, lest he obliged to pay a few piasters for a cup of coffee [ The narrator’s husband is mean ]. All day long he remained by my side in the house, or in the kitchen watching as I cooked or washed. [ Homodiegetic narrator supervised ] If I dropped the packet of soap powder and spilled a few grains on the floor, he would jump up from his chair and complain at me for being careless [ Homodiegetic narrator strictly supervised and insulted ]. And if I pressed a little more firmly than usual on the spoon as I took ghee out of the tin for cooking, he would scream in anger [ confirmation of the narrator’s husband being mean ], and draw my attention to the fact that its contents were diminishing much more rapidly than they should [ Homodiegetic narrator instructed to usesmall quantity of ghee: never in control of the cooking ]. When the dust man came to empty the refuse from the bin, he would go through it carefully before putting it on the landing [ The homodiegeticnarrator’s husband is too keen never to lose anything ]. One day he discovered some leftover of scraps of food, and started yelling at me so loudly that all the neighbors could hear [ Homodiegetic narratorrebuked by the husband ]. After this incident, he got a habit of beating me whether he had a reason for it or not [ Confession of being batteredby the husband ] (El Saadawi, 46)

From the vivid description of Firdaus’ life at her husband’s house, it shows that she is like a slave. She is constantly monitored by her mean husband who controls everything in the house. The husband is so mean that even the leftovers are inspected before they are thrown. Firdaus is then punished through physical assault and abuse which she confesses. Firdaus is oppressed by her husband but suffers in silence. The narrative having assumed the first person point of view, lets the audience into the feelings and opinion of women concerning the brutal treatment they receive from men. Like Firdaus, they are oppressed but they suffer in silence, they are not bold enough to stand out and speak. Firdaus runs out of patience and returns to her uncle’s place. She narrates the whole episode on what transpired:

So I left [ Narrator makes a decision based on the brutal experience ] the house and went to my uncle [ homodiegetic narrator not happy inher marriage and leaves to her uncle’s place ]. But my uncle told me that all husbands beat their wives [ The narrator confirms thedominance of patriarchy in the society ] and my uncle’s wife added that her husband often beats her [ Revelation that partriachial societyis supported by the uncle’s wife ]. I said my uncle was respected Sheikh, well versed in the teaching of religion, and, therefore, could not possibly be in the habit of beating his wife [ HomodiegeticNarrator is in disbelief from the revelation that the uncle beats his wife]. She replied that it was precisely men well versed in their religion, who beat their wives [ The hypocrisy of religious people in the society revealed]. The precepts of religion permitted by punishment [Revelation that patriarchy is supported by religion]. A virtuous woman was not supposed to complain about her husband [Dictation of submission of women to their husband]. Her duty was perfect obedience I was at loss to answer [Homodiegetic narrator in shock of the revelation that the society supports the battering of women]. Before the servant girl had even started putting lunch on the table, my uncle took me back to my husband’s house [The narrator realises that the uncle is never moved with the predicaments befalling her]]. When we arrived he had already eaten his lunch alone [The narrators husband is greedy and uncaring]. He had dinner alone in silence [Confirmation of the narrator’s husband being greedy], without addressing a single word to me next morning [Confirmation of the narrator’s husband being uncaring and unconcerned], I prepared breakfast and sat down on his chair to eat, but avoided looking at me [homodiegetic narrator feels unwelcome in her husband’s house]. When I sat on the table [Self reference of the narrating I], he looked up and started to stare fixedly at my plate [The narrator’s husband unhappy with the narrator eating]. I was terribly hungry and felt a crying need to eat something, come what may [Determination of the narrator to eat whether allowed or not]. I put my hand in the plate [Narrator determined to eat] and raised it with a morsel of food but no sooner had I done this than he jumped up shouting. [The homodiegetic narrator rebuked] ‘Why did you come back from your uncle’s house? [The narrator’s husband unhappy with her coming back from her uncle’s house] Couldn’t he bear to feed you for a few days? [Narrator’s husbands’ selfishness is revealed] Now you realise I am the only person who can put with you [The narrator seen as a burden to the people around her], and who is prepared to feed you [Confirmation that her husband is fed up with her]. He later leapt on me like a mad dog [Narrator assaulted by the husband] the hole on his swelling oozing drops of foul smelling pus [Narrators husband sickly and stinks]. I did not turn my face or my nose away this time [Narrator surrenders to her husband]. I surrendered my face to his face and my body to his body, passively, without any resistance [Narrator submit to her husband], without a movement, as though life had been drained out of it [Homodiegetic narrator surrenders her body to the husband because she has no option] (El Saadawi, 46-47).

The homodiegetic narrator brings out her experience she encounters after she attempts to run away from an oppressive marriage. She admits that she was not supported by the uncle who she had hoped to find help from. Firdaus uncle was the only person that Firdaus had remained with. Though she was sexually assaulted before by the uncle, she still had to run to him when she had a problem. The narrator discovers that the society is governed by patriarchy which is supported by cynical women like her uncle’s wife, who are brainwashed due to long periods of suffering. It is due to this patriarchy that Firdaus is not helped at all. From Firdaus’ uncle’s point of view, wife battering is a normal thing which should not in any way worry Firdaus. In fact, Firdaus should accept and cope up with it because it is a sign of submissiveness to the husband which religion dictates to all women.

Currie (1998) posits that narrative structure is a cultural producer of gender /power relations encoded at the narrative form. Through the use of homodiegetic narrator, Firdaus brings out this gender/ power in the narrative. She tells out what men do to her. Men are the sole controller of everything that happens in the society. Firdaus realises that, for her to survive in this particular society she has to be submissive to her husband because he is the one that controls her life. Without her husband, Firdaus will have no shelter and food. Therefore, her resistance to this oppression does not yield any fruits because she owns nothing, including her body. The homodiegetic narrator enables the audience to get first-hand information of what transpires in her culture. It is through this witnessing that the theme of oppression is revealed because the reader is left to sympathize with the woman hence a representative of other women in Firdaus’ community.

Firdaus’ predicaments follow her even outside her husband’s house. After escaping to the streets from her husband’s violence, she meets Bayoumi, a coffee shop owner. He initially offers to help Firdaus and shows her kindness and care. He accommodates her in his apartment and provides her basic needs. Firdaus thinks that she has got a person who is caring and values her unlike the husband who looked down upon her. Firdaus does not in any way suspect anything foul from this particular man. When Firdaus expresses the wish to get a job instead of sitting at home all day, it dawns to her that Bayoumi had a hidden agenda and his hospitality was not genuine. This is how she expresses her agonizing experience in the hands of Bayoumi. She narrates:

‘I cannot continue live in your house [ The homodiegetic narratormakes a resolution ]. I am woman and you are a man, people are talking [ Homodiegetic narrator is cautious of what people willsuspect of the two opposite sex staying together ]. Besides you promised I’d stay only until you found me a job’ [ The homodiegeticnarrator furious of empty promises ] He retorted angrily. ‘What can I do, get heavens to intervene for you?’ [ Bayoumi angry with thenarrator ] ‘You’re busy all day in the coffee-house, and you haven’t even tried to find me a job [ Homodiegetic narrator unhappy with theunconcerned nature of Bayoumi ]. I am going out now to look for one [ Homodiegetic narrator determined to leave ]. I was speaking in low tones, and my eyes were fixed on the ground, [ homodiegetic narratoris shy] but he jumped up and slapped me on the face, [ Homodiegetic narrator brutally beaten ] saying how dare you raise your voice when you are speaking to me you street walker you low woman [ homodiegetic narrator reminded of her status in the society ] (El Saadawi, 52)

Firdaus experiences oppression right from childhood to adulthood. After having got a Good Samaritan in Bayoumi she expects that life will change. She will have a resting place and start life again. But Bayoumi behaves like all other men. He takes advantage of Firdaus’ situation to oppress her sexually. Like all other men who Firdaus has come into contact with, Bayoumi does not let Firdaus express herself freely. He sees Firdaus as a woman and more so from a low class who should never dare question his authority. Firdaus does not get any justice or fairness from any of the men that she comes across. Right from the father to the uncle, the husband and now the Bayoumi oppress her. By the use of a homodiegetic narrator, the vices and injustices that women pass through in the hands of men are well articulated.

The first-hand experience of oppression is well brought out and vividly expressed by the homodiegetic narrator who not only experiences them but also gives her opinions on what she is facing. Firdaus is raped and sexually exploited by Bayoumi who also allows his friends to molest her sexually. She recounts:

The face above me was not Bayoumi [ The homodiegetic narratordiscovery of a strange person with her ]. Who are you? [The homodiegetic narrator is inquisitive ]. ‘Who are you?’ I said [ Homodiegetic narrator demand to know the strangeperson ]. Bayoumi’ he answered, [ Narrator realises that Bayoumi has hatched a plan to sexually molest her ]. I insisted ‘you are not Bayoumi. ‘Who are you? [ Homodiegetic narrator is persistent toknow who the strange person is ]. What difference does it make? Bayoumi and I are the same [ The narrator realisation that she isbeing used as a sex object ] (El Saadawi, 53)

The homodiegetic narrator recounts the horrific experiences she underwent in the house of a man who she thought was a Good Samaritan. The man exploits Firdaus’ situation and molests her sexually. He does not care about Firdaus’ feeling. To him Firdaus is a sex object. Firdaus shows how women are vulnerable in the hands of men who are ready to exploit any desperate situation that women are to satisfy themselves. Through a homodiegetic narrator, the audience are let to know that most men are inhuman. They cannot help women if there is no benefit attached to it. Firdaus trusted Bayoumi thinking that she is going to be helped from the desperate position she was. Unfortunately, that does not come to pass. Bayoumi has his own hidden agenda that he wants to advance. Bayoumi therefore is a representative of men in the world of the story.

After escaping from Bayoumi’s house, Firdaus starts a new life on the street. While on the Streets, she meets Sharifa, an old professional prostitute, and is introduced to prostitution. Firdaus is not familiar in this trade hence exposing herself to exploitation from her host. She is confined in the house by her host and all that she has to do is satisfy her ever growing host’s Clients: She narrates:

In fact, I never even left the bedroom [ Homodiegetic narratorconfined in the house ]. Day and every hour a man would come in [ Homodiegetic narrator is caged in on the bed to satisfy a growingnumber of men]. There were so many of them [ The homodiegetic narrator confirms of sleeping with many men that she cannot remember ]. I did not understand where they could possibly have come from [ homodiegetic narrator revelation of how very many menseek the services of prostitutes ]. For they were all married [ Revelation of adultery], educated [ The homodiegetic narrator reveals that his clients are aware of what they were doing because they are informed ], all carrying swollen leather wallets in their inner pocket [ The narrator’s clients were rich ]. Their swollen heavy pouches hung down with too much food [ The narrator’s clients were well fed ], and their sweat run conspicuously, filling my nostrils with fetid smell like stagnant water, as though it had been held back in their bodies for a long time. [ Homodiegetic narrator irritated and feels oppressed bythe presence and more so sleeping with her clients ] I turned my face away [ Self- reference of the narrating I], but they insisted on pulling it back, burying my nose in the smell of their bodies [ Homodiegeticnarrator forced to do what she does not want to do ]. They dug their long nails into my flesh [ homodiegetic narrator admission of crudesexual experience of her clients ] and I would close my lips tightly trying to stifle any expression of pain [ homodiegetic narratorperseverance to the crude sexual experiences from her clients ], to hold back and scream [ Homodiegetic narrator admits having pain ], but in spite of my efforts, they would part and let out a low, muffled Moan [ The narrator’s clients enjoy the sexual experience ]. Often the man would hear it and mutter stupidly in my ear. ‘Do you feel good?’ [ Inquisitiveness of the narrator’s clients ]. In answer I would purse my lips and prepare to spit in his face [ Homodiegetic narrator’shatred towards the sexual experiences from her clients ], but he would start biting them with his teeth [ The homodiegetic clientsunconcerned with the narrator’s feelings ]. I could feel his thick saliva between my lips and with a push of the tongue sent it back into his mouth [ Homodiegetic narrator unhappy with the act ] (El Saadawi, 61)

The homodiegetic narrator takes her audience through a horrific experience she undergoes in the hands of men. Through a vivid description, the narrator reveals the evils that she underwent in the hands of men. Being new in this profession and more so forced by circumstances, the narrator has to endure the pain of crude sexual experience subjected to her by her clients. The sexual experience is too painful that the narrator feels every part of her body hurting. Mathieu (2014), says that 70% to 90% of prostitute women suffer physical assault which ranges from blows, rape, serious injuries, threats etc. (Mathieu, 2014). Firdaus suffers rape and serious injuries as a result of sexual acts subjected to her. Being new to this profession, Firdaus is not fully aware of what transpires. Moreover, Firdaus is never given an opportunity by her host to choose whether to indulge in prostitution or not. She does not like the experience at all but lack of option and a place to go makes her endure such oppression. It is this lack of a place to go that makes her vulnerable to every man that her host brings.

The homodiegetic narrator unmasks those men who are her clients. She reveals these particular men are respected people in the society, they are well learned and very wealthy and they use all the necessary resources they have to get what they want. What comes out clearly from the homodiegetic narrator’s confession is that, her clients are aware and informed on what they are doing. Being educated and respectable people in the society, the homodiegetic narrator mocks the values which the society holds. By having sex with prostitutes, the narrator’s clients are adulterous hence do not respect their wives. They not only oppress Firdaus but also their wives at home. This is because they lack respect to the institution of marriage. They also do not care to respect and uphold the dignity of the prostitutes that they go with. Firdaus, being one of the prostitutes is oppressed by these men because they are insensitive to her and they don’t care about her feelings. Her clients care most about their self-sexual fulfilment, even if it is painful to her.

The narrator endures this torture daily until she decides to run away. Firdaus resorts to prostitution in order to free herself from man’s control and sexual exploitation. Chukwuma (2012) posits that in both institutions, marriage and prostitution, man is still dominant, the difference being that in the latter only, the female calls the tune. Even as a prostitute, Marzouk, a pimp, threatens Firdaus. She narrates:

I thought I had escaped from men [ Homodiegetic narrator realisesthat she is still under the control of men ], but the man who came this time practiced a well-known male profession [ Homodiegetic narratormeets a pimp] He was a pimp. [ Homodiegetic narrator reference to the man ] I thought I could buy him off with sums of money [ homodiegetic narrator corrupt], the way I did with the police. [ Homodiegetic narrator reveals her inability to buy off the pimp likeshe does with police ] But he refused the money and insisted on sharing my earnings. [ Realisation by the homodiegetic narrator thatthe pimp is greedy and dangerous ] He said ‘Every prostitute has a pimp to protect her from other pimps and from the police. That’s what am going to do’ [ Self- appointment of the pimp ]. ‘But I can protect myself, I said’ [ The homodiegetic narrator asserts that she canprotect herself ]. There isn’t a woman in the world who can protect herself’ [ Emphasis of patriarchy by the pimp ]. ‘I don’t want protection.’ [ Homodiegetic narrator determined to work alone without help from anybody ]. ‘You cannot do without protection [ Homodiegetic narrator reminded that women need protection frommen in order to succeed ], otherwise the profession exercised by husbands and pimps will die’ [ Revelation to the homodiegeticnarrator that male dominance is in place and it is there to stay ]. ‘I refuse your threats.’ [ Homodiegetic narrator is defiant ]. ‘But I am not threatening you.’ ‘And if I don’t accept [ Homodiegetic narratordaring ]. ‘Then I may be obliged to threaten.’ [ The pimp dares the homodiegetic narrator ]. ‘How do you propose to threaten me?’ [ Homodiegetic narrator is inquisitive ]. I have my own ways of doing things. Every craft has its tools’ [ The pimp determined tocontrol the homodiegetic narrator ]. I went to the police, [ Homodiegetic narrator looks for protection from the authority ] only to discover that he had a better connection than I [ Self- realisation ofthe biasness of the authority ]. Then I had recourse to legal proceedings. [ Homodiegetic narrator determined to seek legalproceeding ] I found out that the law punishes women like me, but turns a blind eye to what men do [ Realisation by the homodiegeticnarrator that if she seeks legal proceedings then she will be punished more ]. And this man, this pimp whose name was Marzouk, enjoyed a good laugh [ The pimp rejoicing for inability of the narrator to gethelp from the police ] as he watched me from a distance, striving in vain to find some way of protecting myself from him. [The in inabilityof the narrator to protect herself ] One day he saw me entering my house and followed me. [ Homodiegetic narrator is remembering ] I tried to shut the door in his face [ Homodiegetic narrator resistant tothe pimp ], but he took out a knife, threatened me with it, and forced his way in [ Homodiegetic narrator’s life in danger ] (El Saadawi, 100-101)

The homodiegetic narrator does not get any peace of mind in the hands of men. She is constantly controlled by the power of men from childhood to adulthood and every time she tries to liberate herself from men she is still trapped. All men she comes across have become inhuman to her. The narrator gives a vivid account on her experiences she encounters with this pimp. The pimp like any other men strives to maintain the status quo. The pimp is a proponent of patriarchy and insists on in subordinating women. Firdaus tries her level best to liberate herself from this pimp and forge an independent life, but all is in vain. The people that are supposed to help the narrator are the ones that turn out to be great enemies of the narrator. Through the narrator’s feelings, it is evident that she dislikes what men like Marzouk are doing to her. She is annoyed and irritated by what Marzouk is doing to her. She is robbed of what she thinks is her right and when she tries to seek for justice, she discovers that it is not there for women.

2.3.1. Summary

Firdaus, the homodiegetic narrator explains her hatred for men, arising from the male oppression which she has experienced throughout her life. As a child, her father batters his wife, and neglects his female children. She is sexually molested by her and married off to an old man. Life becomes unbearable for Firdaus and she runs from her husband’s house thinking that she was going to get heaven out of this prison she called home. Unfortunately, things turn out the opposite of what she is expected. She turns out to be subject of oppression from every person she meets. The climax of the confession comes when she meets a pimp who want to control her and have share of her money. Firdaus, out of anger from the previous injustices she encounters, happily kills the pimp.

The whole tale is confession of a homodiegetic narrator who is about to be executed for having killed a pimp. The narrator gives a detailed account of all experiences that she has undergone in the hands of men in her whole life. It is this experience that shapes her opinion towards men because she is directly affected by their actions. The narrator lets the audience into her world and lets the audience see things from her point of view. Her confession elicits the emotions of sadness and pity towards her. It is from these experiences and opinions of the narrator that the theme of oppression is built. Firdaus tale brings out the oppression that she has undergone, she brings out her experiences and leaves the audience to judge her action.

2.4. Theme of Women Struggle for Self- identity.

The issue of women struggle for self-identity has been a subject of discussion in many academic works. The deliberate use of a female homodiegetic narrator by the female author is to show out this struggle that women have always had in their endeavor to be identified.

Firdaus in her endeavor to fight for self-identity in male- dominated society which has oppressed her so much that it has separated her body and self. It is through this separation of body and self that Firdaus claims both elements as her own and defies the will of others to wipe her identity and reduce her to an object (Siwar, 2011). This realization, this self-awareness and exercise of control that develops in Firdaus character is one of the ways in which she resists the situation and the gender role society imposes on her (Siwar, 2011).

The first act of resistance in the narrative takes place when Firdaus runs to the street. This escape both figurative and literal, signifies the escape from the injustices of the partriachial family towards an unknown place. The homodiegetic narrator realizes that if she has to forge for her own identity then she needs first to run from the family which has oppressed her. After escaping from the family and going to the streets, the narrator explains the serene environment of the street. She narrates:

At the end of the day I found myself walking down a street without knowing where I was [ homodiegetic narrator’srealization that she isa symbol of freedom from her family ]. It was clean [ The environmentWas conducive to the narrator a symbol freedom] the other side. The Houses were surrounded by fences and garden. The air which entered My lungs were pure and free of dust [ Self -confession of a sereneEnvironment, a symbol of freedom ] (El Saadawi, 54)

Firdaus independence commences with the realization that money and the objectification and exploitation of the body do exist. She realizes that this knowledge is not new but it has been constantly suppressed in the memory of her father, which stands for partriachial hierarchy in that women have been denied this knowledge in order for men to continue having control over them. Men have deprived women of financial resources and let them dependent on them.

It is through this financial dependence that men have continued to control women. Klontz (2009) argues that half of the marriages end in a divorce if the person who does not have the financial resource does not accept to be subordinate to the one that has the money. Therefore, if Firdaus can get financial resources, then she will be independent and able to get her full ownership of her body. Therefore, Firdaus endeavors to get this financial resources in order to be independent. The only place that Firdaus gets this independence is on the streets.

Firdaus’ freedom is accompanied by allowing herself the luxury to choose the men with whom she sleeps; a thing that she did not do before. She narrates:

A man came up to me and whispered [ Homodiegetic narratorseduced ]. I looked him straight in the eye and said no [ homodiegetic narrator defiant ]. Another man came up to me [ Several men seek the narrator’s services ] and muttered something in a secretive voice which could barely be heard [ revelation of homodiegetic narratorseduced by several men ]. I examined him carefully from head to toe and said no [ the narrator is choosy ]. He inquired why No? [ Thenarrator’s client is inquisitive because it is not normal for a prostitute to say no ] I replied [ Homodiegetic narrator is courageous ] ‘Because there are plenty of men and I want to choose with whom to go [ homodiegetic confessions of being in control ]. (El Saadawi, 73- 74)

The defiant nature that Firdaus suddenly exemplifies makes her choose everything she wants. She shows all men that she is not desperate but is in control over them. She holds the sole decision of who to sleep with. It is from this realization that her self-identity is recognized. Her understanding of the transgression of her body allows her to set limits, as well as identify her self-hood and identity (Siwar, 2011). She narrates:

How many were the years of my life that went by before my body, and myself became really mine (homodiegetic narrator self-reflectionof her past life). And myself become really mine (homodiegetic narrator reflecting ] to do with them as I wished? How many were the years of my life that were lost before I tore my body and myself away from the people who held me in their grasp since the very first day ?[The homodiegetic narrator regretting of her past life ] Now I could decide the kind of food I wanted to eat [ Self reference], the house I preferred to live in, refuse the man for whom I felt an aversion no matter what the reason, and choose the man I wished to have, even if it was only because he was clean and manicured[ homodiegetic narrator living a free life] (El Saadawi, 74)

The homodiegetic narrator, through a stream of consciousness enumerates her achievements as a free woman who can choose what to eat, where to live and which man to sleep with. It is through her voice that the theme of women struggle for self-identity is shaped. The reader is let to know the struggle that the woman character has undergone and also let to know the achievements after the struggle.

Though Firdaus is very successful and wealthy through prostitution, it does not augur well with other people. She attracts the attention of a man who wants to exploit her work in exchange for protection. The narrator gives a vivid description of her relationship with her pimp.

So he began to share everything that I earned [ The homodiegeticnarrator unravels the greediness of the pimp ] in fact to confiscate the larger part for himself [ Reference to the greedy nature of the pimp]. But each time he tried to come near me [ Sexual advances towards thenarrator ], I pushed him away [ the narrators does not need any relation with the pimp ], repeating: It’s impossible [ The narrator firm with her decision ]. It’s no use trying’ [ The homodiegetic narrator decided ] Then he beat me up. [ The brutal physical torture subjected to thenarrator by the pimp ] And each time I would hear the same phrase repeated as he struck me: ‘the word does not exist in me’ [ Confessionof the helpless nature the narrator had in the hands of a pimp ]. I discovered [ Self-realization ] he was dangerous pimp who controlled a number of prostitutes[ Realization of the homodiegetic narrator thatshe is dealing with a seasoned pimp who is also violent ], and I was one of them[ Self-realization by the homodiegetic narrator thatseveral women have passed through this pimp’s brutal experience and she is not exceptional ] He had friends everywhere in every profession [ The pimp is well connected ], and whom he spent his money generously[ Realization that the pimp bribes people in authority...I realized I was not nearly as free as I had hitherto imagined myself to [self -pity] (El Saadawi, 102-103)

The relationship between the narrator and her pimp can be compared to that one of a master to a slave, in this case the narrator being the slave while the pimp being the master. This is because the narrator is controlled in everything that she does. Just like a slave she has no choice but to follow what the pimp says. But one striking issue and which leaves a lot of admiration for the narrator is that, though she is taken through this oppression she does not give in to the demands of the pimp. She constantly struggles to free herself from this burden of oppression. The reader is treated to analepsis signifying that the narrator will do everything possible to free herself from this burden. She narrates:

One day I said to myself, [ self-realization of the narrating I]. I can’t go on like this [ self-realization of the narrating I to forge a new lifefree from oppression ]. I packed [ The homodiegetic narrator decides to leave ] in a small paper bag and got ready to leave [ Homodiegetic narrator accomplishes her decision to leave ], but suddenly he appeared, standing in front of me. [ Homo diegetic narrator getsobstacle from the oppressor ]. ‘Where are you going?’ he asked [ The pimp demanding ]. ‘I’m going to look for work. I still have my secondary school certificate’ [ Homodiegetic narrator recognition thatshe can lead a better life after leaving prostitution and the realization of her potential in academic work ]. ‘And who said you are not working?’ [ Revelation to the pimp that the homodiegetic narrator istired with working as a prostitute ]. ‘I want to choose the work I want to do’ [ Homodiegetic narrator wants freedom ]. Who says anyone in this whole wide world choose the work he wants to do?’ [ Reaffirmation that the pimp is under control of the homodiegeticnarrator and he is the one to decide on the fate of the narrator ]. I don’t want to be anybody’s slave [ Homodiegetic refuses to becontrolled]. ‘And who says there is anyone who is not anyone’s slave?’ There are only two categories of people, Firdaus, masters and slaves. ‘In that case I want to be one of the masters [ Narratordetermined to live a free life free from control ] and not one the slaves’ [ Homodiegetic narrator tired of being controlled ]. ‘How can you be one of the masters? A woman on her own cannot be a master [ Confirmation of patriarchy in the society propagated by men ], let alone a woman who is a prostitute. Can’t you see you are asking for impossible? ‘The word impossible does not exist for me,’ I said [ Homodiegetic narrator determined to achieve her wish of becomingfree ] (El Saadawi, 103-104)

The excerpt starts by the self- realization of the narrator that something must be done in order to move out from this oppressive pimp. Firdaus has always admired and hoped to live a free life free from any form of exploitation. From childhood to adulthood Firdaus has never known freedom and this is the only time in her life time that she has got freedom and therefore she is not ready to let it go.

For Firdaus to continue enjoying these freedoms she has no any other option but to leave the house in order to liberate herself from this pimp, which she boldly does. Right from the beginning of the confession of the homodiegetic narrator there is no woman that has ever taken such a bold decision. The narrator’s decision was unheard of and a threat to the patriarchy that the society valued most. The proponent of patriarchy, like the pimp, therefore, will do everything possible to block such a decision that the narrator takes. Allowing such a thing will be accepting to change the societal structure of men being in control of women. Therefore, the pimp blocks Firdaus leading to a horrific experience.

Through a confrontation the narrator lets out her stand be known. She is not coward by the pimp’s threat. It is from this experience that the theme of women fight for self-identity is explored. The narrator being a female tries to find out and fights for her identity in the male dominated society. Though being a woman living in society where women are looked down upon, Firdaus exemplifies a character of a fierce woman who is determined to break from this societal structure and fight for her right. She is prepared to face any predicament in order to liberate herself and that is why she goes on to kill her oppressor. She narrates:

I continued to look straight at him without blinking [self -confidence ]. I hated him as only a woman can hate a man, as only a slave can hate a master [ self-confession ] I saw the expression in his eyes that he feared me as only a master can fear his slave [ reassurance that shewill triumph] But it lasted only for a second [ The pimp is happy ]. Then the arrogant expression of the master [ The pimp looks down upon the narrator ], the aggressive look of the male who fears nothing returned [ Male chauvinism revealed in the pimp ]. I caught hold of the latch of the door to open it [ Homodiegetic narrator determined to leave ], but he lifted his arm in the air and slapped me [self -confession ofdomestic violence on women ]. I raised my hand even higher than he had done [ Homodiegetic narrator raises the standard set by the pimp ] and brought it down violently on his face [ The homodiegetic narratorbreaks the norm and violently slaps the pimp ] the whites on his face went red [ The pimp is severely slapped by the narrator ]. His hands started to reach for the knife he carried in his pocket [ The pimpbecomes violent and determined to stab the narrator ], but my hand was quicker than his [ Narrator quick and swift to defend herself ]. I raised the knife and buried it deep in his neck, [ self-confession killing the pimp ] pulled it out of his neck and then thrust it deep into his belly. [ Homodiegetic narrator description of the process ofkilling the pimp ] I stuck the knife into almost every part of his body [ self-confession of the narrating I of killing the pimp] I was astonished to find how easily my hand moved as I thrust the knife into his flesh [ Narrator astonished with her achievement ], and pulled it out almost without effort [ Narrator realizes that even women canoverpower men]. My surprise was all greater since I had never done what I was doing. [ Homodiegetic narrator realization that she canindeed kill a man ] A question flashed through my mind [ Narrator reflection ]. Why was it that I had never stabbed a man before? [ Narrator angry with her lack of courage before to face and fight witha man ] I realized that I had been afraid [ Realization that the narrator feared men ], and that the fear had been with me all time [ Realization by the narrator that she has always lived in fear of men from childhood to adulthood ], until the fleeting moment when I read fear in his eyes [ Narrator realization that also men are fearful when faced byfearful women ] (El Saadawi, 104)

While facing her oppressor the narrator lets her audience to experience the confidence she has. Such confidence has never been exemplified by any woman in Firdaus’ society. The narrator in her determination faces her oppressor without any fear. When the oppressor strikes, Firdaus strikes harder. The confidence exhibited by the homodiegetic narrator reveals that women have had enough oppression and they are ready to liberate themselves from this oppression and slavery. Firdaus struggles to liberate herself and other women from the dominance and arrogance of men. In her earlier confession, Firdaus confesses that she hates men like slaves hate their masters. This clearly implies that she is ready to do anything under her disposal to kill a man. The hatred and urge to deal with a man foreshadow what comes to pass when the chance to kill a pimp presents itself. Firdaus kills the pimp without hesitation. The narrator comes, to realization that if one wants to win over her oppressor then she needs to be very courageous and face the oppressor without fear. Through the courage that the homodiegetic narrator exhibits her oppressor is worried. This is seen through his face but like other men who Firdaus has met, the oppressor is determined to show that he still controls women and nothing can change the situation. This leads to physical abuse which many women undergo in the hands of men. By being slapped by the pimp Firdaus’ society expects that Firdaus will accept the slap as a normal reaction from men when angered. Firdaus on the other hand goes against the societal norms and returns the slap a thing that has never happened before.

The slapping of the pimp by Firdaus is a symbolic. It is symbol of liberation from the societal norms. She is liberating herself from oppression placed on her by all the men that she has come across with. The retaliation by Firdaus is a clear indication that women have realized that they should be respected by men because they are human beings just as the men. The killing of the pimp is also significant in the triumph over men. Firdaus takes the knife from her pimp’s hands and plunges it into his throat. She repeated this movement in every part of his body, in and out his stomach, in and out his chest

Douglas (1995) posits that this repeated act of penetration graphically described with the pulling out and pulling in of an instrument is nothing short of a reversal and repeated male acts of aggression that for years metaphorically killed Firdaus. The killing of the pimp has a cathartic effect on Firdaus: such violent action was Firdaus’ first action as a conscious subject. Almost a metaphorical act for Firdaus’ emancipation, such violent action gives her freedom and it allows Firdaus to find her own identity. Firdaus is the extreme representation of women struggle for self-identity and the use of homodiegetic narrator is appropriate in showing out the theme for women struggle for self-identity. Using the homodiegetic narrator brings out the courageous voice of a woman who is ready to tackle her oppressor.

2.5. Theme of Female Genital Mutilation

Ada (2012) Says that Female Genital Mutilation is a common practice in many traditional African societies. Firdaus undergoes clitoridectomy as dictated by her society. She takes her audience to an analepsis of what transpired:

Then she brought a woman who was carrying a small knife or maybe a razor blade. [ The homodiegetic narrator recalls ] They cut off a piece of flesh from between my thighs [ Confession of undergoingfemale genital mutilation ]. I cried all night [ painful experience by the homodiegetic narrator] ( El Saadawi, 12)

The homodiegetic narrator through a flashback recalls what happened to her. The whole experience elicits the emotions of pity towards the narrator. The narrator brings out the effects of the female genital mutilation which has not only affected her sexual life but also the life of other women in her society. The narrator castigates the practice of female genital mutilation as a person who has gone through the practice. The experience she has gone through is told in such a way that any other person who is planning to go through the practice will never dare do it. The side effects of female genital mutilation are severe to the homodiegetic narrator that it affects her in her whole life. The homodiegetic narrator confesses that since she underwent female genital mutilation, she has never had sexual pleasure. Opara (2004) agrees with the homodiegetic narrator that while the woman’s body is mutilated for the benefit of the man, the male organ in the course of circumcision gets manicured for the reification of woman. This reveals that female genital mutilation is at the detriment of women and concerned only with the satisfaction of men (Ada, 2012). It is Firdaus’ society that values men to women and the genital mutilation is done in order to satisfy man.

2.6. Theme of Prostitution

Mustofa and Mandakini (2014), posits that prostitution in general has been always viewed as a social evil and a behavior deviant. It is viewed as a shameful act which is disapproved with the social construction of segregation and institutions like marriage and family marriage (Mustofa and Mandakini, 2014). Therefore, anybody who engages in such act goes against the acceptable societal norms.

Bell (2009), argues that sex workers are currently viewed as immoral, worthless by most of the societies. Sex is a taboo topic in the society and women, especially, are not supposed to be sexually assertive (Bell, 2009). However, prostitution becomes a job dominated by women as the result of the existence of willing men to pay a high fee to them for giving sexual service than doing worthy job in the same place with men (Levitt Stephen, 2009).

The negative portrait of prostitution in Firdaus’ society is quite evident. Most of the characters and especially men view prostitution as a deviant. It is always related to violation of morality since the sexual service transaction is supposed to be such desecration of the sacredness of sexual activity in which it should be done in marriage (Mustofa Mandakini, 2014). Firdaus living in the society which values the religious teaching, involving in prostitution is seen as a deviation from the religious doctrine.

Though most people condemn prostitution, there are other people in the society who see prostitution as a good job to any woman. Bell (2009) argues that many women who engage in prostitution may find enjoyment and empowerment. Women who are comfortable with their sexuality may take pleasure in the work that allows them to express it on their own term (Query, 2000). This clearly applies to Firdaus. She has tried to live a decent life dictated by the society. The more Firdaus followed what the society wanted, the more she was oppressed and looked down upon. Firdaus resorts to prostitution to gain both economic empowerment and freedom that she has never had in her whole life. Firdaus is a successful prostitute who is about to be convicted for having killed a pimp. Firdaus gives her audience an elaborate account of why she had to take such an action. It is through prostitution that Firdaus first encounters freedom that she has never experienced in the whole of her life. She narrates:

I became a young novice in Sharifa’s hands [ The homodiegeticnarrator admits that she is new to the task ahead of her ], she opened my eyes to life [ Homodiegetic narrator realization of new life ], to events in my past, in my childhood, which had remained hidden to my mind [ narrator’s revelation of things hidden to her ]. She probed [ Sharifa is inquisitive ] with a searching light revealing the obscures areas of myself, unseen features of my face and body, making me become aware of them, understanding them, see them for the first time [ Homodiegetic narrator told of her worth by Sharifa ] (El Saadawi, 58)

Firdaus has always known life to be full of trouble and oppression. She has neither known peace nor love. Firdaus does not have peace in her childhood and also in her adulthood. Every person she meets, from her own biological father to the policemen, brings to her nothing but misery. The homodiegetic narrator reveals that she is new to Sharifa and Sharifa opens her perception on how to view herself. Sharifa lets Firdaus understand that she is worthy because she is endowed with a beautiful body. This clearly implies that if the body is well utilized, then Firdaus will fully understand her worth. It is from this confession that the theme of prostitution is revealed. The narrator continues to unravel what she discovers about her body and how important she is to Sharifa’s business.

I discovered I had black eyes, within a sparkle that attracted other eyes like a magnet [ Narrato r very attractive], and that my nose was neither big, nor rounded but full and smooth with the fullness of strong passion which would turn to lust [ The narrators body isseductive ], my body was slander, my thighs tense, alive with muscle, ready at any moment to grow even more taut [ Self -realization of thehomodiegetic narrator that she had a beautiful body which she could sell ]. (El Saadawi, 58)

After meeting Sharifa and discovering the real value she is, Firdaus realizes that she can sell her body and earn a living the way her host Sharifa does. It is from this discovery that Firdaus fully embraces prostitution and longs to sell her body. She sees herself as a person who has always devalued herself and has not discovered what a treasure she has. She sees her host Sharifa as a person sent by God to liberate her and show her things that she had not seen. She continues to narrate:

Sharifa said to me one day [ Narrator recalls ], ‘Neither Bayoumi nor any of his cronies realized your worth [ Narrator assured of herworthiness ], because you failed to value yourself highly enough [ Narrator reminded to value herself before anybody can value her ]. A man does not know a woman’s value [ Reminder that men have alwayslooked down upon women ], Firdaus. She is the one who determines her value [ The existence of partriachial in Firdaus’ society ] (El Saadawi, 58)

Firdaus is told the importance of her body and how she can use it to earn a living. She realizes that through prostitution, she is able to control all the men that she will come across. Firdaus is reminded that the worth or the worthless of a woman is not determined by a man as Firdaus has always been brought up to believe rather by the woman. This is done through prostitution because it is the woman who names the price and chooses the man to sleep with. When she names the price, the woman is in control of this man. This is because the man will accept in order to be given sexual favors hence being controlled by a woman, and this can only be done in prostitution.

With an assurance from Sharifa that Firdaus is beautiful, Firdaus goes ahead to unravel what happens in Sharifa’s house and the type of clients she meets. Right from the beginning of her confession in Sharifa’s house, Firdaus is reluctant in taking up the job as a prostitute. She narrates:

At first it was like pleasure, a pleasure akin to pain. It ended with pain, a pain which felt like pleasure [ The homodiegetic narrator doesnot understand the sexual act ]. It belonged to a distance past that had been with me somehow right from the beginning [ The narrator recalls ]. I had experienced it long time ago [ confession of having had sexualpleasure before ], but forgotten it at the time. Yet it seemed to go back even further than my life, to some day before I was born, like a thing rising from ancient wound [ The act reminds the homodiegeticnarrator of the brutal experience she had before ], in an organ which has ceased to be mine [ The homodiegetic narrator does not feelpleasure anymore ], on the body of the woman who was no longer me [ The homodiegetic narrator has surrendered her body ]. One day I asked Sharifa: Why don’t I feel anything? [ The narrator wants anexplanation ]. ‘We work, Firdaus we just work, don’t mix feeling with work’. ‘But I want to feel Sharifa,’ I exclaimed [ The narrator not convinced with the answer given]. ‘You will get nothing out of feelings except pain [ Foreshadow of what the narrator will experience ] (El Saadawi, 60)

At the beginning of her successful career as a prostitute, Firdaus finds things to be too difficult; the whole act of sex reopens the ancient wounds that have been inflicted to her by other men who she has come across. Despite the experience Firdaus has experienced before she still wants to enjoy the pleasure of having sex. She confesses that she has never had any pleasure and the more she fantasizes about it the more pain she has. She also confesses that she has never had any feelings towards the men she slept with. Huber (2009), posits that all prostitutes have no intimate relationship with their client. Firdaus is controlled by Sharifa. She indulges in prostitution as Sharifa collects the money. She narrates:

I never used to leave the house [ confession of the narrator beingrestricted to the house restriction]. In fact, I never even left the bedroom [ narrator emphasis]. Day and night I lay on the bed [ Homodiegetic narrator restricted to bed ], crucified and every hour a man would come in [ Confession of sleeping with multiple men ]. There were so many of them. I did not understand where they could possibly have come from [ The homodiegetic shocked with the presence of verymany men ]. For they were all married, all educated, all carrying swollen leather bags and swollen leather wallets in their inner pockets [ The homodiegetic narrator deals with men who are highly placed inthe society ] (El Saadawi, 61)

The homodiegetic narrator confesses her life as a prostitute in Sharifa’s house. She is restricted to the bedrooms and serves multiple men who she doesn’t know. Huber (2009) posits that, men who fight most fiercely against prostitution in their neighborhoods are commonly the best customers to these prostitutes. This is exactly what happens in Firdaus’ case. The propagators and promoters of prostitution are the same people who the society expects to fight the vice. This is because they have the money and required knowledge and manpower to fight this vice but that is not the case as revealed by our homodiegetic narrator. The description of the homodiegetic narrator’s clients portrays people who are well placed in the society for instance the Arab prince and the policeman among others who sleep with her. The policeman is supposed to discourage any activities of the prostitutes and therefore involving himself in sexual affair with the prostitute is a mock to his work. This is because he is supposed to offer security and condone the sexual on the streets, which is contrally to what he does. The same thing happens to the Arab prince; the Arab prince comes from the royal family, moreover, he comes from the ruling class. He is supposed to uphold the law and respect his subjects. He is also supposed to uphold and promote good values in the society. Therefore, engaging in prostitution is a mockery of his position in the society.

Firdaus later realizes that prostitution is not a decent job as she was told by Sharifa. Through her conversation with her client, Fawzy:

Among all these men there was only one who was not stupid and did not ask me if I was feeling good. [ Homodiegetic narrator’sacknowledgement of the rear act of her client ] Instead he queried. ‘Do you feel any pain?’ [ Narrator’s client concerned ]. ‘Yes,’ I said [ The homodiegetic narrator admits that she was feeling pain ]. ‘How did you realize I was feeling pain’ [ Narrator shocked by her client’sconcern which has never happened before ]. ‘Because I feel you… [ Narrators client caring ]. He gave a short laugh and kissed me on the lips [ Further caring nature of the narrator’s client revealed ]. ‘Sharifa is fooling you [ Revelation that Sharifa is taking advantage of thehomodiegetic narrator ], and making money out of you [ Narrator exploited by Sharifa ], while all you get out of it is pain’ [ Fawzy sympathizes with the narrator ] (El Saadawi, 61-62)

Through the conversation, Firdaus comes to realize that she is being used by Sharifa to enrich herself. She is the one subjected to pain yet the one who gets the money is Sharifa. Sharifa seems good to the narrator not that she sympathizes with the narrator’s situation but because of her desires to exploit the narrator. Firdaus is made to sleep with very many men who in turn pay Sharifa. Firdaus later overhears an argument between Fawzy and Sharifa. Firdaus comes to learn that Fawzy was a former Sharifa’s lover. The argument between Sharifa and Fawzy is then followed by violent lovemaking. This gives an opportunity for Firdaus to flee to the streets.

She encounters a policeman who threatens her with arrest if she does not have sex with him, and then a stranger who rescues her, sleeps with her and leaves her ten pounds, the first money she has earned for herself. Her self-esteem is ruined when a client speaks of her lack of respectability. Despite her efforts to attain respect, she eventually realizes that as a poorly paid employee, she has gained no social status or respect, and that in fact, prostitution is less confining than the life of female employees who are terrified of losing their jobs.

Firdaus falls in love with a fellow worker, Ibrahim, who is the head of a revolutionary committee within the company. She labors incessantly for the committee; as other women do in so many political or revolutionary organizations only to discover that her lover has become engaged to the company chairman's daughter. Firdaus feels betrayed by Ibrahim. This makes her never to trust any man again. It is from this perspective that Firdaus goes back to prostitution. All these revelations are narrated by Firdaus as confession of her life and it is from this confession that the readers of Woman at Point Zero are let in the open world of prostitution.

2.7. Motifs in Woman at Point Zero

In Woman at Point Zero the eye is a recurrent word that is both used to describe the homodiegetic narrator as well as her experiences. When the female psychiatrist introduces Firdaus to her audience, the latter’s eyes talk a lot about her. She narrates:

But the words within me stopped short [ The female Psychiatristunbelieving that she is going to meet Firdaus ]. Suddenly we were face to face [ The female psychiatrist meets Firdaus ]. I stood rooted to the ground [T he female psychiatrist loss of words ], silent, and motionless [ The female psychiatrist fearful ]. I did not hear the beat of my heart, nor the key as it turned the lock, closing the heavy door behind me [ The female psychiatrist psychologically disturbed ]. It was though I died the moment her eyes looked into mine [ Femalepsychiatrist terrified by Firdaus ]. They were eyes that killed, like a knife, probing, cutting deep inside, their look steady, unwavering [ Firdaus strong ]. Not the slightest movement of a lid. Not the smallest twitch of a muscle in the face (El Saadawi, 7).

The description of Firdaus eyes depicts a person who is strong and ready to face her opponents in whatever circumstances. The eyes explain the bitter experiences and her strong decision to fight for her rights in a male dominated society. All the oppression that she has undergone and the hard decision of killing a pimp and now about to face the execution are all depicted in these eyes. The female psychiatrist confesses that Firdaus eyes were killing like a knife to mean the strength and stamina that Firdaus possess at this last time before she faces her execution. She is not moved at all by the crime levelled against her.

The homodiegetic narrator’s eyes explain the experiences that she has gone throughout her life. She uses eyes to depict other characters positively while others negatively. Those that treated the narrator in a humane way area depicted positively. While those that mistreated the narrator are depicted negatively through the use of the eye. The homodiegetic narrator expresses her love and respect to her teacher. She uses compassionate words like pure to imply that the tears that were flowing from Miss Iqbal’s eyes were genuine. She genuinely sympathizes with the narrator on the predicaments that she is facing. She narrates:

The night around us was deep, silent, and motionless, with not a single sound or movement anywhere [ Description of a quiet night ]. Everything was steeped in an absolute darkness through which ray of light penetrated, for in the sky was neither moon nor sun [ Descriptionof the dark night ]. My face was turned towards her [ The homodiegetic narrator sympathetically watches her teacher ], and my eyes looked into her eyes [ The narrator is bold ]: two rings of pure white [ The eyessymbolized genuineness of the teacher], surrounding two circles of intense black that looked out at me. As I continued to gaze into them, the white seemed to turn even whiter [ The assurance that her teacherwas genuine ], and the black even blacker, as though light flowed through them from some unknown magical source which was neither on the earth nor in heaven [ The comfort that the homodiegeticnarrator gets from the teacher ]. (El Saadawi, 29-30).

The eyes have also been used by the homodiegetic narrator to depict her inadequacy to dictate the events in her life. Her eyes deceive her and the people she thinks are good turns to be worse. One such character who Firdaus’ eyes deceive her is Bayoumi. She narrates:

His name was Bayoumi [ The introduction of the character by the homodiegetic narrator ]. When I lifted my eyes and looked into his face, I felt no fear [ The homodiegetic narrator builds trust in Bayoumi). They did not seem to me like the eyes that can kill [ Bayoumi looked innocent ] (El Saadawi, 49).

She sees him as a very trustworthy person who means what he says. Through Bayoumi’s eyes, the narrator sees a reliable person who will help her and solve the problem she has. Later in the story the homodiegetic narrator confesses that she was not only sexually assaulted by Bayoumi but also physically abused by him. Therefore, the eyes deceive the narrator.

The homodiegetic narrator describes Sharifa’s eyes as “powerful, dark green, like the trees on the bank of the Nile,” (El Saadawi, 54). This positive description is result of a good relationship that Sharifa shared with the narrator. However, this relationship breaks because Firdaus does not want to be controlled by anybody. Sharifa’s eyes depict power over Firdaus which the homodiegetic narrator tries to abide with until she leaves the house when she cannot take it anymore.



3.1. Introduction

This chapter is dedicated in analyzing the heterodiegetic narration in God Dies by the Nile. It identifies the point of view used by Saadawi in her narration and how the point of view shapes the theme of oppression and corruption. It is observed that the narrator is a heterodiegetic narrator who moves from one character to another, she enjoys the power of omniscience therefore present at every stage of action of all the characters in the novel. She reads their actions and minds and it is from this observation that the theme of oppression and corruption are revealed.

3.2. Point of View in God Dies by the Nile

Jahn (2005), in his guide to the theory of narrative gives clear guidelines on the classification of point of view as discussed by narratologists like Genette (1980) and Stanzel (1984). Jahn (2005) sums up by saying that, a text qualifies to be classified as having been narrated through a heterodiegetic narration only if the narrator is somebody who is not, and never was, a character in the world of the story. Therefore, in the identification of the point of view used in God Dies by the Nile, the narrator is not part of the narrating world. The excerpt below will be analysed to ascertain this.

Before the crimson rays of the down touched the treetops, before the cry of cocks, the bark of the dog, or the bray of the donkey pierced through the heavy darkness, or the voice of ‘Sheikh Hamzawi’ echoed in the silence with the first call to prayer, [ narrator seems to be anobserver ] the big wooden door opened slowly [Narrator is a keen observer of things happening around Sheikh Hamzawi ], creaking, with the rusty sound of an ancient water-wheel. [ Narrator keenlyobserves and records what is happening ] A tall upright shadow slipped through and advanced on two legs with the powerful steady stride [ narrator gives a description of Sheikh Hamzawi ]. Behind, followed a second shadow, on four legs which seemed to bend beneath it, as it slouched forwards with a lazy ambling gait [ narratorintroduces another person who she sees] (El Saadawi, 1)

From the beginning of the story there is no indicator that the narrator is a character in the story. The narrator keenly observes the events that are happening and reports them. She seems to be in every place the characters are. All the active sentences used point to the fact that the narrator is an observer who is watching what is happening to the characters. She is not a character in the world of the story. Though the first paragraph of God Dies by the Nile projects a heterodiegetic narrator, it will be of great importance to explore other parts of the novel to ascertain if they are narrated by a heterodiegetic narrator.

The two shadows disappeared into darkness to emerge into it again over the river bank. Zekaya’s face stood out in the pale light of dawn, gout, severe. Bloodless. [ Introduction of the main character by thenarrator ] The lips were tightly closed, resolute, as though no word could ever pass through them [ Narrator gives a description of themain character. The main character seems disturbed ]. The large, wide open eyes fixed on the horizon expressed an angry defiance [ Narrator observes that the main character has undergone a lot ofproblems which can be easily noticed through eyes ]. Behind her, the head of the buffalo nodded up and down, its face gout and boldness [ Further observation of the main character by the narrator ], but not unkind, its wide-open eyes humble, broken, resigned to whatever lay ahead. [ Narrator observes that the main character awaits moreproblems ahead ]. The light of dawn glimmered on the river, revealing the minute waves like tiny wrinkles in an old, sad, silent face [ narrator moves from the main character and gives a description ofnatu r e ]. Deep underneath, its waters seemed immobile, their flow as imperceptible as a moment of passing time, or the slow movement of the clouds in the dark sky [Further description of the setting ] (El Saadawi, 1-2)

The excerpt is from the second and third paragraphs of Chapter One of God Dies by the Nile. The narrator is still an observer who is describing the setting and introducing the characters to the reader. Jahn (2005) posits that when one wants to determine whether a text is homodiegetic or heterodiegetic, he or she has to look at the relationship of the narrator to his or her story, if they are present in the action, they are homodiegetic. If not, they are heterodiegetic. The present text under analysis is a heterodiegetic text on the strength that the narrator is not a character in the world of the story. From the analysis, the narrator is an observer who until this point is introducing the setting and characters of the story. The narrator is in every place and seems to know everything that is happening to the characters. She is conversant with the environment and authoritatively describes it with ease. A close reading of the whole text reveals that the narrator is a keen observer of what is happening to the characters and reports to her audience. She moves from one character to another and even goes to their minds. The narrator knows what the characters are thinking and the decision which they will take.

The first paragraph in chapter one of God Dies by the Nile above gives the background of the story, narrated by a highly covert narrator. The narrator does not refer to herself. She is above and beyond all the people and things in the story. This is apparently not a remembering voice as depicted in a homodiegetic text. The narrator knows all the facts, yet nobody is going to ask her how she came by her knowledge. When the story unfolds in the second and the third paragraphs, and other subsequent paragraphs, all characters are third person characters; this clearly demonstrates that the text is a heterodiegetic text.

Jahn (2005) posits that heterodiegetic texts have their narrator apposition outside the world of the story. It makes it easy for us to accept what we would never accept in the real life that somebody should have unlimited knowledge and authority. Heterodiegetic narrators typically assume the power of omniscience, knowing everything as if this were a natural thing in the world. It is from knowing everything that the narrator of God Dies by the Nile is able to comment, to report and even enter the minds of her characters. It is from there that the themes are brought out.

3.3. Theme of Oppression

GodDies by the Nile adopts a heterodiegetic narrator to bring out theme of oppression. The reader sees oppression through an eye of a third person: the know it all. The heterodiegetic narrator presents the theme of oppression through the action taking place on her main character, Zekaya, who is a woman. The description of Zekaya by the heterodiegetic narrator presents a woman who has gone through oppression for a long time in the hands of the Mayor. She narrates:

Now her hoe could be heard [ An observer to the main character ], thudding out over the neighbouring fields with a steady sound, as it cut deep into the ground. The muscles in her arms stood out [ themain characters muscle indicate strenuous work she does ], and below the black galabeya knotted tightly around her waist [ The culturaldressing of the main character is brought out by the heterodiegetic narrator ], the long powerful legs showed naked and brown in the morning light; the features of her face were still the same, still sharp, still gaunt, no longer pale, but dark [ Further description of thewoman ] with the leathery tan bitten into them by heat and dust, and sun and open space [ Heterodiegetic narrator brings out theoppressive manual work assigned to her by the society ] Yet deep underneath was the same pallor which her skin revealed before and now concealed[ further revelation of the effects of oppressive manualwork assigned to her by the society ]. Her body no longer stood upright [ narrator reveals that the main character has aged fast due tothe hard manual work ]. It was bent over the hoe as she dug away in the soil [ narrator reveals that the woman is still doing the hardmanual work ]. Her eye did not look at the ground, were not fixed to her feet. They were the same. They had not changed [ narrator revealsthat the woman is hopeless ]. They were fixed to some distant point with the same angry defiance which looked out of them before [ Heterodiegetic narrator deliberately tells the audience that thefemale character has had problems in the whole of her life ]. And the blows of her hoe seemed to echo with the anger buried deep down as she lifted it up high in the air and swung it down with all her might into the soil [ The woman is not happy with her present condition ] (El Saadawi, 3)

The heterodiegetic narrator gives a vivid description of her main character in the novel. The narrator reveals that Zekaya has been subjected to oppressive, strenuous manual work by the society, hence making her poor and angry. Zekaya is not happy with the situation in which she has always been and it is because of this condition that she remains angry. The description further reveals that Zekaya has been in this state for a long time hence disturbing her peace of mind. This continual state of mind has made Zekaya sick. As the story unfolds, the heterodiegetic narrator reveals the person behind Zekaya’s woes.

The heterodiegetic narrator enjoys the power of omniscient and therefore, she is able to know the problems of her characters as well as the characters who are causing these problems to the character in question. The heterodiegetic narrator, therefore through the power of omniscient, identifies the Mayor as the person behind Zekaya’s woes. Knutson (1989) posits that, many women in the world are not happy with the way they are treated in the society. Zekaya, like other women is not happy in the way she is treated by the Mayor. At the story level, Zekaya as the character questions the way men have always been placed above women and how the authority is advocating it.

Immediately after letting her audience into the life and struggles of Zekaya, the heterodiegetic narrator contrasts this with the life of the Mayor who has always remained an oppressor not only to Zekaya, but also to the other people in Kafr El-Teen. A vivid description of the Mayor is given and it is from this vivid description that the theme of oppression is constructed. She narrates:

The big iron door [ Description of the residence of the Mayor whichshows a person of affluence. ] swung open slowly, and the Mayor of Kafr El-Teen stepped out into the lane [ Introduction of the Mayor ]. He was tall with big, hefty shoulders and broad, almost square face [ Description of an oppressor ]. Its upper half had come from his mother: smooth silky hair, and deep blue eyes which stared out from under a prominent, high forehead [ Furtherdescription of the Mayor who is restless. He comes from a rich lineage ]. The lower half came from the upper reaches of the country the south, and had been handed down to him by his father: thick jet black whiskers overhung by a course nose, below which the lips were soft and fleshy, suggesting lust rather than sensuality [ Deliberatereference to the Mayor’s behavior ]. His eyes were haunty [ Further reference to the Mayors behavior ], almost arrogant quality [ suggestion of dictatorship]. Like those of an English man accustomed to command [ The Mayor’s eyes suggest authority ] (El Saadawi, 10)

The description of the Mayor portrays a person who was born in power and affluence. He was born in a noble family and has been provided with everything to make life good. The heterodiegetic narrator juxtaposes Zekaya and the Mayor. While Zekaya is struggling to ensure that her family gets basic needs, the Mayor has everything that will make life good. The heterodiegetic narrator goes on to inform her audience that the Mayor comes from an iron gate. This symbolises ruthless and oppressive acts that happen inside the Mayor’s residence. The physical description of the Mayor also reveals a person who believes that he was born to lead. He is a dictator who forces things to go his way.

The heterodiegetic narrator describes the behaviour of the Mayor: the description of the haunting eyes may be an indication of his vindictive nature. The heterodiegetic narrator further reveals that the Mayor is selfish and wants everything good to be associated with him. That is why he does not feel well when he gets the news that his brother had been elevated to a higher ministerial position in the government. The heterodiegetic narrator narrates:

It stood out clearly at the middle of the page [ The portrait of theMayor’s brother ]. The features were familiar and it did not take him long to realize that he was looking at the picture of the elder brother of the Mayor [ Recognition of the Mayor’s brother’sportrait ]. He tried to read what was written below, but the print was too small, and he could not make out what was being said [ Haj Ismail is semi-illiterate ]. He hesitated for a moment, then moving closer to the Mayor whispered in his ear in a low voice as possible [ Haj Ismailfearful of the Mayor ]. ‘Has the news you mentioned got something to do with your brother? [ Haj Ismael inquisitive ] After a brief silence the Mayor said. ‘Yes’. This time Haj Ishmael’s question expressed concern. ‘Has some misfortune befallen him? [ Haj Ismaelconcerned ]. There was a note of pride in the Mayor’s voice as he replied, no on the contrary [ Mayor looks down upon Haj Ismail ]. ‘Does your highness mean to say that has been elevated to a higher post? [ Haj Ismail inquisitive ]. The Mayor blew out a dense cloud of smoke [ Mayor is disturbed by the news ]. ‘Yes, exactly, Haj Ismail [ Confirmation of the appointment by the Mayor ]. Haj Ismail clapped his hands together with glee [ Haj Ismael happy for the news ], then looked at the others and ‘Our friends, then we must drink sherbet to celebrate the occasion’ [ Haj Ismail does everything to please theMayor thinking that the Mayor is also happy with the appointment of his brother ]. A flutter went round the men seated in front of the shop [ There is a tremulous excitement ]. The newspaper quickly changed hands going from one to another [ Every person in the company wantsto get a glimpse of the news as a sign of showing happiness ]. Haj Ismail left and came back carrying a bottle of sherbet and empty cups [ The affluent lifestyle of the Mayor revealed ]. But the Mayor seemed lost in his thought [ Mayor disturbed ] and the day he had kept wondering why the moment his brother’s picture in the newspaper a feeling of inadequacy and depression had come before him [ Mayorfeels inferior ]. He knew his feeling well [The Mayor has always felt inferior to his brother]. It was always accompanied by bitterness of the mouth [ This inadequacy has made the Mayor bitter whenever thename of his brother is mentioned ], a dryness of the throat which turned into a burning sensation as it moved down to his chest [ Thebitterness was so evident that the Mayor could not contain ], followed by an obscure and yet sharp pain which radiated outward his stomach [ The success of the Mayor’s brother pained the Mayor so much ] (El Saadawi, 13- 14)

The heterodiegetic narrator describes the hatred that the Mayor has towards his brother. It is evident that the Mayor does not like his brother and every achievement that his brother makes pains the Mayor so much. The same hatred that the Mayor has towards his brother is extended to peasant like Zekaya and Kafrawi. In order to revenge the inadequacy that he has harbored for a long time, the Mayor oppresses all the subjects who are under him. That is the reason the heterodiegetic narrator describes the Mayor as having haunting eyes—haunting in the sense that he is ready for revenge and anything evil just to show that he is in power. The heterodiegetic narrator also describes the Mayor as having lips which are soft and fleshy, suggesting lust rather than sensuality. This clearly gives us an insight into the Mayor’s behavior. One can deduce from the statement that the Mayor is lustful. The description of the Mayor by the heterodiegetic narrator portrays an evil man who is ready to do anything in order to advance his dictatorial reign. The heterodiegetic narrator who is an observer in the story from the beginning prepares the audience to meet a ruthless man.

This description of Zekaya and the Mayor gives a background of the two characters in the world of the story antagonizing each other. One looks oppressed while one is endowed with all qualities of an oppressor. The heterodiegetic narrator enjoying the power of omniscience is able to tell the audience what each character is doing, how each character is being treated and how each character treats the other. Moreover, the heterodiegetic narrator has the ability to enter into their minds and tell what the characters are thinking and it from this revelation that the theme of oppression is constructed.

Because of power and influence of the Mayor, the heterodiegetic narrator lets the audience know that the Mayor is able to do anything he feels will make him happy. He does not care about the rest of the people. He uses his position to exploit the peasants. He spends the money he squeezes out of them on his extravagant way of living, and his extravagant tastes in food, tobacco, wine and women. The heterodiegetic narrator then lets her audience know that because of this exploitation, the Mayor is able to control his subjects the way he likes. It is from this excessive control that we construct the theme of oppression. The Mayor oppresses her subject psychologically and sexually. The oppressive nature of the Mayor is too intense until many people, including his sycophants have accepted. The homodiegetic narrator narrates:

‘Am the obedient servant of him who gives us orders [ Submissivenessof the Mayor’s subject ]. He yawned indifferently. ‘In fact, all of us are his obedient servant [ Further revelation of the acceptance ofMayor’s subjects to be ruled and directed by the Mayor ] ‘What matters is that we are all servants [ Acceptance of being subject to theMayor ]. No matter how high we rise, or how long we fall, the truth is that we are all slaves, serving someone.’ [ Confirmation andacceptance to be dictated by a person in a high position ] ‘We are God’s slave when it is time to say prayers only. [ The Mayors croniesrespect him and he is equated to God ] But we are Mayor’s slaves all the time [ Mayor’s cronies seems to have accepted tothe Mayor’sslaves ]. (El Saadawi, 68-69)

Sheikh Zahran accepts that he is the Mayor’s slave and diligently serves him. He constitutes a group of people who the Mayor is using as his agents to oppress the masses. Therefore, these people are oppressed psychologically either knowingly or unknowingly. Haj Ismail continually compares himself to the Mayor, and finding himself inadequate each and every time. This disturbs him so much each time the Mayor says anything; it becomes right because he considers himself to be inferior. He tries to tear himself away from the comparison only to lose himself in admiration of the Mayor’s expensive cloak, while his hand keeps fingering the coarse fabric of his ‘ galabeya.’ She narrates:

The mayor’s eye caught Haj Ismael in the act of lifting his cup of sherbet to his lips and draining it in one gulp [ Haj Ismael secretlyadmiring the Mayor ], as though it was a purge of castor oil [ Haj Ismael likes the mayor’s galabeya and admires to own it ]. He burst out laughing, slapped him jocularly on the knee and said, ‘You peasants [ The Mayor looks down upon Haj Ismael ] drink sherbet the way we swallow medicine’ [ The Mayor mocks Haj Ismael and revealsthat Haj Ismael is not used to sherbet because of his low economic status ] Now that the Mayor was joking with him so familiarly, the feeling of inferiority, of being of consequence, which had invaded Haj Ismail a few moments before was largely dispelled (Conformityreassured ] (El Saadawi, 16)

It is this inferiority from characters like Sheikh Haj Ismael that the heterodiegetic narrator lets her readers know that the Mayor capitalizes on the submissiveness of his subjects to oppress them. The sycophants are also psychologically oppressed and this is seen through their thinking which is replicated in their acts when they are before the Mayor. They cannot think independently but have to follow everything that the Mayor says, just because he comes from an upper class compared to them. Through a heterodiegetic narrator, the impact of upper class is manifested in the consciousness of the toiling class, whether women or men. In case of Nefissa, when her father tells her that she is expected to go to the Mayor’s house, she is not able to sleep that night. The narrator says:

But one day her father told her [ Reference to Nefissa ] that the next morning, as soon as she had dressed and had her breakfast, she was expected to go the Mayor’s house [ Nefissa destined to go to themayor’s house ]. That night Nefissa could not sleep a wink [ Nefissa excited until she is not able to fall asleep ]. She was only twelve years old at the time [ Nefissa is young hence cannot properly make adecision ], and her small mind spend the dark hours of the night trying to imagine what the rooms of the Mayor’s house would be like [ Nefissa thrown in the world of fantasy ] (El Saadawi, 26)

The heterodiegetic narrator is able to read Nefissa’s mind and deduce what she is thinking. She finds out that Nefissa is very happy to go to the Mayor’s house, having come from a poor family; she feels that she will get all the comfort in his house. In the whole text there is no indication by the heterodiegetic narrator whatsoever that Nefissa had visited the Mayor’s house before. Therefore, the impression that Nefissa has towards the Mayor’s house might have been got from other people that Nefissa might have interacted with. This clearly implies that the mention of the Mayor’s house is associated with comfort, which is not the case. Therefore, characters like Nefissa are psychologically oppressed because their minds have been blackmailed by the Mayor. Therefore, their emotional stability is dictated by the Mayor.

The heterodiegetic narrator brings out the exploitation of women in God Dies by the Nile. Through several characters, the heterodiegetic narrator is able to unravel the oppression that women go through in the hands of the Mayor and his cronies. One of such characters who the heterodiegetic narrator uses is Sheikh Zahran who confirms that the Mayor has a taste for women. She narrates:

Sheikh Zahran lowered his voice [ Sheikh Zahran fearful of theMayor ], ‘He’s got a strange taste where women are concerned [ Revelation that the Mayor is lustful for women ], and if he likes a woman he can’t forget her [ Mayor’s lust for women does not leavehim ]. You know he’s pretty obstinate himself [ The Mayor is stubborn and not ready to change despite persuasion ]. Once he sets his eyes on a woman he must have her [ The Mayor can do everything possible tohave the woman he likes ], come what may [ a confirmation of the mayor’s determination to have the woman he likes ]. Haj Ismail opened his mouth in a big, prolonged yawn. Why not? [ Mayor supported byHaj Ismael ] People like him who live on top of the world [ Mayor controls everything ], don’t know the word impossible [ Everything to the Mayor is possible and he is able to use every method to have it whether bad or good ]. (El Saadawi, 69-70)

This is a direct reference of the Mayor by his confidant. He confirms that the Mayor is capable of doing anything in his power to get a woman he likes. This clearly implies that the Mayor is promiscuous and ready to have sex with any woman he feels like. The heterodiegetic narrator in unravelling this oppression of women deliberately uses the characters who are close to the Mayor. These characters constantly interact with the Mayor and therefore have access to secrets of the Mayor. The heterodiegetic narrator who enjoys the power of omniscient is able to show the audience the kind of person the Mayor is. From the conversation of Haj Ismael and Sheikh Zahran, it is evident that women are oppressed by the Mayor.

Women exploitation by the Mayor is also evident through Zekaya’s niece Nefissa and Zeinab. The heterodiegetic narrator lets the audience know that Nefissa is raped by the Mayor and after being impregnated, she was thrown out of the house. Though from the conversation from the Mayor and every person in Kafr- el- Teen, it is known that Nefissa run away. The truth of the matter remains with the Mayor and his sycophants. At one point the Mayor’s sycophants are worried that the truth might come out hence destroy Mayor’s reputation. She narrates:

True, Nefissa’s story had remained escrow out [ Nefissa’s storyremains a secret ], but who knows? [ The Mayor’s sycophants are worried ] May be this time thing would not be concealed so easily [ Mayor’s sycophants not sure whether to permanently say that Nefissa’s story had died ]. He tried to chase away his fears [ Reassurance that things will be alright ]. Who could find out the things that happened? [ The characters of God Dies by the Nile wouldnever dare question the Mayor ] He was above suspicion [ Nobody would even suspect the Mayor ], above the law [ Even if there was any suspicion nobody would prosecute the Mayor ], even above the moral rules that governed ordinary people’s behavior [ Everything that theMayor did was seen good even if it was contrary to the societal norms ]. Nobody in Kafr- El- Teen would dare suspect him [ Any person who dared suspect the Mayor is subjected to severe consequences ]. They could have doubts about Allah, but about him …it was impossible [ The Mayor is perfect even more than Allah ] (El Saadawi, 70)

The heterodiegetic narrator informs the audience that the Mayor is above the law and even above Allah himself. He believes that whatever he does is good and people cannot suspect him. According to him, he is the ultimate authority, therefore, nobody can dare tell out what he did to Nefissa and by any chance if such a thing happens then he would kill the person who would have done so. It is from this pronouncement of the Mayor that the theme of oppression is constructed. The readers are able to feel what Nefissa goes through and anticipate what Zeinab is about to undergo.

Zeinab falls in the same trap that her sister got herself in. After constantly refusing to go to the Mayor’s house, Sheikh Haj Ismail hatches a plan. He seizes Zekaya’s opportunity of being sick to bring Zeinab to the Mayor’s house. When she comes to the house, the Mayor does not even give her time. Like a hungry hyena, the Mayor rapes her. The heterodiegetic narrator takes us through the act:

The Mayor was enjoying his warm shower [ The affluence lifestyle ofthe Mayor revealed ] when he heard the sound of the cup as it struck the ground by a loud terrified gasp [ Zeinab accidently breaks the cup ]. He smiled [ The Mayor is happy with what the poor Zeinab is in. Agood opportunity to execute his plan ] and his hand rubbed slowly over his chest and belly [ Mayor excited because his plan will beexecuted easily ] with a cake of perfumed soap. He thought, ‘How exciting these simple girls are [ Mayor aware how naïve Zeinab is ], and how pleasant is it to take their virgin bodies into one’s arms [ promiscuous nature of the Mayor revealed ], like plucking a newly opened rose flower [ The Mayor fantasizes ]. How I hate the sophistication in Cairo women [ The Mayor fears to be challenged ], like my wife with her brazen eye [ The Mayor’s wife is bold ]. Nothing any longer intimidates or thrills her [ The Mayor’s wife is not afraid ofanybody including the Mayor ]. Her frigid body no longer quivers when I caress her, or hold her tight, or even bite her [ The Mayor nolonger interested in his wife ] (El Saadawi, 120)

The heterodiegetic narrator takes us through the mind of the Mayor. The Mayor’s thinking reveals a lot of things about him. He is a man who has lost interest in his wife and follows young poor ladies like Zeinab. He always finds pleasure in them because they are helpless and therefore cannot fight for their rights. He is not interested in marrying them but only exploiting them sexually. It is from this exploitation that we construct the theme of oppression. Though Zeinab is not aware that she is in the Mayor’s house for Mayor’s sexual pleasure, the Mayor is calculating in his mind how he is going to execute his plan as soon as possible. The heterodiegetic narrator moves into the mind of the Mayor with the sole purpose of letting her audience read the Mayor’s actions and what informs her later actions. Therefore, in such a case the Mayor’s wife and Zeinab are all victims of oppression. The Mayor’s wife is oppressed psychologically because the mayor does not respect their marriage.

True to his word the mayor accomplishes his plan of sexually exploiting Zeinab, a young girl, who does not even understand what is happening to her.

Zeinab lifted her head bent over the bath and stood upright [ Zeinabunaware that the Mayor is watching her ]. She caught the blue eyes of the Mayor fastened on her with a strange look [ The Mayor preys on Zeinab’s body], and stepped back in a movement of fear, shrinking up against the wall as though seeking protection [ Mayor feels ashamedto have been caught in the act of watching Zeinab’s naked body ]. But her foot slipped on the smooth wet tiles, and in a moment she was lying full length on the floor [ Zeinab’s falling down gives Mayor the advantage to hold her ]. Before she had time to rest her hands on it to support and get up, his arm was already round her waist helping her to rise [ The Mayor iscalculative in his moves ]. The tips of his fingers brushed against her breast [ The Mayor’s touch are intentional to achieve his plans ], and he felt his hand tremble as it moved stealthily around its smooth contour until it was cupped in his palm [Mayor is seductive]. She gave a half-throttled shriek, part pain at the hard pressure of his hand around her breast sensitive with youth inexperience [Zeinab unawareof what the Mayor is up to ], part fright running through her body with an icy shiver, and part pleasure, a strange new pleasure almost a kin to an ecstasy, the ecstasy of salvation, of being free of the heavy load which had been weighing down on her heart [ Zeinab fantasizes]. Now she could leave herself in the hands of God, deliver her body and soul to him, fulfil her vow, and savour the relief of having done so [ TheMayor is considered as God and Zeinab sees nothing bad with what the Mayor is doing ]. His hands moved up her legs, lifted the wet garment over her thighs [ The Mayor without permission caressZeinab ]. She heard his voice, hoarse, its tone low and tense with the desire whispering in her ear, ‘Take off your galabeya, Zeinab, otherwise you will catch cold [ The Mayor hypocritically feelsconcerned ]. ‘His hands were now sliding up her thighs to her belly as he tried to lift her garment higher [ The Mayor further fondles Zeinab ]. But it was wet and stuck to her flesh [ The Mayor unable to removeZeinab’s galabeya ]. He pulled on it so hard that it split with a rendering sound [ The Mayor is forceful due to his lustful nature ]. She gasped, ‘My galabeya! It’s my only galabeya! [ Zeinab is shockedbecause that is the only galabeya that she owns a clear indication of her economic status ] He tore the remaining folds from a round her body [ The Mayor is not concerned at all with the galabeya but havingsex with her ], held her tight, whispering in her ear. ‘I will buy you a thousand galabeya’ [ The Mayor is persuasive] He stretched out his hand, opened the tap and shower of warm water poured down over her naked body with his own hands he washed off the dust and dirt of the day’s work, his hands diligent over the hair, her shoulders, belly and thighs and breast [ Mayor in control of Zeinab ]. He dried her in a soft towel smelling of jasmine [ Mayor introduces Zeinab tothe expensive lifestyle ], the way a mother would dry her child [ Mayor hypocritically portrays himself as caring ]. She let him carry her to bed. Still silent. Then took her in his arms [ The mayor accomplisheshis plan of forcefully having sex with Zeinab ] (El Saadawi, 125- 126)

The heterodiegetic narrator gives the audience the account of what exactly happened in the Mayor’s house. Like an observer, she is able to observe and record everything that happens in the Mayor’s house and to the innocent girl Zeinab. The heterodiegetic narrator starts by letting the audience know that the Mayor was preying on Zeinab and he was waiting for an opportunity to present itself so that he could accomplish his mission of sexually exploiting her. The Mayor’s heart has been racing all through since the young innocent Zeinab came in his house. When the opportunity finally reaches, the Mayor does not waste it. He goes ahead to sexually molest the young innocent girl.

The heterodiegetic narrator then presents the irony in the sense that Zeinab does not resist the advancement of the Mayor. Though Zeinab comes from the lower class and this would be a good opportunity to be with the Mayor, this is not the reason why she easily accepts Mayor’s advancement. She lets herself loose because she was told to obey everything in the name of saving his aunt Zekaya from the devil that had refused to move out of her. She sees the Mayor as the God who will help her aunt in removing the devil.

The Mayor being referred to as ‘God’ has been used by the heterodiegetic narrator symbolically to mean that the Mayor has power to do everything in Kafr El Teen just like God can do. Therefore, Zeinab sees what is being done to her as being right because the Mayor has the authority to do so, but in real sense it is sexual oppression because the Mayor is sexually molesting her. He is using the advantage of her situation to sexually satisfy himself. This can be best described as rape.

The narrator continues to narrate that the Mayor did not handle Zeinab well. Despite the fact that Zeinab did not resist, the Mayor is too rough on her until he tears her galabeya. She does this forcefully in order to get her naked so that he can rape her. It is this action by the Mayor that the reader sees the oppressive nature of the Mayor. His subjects are helpless before him hence leaving him to do whatever he feels. He has become a ‘God’ whose authority to do well or bad lies in his hands. Unfortunately, he is a ‘God’ who only does evil to his subject and it is from this evil that the theme of oppression is constructed.

The heterodiegetic narrator also explores the theme of oppression through the Mayor’s son. Just like the father, the Mayor’s son also oppresses women sexually. Through a conversation with his father and mother, the Mayor’s wife reveals several instances by which her son has sexually exploited the women. She narrates:

The Mayor laughed. ‘There’s nothing new to that. Men have always been immoral [ The Mayor justifies his immorality ]. But now the women are throwing virtue overboard, and that will lead to a real catastrophe.’ [ The Mayor finds fault in women and feels that it iswomen who are to uphold virtues, a sign of patriarchy ] ‘Why not equality, or justice?’ [ The Mayor’s wifeconcerned with the looking down upon of women by men ] The son shook his long-haired, curly head, and gave his mother a reproving look. ‘No, mother, I don’t agree with you when you talk of equality [ Tariq subscribes to the Mayors ideology ]. Girls are not the same as boys [ Inequality between boys and girls. A clear sign of patriarchy ]. The most precious thing they possess is virtue’ [ Girls are supposed tobe always virtuous which is not the case with the boys ] The Mayor’s wife burst into soft peals of sarcastic, slightly snorting laughter [ TheMayor’s wife mocks the ideology advanced by the men ]. Evocative of the more vulgar mirth that could be expressed by the lady patron of the brothel if she had been involved in the conversation [ The Mayor’swife’s laughter is provocative ]. She raised one eyebrow and said, ‘is that so, master Tariq [ The Mayor’s wife is sarcastic ]. Now you are putting on a sheikh’s turban and talking of virtue [ Tariq ishypocritical ]. Where was your virtue hiding last week when you stole a ten pound note from my handbag and went to visit that woman with whose house I have now become quite familiar? [ Tariq’s hypocrisy isunraveled by his mother ] Where was your virtue last year when you assaulted Saadia, the servant, and obliged me to throw her out in order to avoid scandal? [ Tariq had sexually molested Saadia ] And where does your virtue disappear to every time you pounce on one of the servant girls in the house? [Tariq had also constantly sexuallyassaulted the servant girl ] Matters have gone so far that I have now decided to employ men servants [ Revelation of the continual assaultof servant girls until the mother cannot cope with ]. Pray tell me what happens to your virtue when you are so occupied pursuing girls on the telephone, or a cross windows, or standing on our balconies [ Tariq isa womanizer ], or don’t you know that our neighbors in Maadi have complained to me several times? [ Tariq’s behaviour is too intolerableuntil the neighbours are complaining ] She directed her words to her son, but kept throwing looks barely disguised anger towards the Mayor [ The Mayor’swife indirectly refers to the Mayor ]. (El Saadawi, 51)

Sommer (2007) posits that specific features of specific texts are embedded in specific cultural and historical context. In this context, the heterodiegetic narrator starts with the issue of gender. In this particular community of God Dies by the Nile, men are licensed to be immoral, while women are prohibited from immorality. The issue angers the Mayor’s wife and lets her views be known. The Mayor’s wife is of the view that for women to get justice and equality, then they should also be immoral like men. This is because, for a long time, men have assumed that course and it was the right thing that women should do in order to be equal to them. Through authorial intrusion, the author is questioning the issue of placing women below men and how the society has always taken this to be a law. She is putting the issue of gender and sexuality into question and this is what the proponent of feminist narratology have endeavored to do.

Through the Mayor’s wife, the oppressive nature of her son is well illustrated. He has and continually molests the girls. The mother admits that the son is the cause of all her servant girls going away. She even confesses that she once had to send one servant girl away just to avoid any scandal that may have arisen. From the confession, the heterodiegetic narrator exposes the oppression that is happening in the Mayor’s house particularly to all women.

The narrator then focuses on the non-verbal communication of the Mayor’s wife to give her audience more information on what she is speaking. The narrator says that though the Mayor’s wife was addressing her son, she kept throwing looks barely disguised anger towards the Mayor. This clearly implies that what her son is doing is a replica of his actions. Therefore, the heterodiegetic narrator concludes that women who come in the Mayor’s house be it servants or innocent girls like Nefissa and Zeinab and even the Mayor’s wife are subjects of oppression.

In God Dies by the Nile, the narrator lets the audience know that women are not the only human beings that are oppressed by the Mayor. Men are also trapped in this same situation. Any man who goes against the Mayor’s order or suspected to be disobeying the order is pursued and killed. The other men are also oppressed and killed to cover up the Mayor’s evil acts. One character that gets into this trap is Elwau. The narrator describes Elwau as a polite and good man but the Mayor and his son see in him a man that they can kill in order to hide highly kept secrets of Nefissa. Killing Elwau will actually cover up for the missing Nefissa and blackmail the masses that it was Elwau who actually was the father of Nefissa’s child, which is not the case. The narrator lets the audience into the minds of both the Mayor and his son until Elwau is killed. She narrates:

And his eyes opened wide with surprise when his Father reiterated,Elwau?’ for he had not yet had the time to open his lips and pronounce the name ‘Elwau’ or at least so it seemed to him, as he sat there turning things over in his mind [ The Mayor’s son lost inthoughts ]. Yet soon as his father echoed the name, the face he had seen only once [ The Mayor’s son had seen Elwauonce thus he doesnot know him well. ] before emerged from dark into the light, changed from a hazy memory to a reality in life. His voice rose up from his depths and vibrated with audible sound in the air outside. ‘Elwau?! It said. The Mayor pronounced the name again as though to ensure that this time it was transformed into inaudible fact [ The Mayor isimagining things ]. The Iron Gate opened wide to let in three men. Sheikh Zahran, Sheikh Hamzawi and Haj Ismail. They filed in, one behind the other and walked to where the Mayor sat. No one knows whether they heard him pronounce the name of the man, but they repeated in one breath ‘Elwau [ The three men are sycophants of theMayor ]’ (El Saadawi, 54-55)

The heterodiegetic narrator does not give us any indication that Elwau participated in the disappearance of Nefissa. Having an ability to witness and be in all the areas that the characters are because she enjoys the power of omniscience, it is expected that if ever Elwau would have participated in the disappearance of Nefissa then she was to let the audience know or even give a hint. But from the start until the story comes to an end, such indication has not been shown. Therefore, from the heterodiegetic narrator’s point of view Elwau is absolved from the evil that is accused of.

The oppressor and his sycophants pronounce that action must be taken on Elwau. Later in the story, the homodiegetic narrator reveals to the audience that the oppressors indeed kill Elwau for their selfish gain. They do the killing with a purpose of hiding the truth because, according to them, the only person who was near Nefissa and who might have had a hand in helping Nefissa run away was Elwau.

Nefissa running away denies the oppressor, who is the Mayor, the opportunity to oppress her. Moreover, if Nefissa comes back, the secret might be known hence affecting the self-proclaimed God. It is from these actions that the narrator unravels the predicaments that befall people in the hands of the Mayor. It is from these episodes that the reader is able to see the oppression hence construct the theme of oppression.

After Elwau is killed, the Mayor and his sycophants looks for a way of cooling the masses and absolving blame from himself. The narrator informs the audience that the Mayor hatches a plan to nail Kafrawi, the father to Nefissa. Kafrawi is oppressed because he saw the body of Elwau and is thought to have the evidence that might show the killers. Through cowardice, Kafrawi runs away and hides. This makes the people and the authority to believe that it is Kafrawi who killed Elwau. Therefore, Kafrawi is oppressed for the mistake that he did not do. He is assaulted to confess a thing that he did not in any way participate in.

Oppression in God Dies by the Nile is also portrayed through Zekaya. As earlier stated, the heterodiegetic narrator associates Zekaya with oppression. The narrator traces the life of Zekaya from her childhood to adulthood and points out all forms of oppression that Zekaya has been subjected to by the society. Through flashback, the narrator gives Zekaya’s life.

She opened her mouth wide and started to scream and to wail in a continuous high pitched lament [ Zekaya passionately expresses grief ], as though mourning the suffering of a whole lifetime suppressed in her body [ Zekaya has always been suffering ] from the very first moment of her life. When her father struck her mother on the head because she had not borne him the son he had expected [ Zekaya’sprefers male children to female ones ]. It was a wail that went back, far back, to many a moment of pain in her life [ Zekaya in deepthought of her troubled life which originates from her childhood]. To the time when she ran behind the donkey and the hot earth burnt the soles of her feet [ Further reference to her past life ]. To the times when she learnt to eat the salted pickles and green peppers which the peasants consume with their bread and felt something like slow fire deep inside the walls of her belly [ Zekaya reveals her poorchildhood’s economic background ]. To the time when Om Saber forced her thighs apart and with a razor blade cut off a piece of her flesh [ Zekaya reveals that she underwent female genital mutilation ]. To the time when she developed two breasts which the menfolk would pinch when there was nobody around to prevent them [ Zekayareveals the molestation that young girls of her time underwent in the hands of men ]. To the time when her spouse Abdel Moneim would beat her with a stick [ Zekaya reveals being battered by her husband ], then climb on her and bear down on her chest with all his weight [ Domestic violence experienced by Zekaya ]. To the time when she bore him children and bled, then buried them one after another with the dead [ Zekaya painfully experienced her children’s death ]. To the time when Galal put on his army uniform and never came back [ Thepainful loss of disappearance of Zekaya’s son ], and the time when Nefissa ran away [ Memories of the disappearance of Nefissa ], and the children’s chorus rung out as they sung Nefissa and Elwau’ to the time when the car came to the village carrying the gentlemen and the dog, then took Kafrawi and left [ Painful memories of the arrest ofKafrawi ]. Her wail went back and back to such times and others she could not forget like a lament which has no end, and sees no end to the pain in life. It seemed to be as long as the length of her life, as long as the long hours of her day and night [ All the life of Zekaya hasbeen characterized by pain ]. (El Saadawi, 106)

The heterodiegetic narrator summarizes the life of Zekaya through the mind of Zekaya. The narrator is able to go through the mind of Zekaya and extract this hidden but painful moments in her life. Just like her mother, Zekaya is constantly oppressed by the man she calls her husband, as he beats her every time and molests her. Zekaya’s oppression is also seen when she is forced to undergo female genital mutilation. Her suffering and oppression is aggravated by the Mayor who continues to oppress her relatives hence adding miseries into her life. The heterodiegetic narrator informs the reader that the moment Zekaya sees the Iron Gate, it reminds her of the monster that has continually oppressed her. She fears the Iron Gate and the occupant in the Iron Gate.

3.4. Theme of Corruption

In God Dies by the Nile, the heterodiegetic narrator gives a detailed account corruption openly taking place in the society. From one character to another, the narrator is able to unravel the corrupt deals of the Mayor and the religious leaders. These leaders are using their high leadership position and religion to steal from the poor people in the society.

The Mayor of Kafr El Teen is very corrupt. He has very many hidden deals and continues to involve himself in corrupt deals. He uses his sycophants to advance his desire. His sycophants led by Sheikh Haj Ismail know that the Mayor has done so but cannot say so fearing the consequences that might follow after they are exposed. But because the heterodiegetic narrator enjoys omniscience, she is able to enter Sheikh Haj’s mind and let the audience know what he knows about the Mayor. It is from his mind that theme of corruption is constructed. Therefore, through his mind and thinking Sheikh Haj Ismail is able to unravel the secret. The heterodiegetic narrator narrates:

The Mayor maintained his silence. Decidedly, something was wrong [ Revelation that everything is not well ]. Haj Ismail was now almost sure that he had not been careful enough about what he said. This time the Mayor could take his last word to be an insinuation that peasants had a hard life [ The heterodiegetic narrator reveals what ishappening in the society ], which of course was not true [ The heterodiegetic narrator brings out the irony ]. This in its turn might lead directly or indirectly to an even more dangerous conclusion namely that in the view of Haj Ismail the government was not telling the truth when it repeatedly expressed its concern for the welfare of the peasant and the protection of their rights [ irony ]. Since the mayor was the representative of the government in Kafr El Teen, such a view could also be taken to mean that as the responsible official he was using his position to exploit the peasants, and spend the money he squeezed out of them on his extravagant tastes in food, tobacco, wine and women [ Prolepsis on what the mayor does ]. His mind was now in a whirl. He cursed his own stupidity instead of painting her lashes with kohl, he blinded her eye’ [ A popular saying meaning thatsometimes when you try to improve a situation you make it worse ] (El Saadawi, 17)

Through the wondering mind of Sheikh Haj Ismail, Mayor’s corrupt deals are revealed. It is a revelation that the people of Kafr El Teen are very poor because of the Mayor’s corrupt nature. The hard life that people like Zekaya and Kafrawi are going through is because of the economic exploitation that the Mayor has subjected them to. As a representative of the government, he is supposed to take care of the welfare of the people and utilize their tax well. This is contrary to what is happening. From the beginning of the story to the end, all the characters introduced, apart from the Mayor’s sycophants are living in poverty.

All their taxes, as revealed by Sheikh Haj Ismail are squandered by the Mayor which he uses on women, wine and cigarettes. It is from Sheikh Haj Ismail’s mind that the corruption taking place in Kafr El Teen is revealed hence the theme of corruption is constructed. The narrator through her character informs the audience that Mayor’s sycophants knows what is happening in their society, they can dare not expose it because it will add problems to them and not solve anything. Therefore, as people close to the Mayor, the only thing that they can do is to allow corruption deals to continue as they also enjoy the fruits of corruption. Hence they are also corrupt.

The heterodiegetic narrator then moves to the religious leaders. These particular people are using religion to solicit money from the poor people in the society. Because of the fear of Allah, the poor people believe in what these religious leaders are saying hence give them what they want freely. Seizing this opportunity, the religious leaders exploit them until they get poorer. This situation is highlighted through Zekaya’s predicament:

She said, ‘Haj Ismail, I have to go to our field and, as you can see, my aunt Zekaya is sick [ Zeinab helpless and urgently needs help fromHaj Ismael ]. She no longer eats nor drinks, nor does she even sleep [ Zekaya’s condition is worrying ]. All the time she sees things and hears voices, and it makes her very frightened’ [ Deliberate referenceto the problem Zekaya has]. ‘Zekaya is posed by the devil’, said Haj Ismail, [ Pronouncement of the disease that is affecting Zekaya ] ‘and it will not leave her until she listens to my advice, and does what I tell her to do’ [ The heterodiegetic narrator uses prolepsis ]. ‘I am prepared to do anything that will make my aunt Zekaya get well again, Haj Ismail’ [ Submissiveness of Zeinab giving al leeway to beexploited ]. He opened his old bag and extracted a long piece of paper covered with verses of the Koran. He chanted a few obscure incantations, folded the pieces of paper and put it in a small dirty pouch of rough white cotton. Then he hung it around Zekaya’s neck, chanting other verses and incantations. After that, he muttered a few words and started to invoke the name of God and exalt his unlimited power, all the while stroking her head, her face and her chest first with the palms of his hands and then with their backs [ Heterodiegeticnarrator exposes the hypocrisy of Sheikh Haj Ismail ]. After finishing he wiped his face in his hands and said to Zeinab, who was now sitting close to her aunt, ‘This amulet has great powers and it costs only five piasters. [ The heterodiegetic narrator exposes Sheikh HajIsmael’s extortionist characters ] And now, Zeinab listen carefully to me and do exactly what I tell you. Next Thursday, together with your aunt, you are to take a bus to Bab El Headed you will take the tram to Sayed Zeinab. There you will find people celebrating her birthday anniversary, groups of people chanting hymns to her memory, and many holy people. Both of you offer a prayer to her soul and join in the chanting. Repeat the names of Allah many times with those who are chanting. And spend your night in the mosque in the bosom of the holy lady. On Friday morning raise your hands to the heavens and say ‘oh God oh God, listen to me. My aunt Zekaya asks forgiveness for all her sins and will never do anything to displease you. [ Furtherexpose of Sheik Haj Ismail’s hypocrisy ] Have mercy on her, you the all merciful.’ Allah will lend you an ear to your exhortations and a holy man will approach your aunt Zekaya and take her amulet off her neck, then hang on her again. [ Use of the analepsis, the man to meetthem is Sheikh Haj Ismail himself ] While he is doing this he will enjoin her to fulfil certain things [ The accomplishment of evil plan ]. After he has finished she is to give him a piaster silver coin [ Exploiting the poor]. Then both of you should return immediately, and do what he has told you to do without delay. Remember his words exactly, for what he says to you will be an order from Allah. If you do not obey, the wrath of Allah will pursue your Aunt Zekaya. And the devil will never leave her. Zeinab looked at him and said in a voice which expressed deep feeling, ‘May Allah give you long life, Haj Ismail. I am prepared to take my aunt to Sayed Zeinab, and do anything Allah tells me to do.’ [The heterodiegetic narratorsarcastically mocks Zeinab’s ignorance]. On the eve of Thursday, Om Saber came to their house at night, and bathed Zekaya’s body with pure water from the river Nile. Zeinab tied the corner of the shawl around the few coins some of the neighbors had collected for them to pay for the bus and tram fares, as well as five piasters for the amulet and silver coin of ten piasters which was the price she was supposed to pay in order to know what Allah wanted her to do. Zekaya muted a few words as though talking to herself, ‘Even God wants us to pay Him something. Yet he knows we own nothing. My child.’ [ The heterodiegetic narrator reveals that other charactersknow that they are being exploited ] (El Saadawi, 100)

Knutson (1989) posits that, gender power relationship is encoded in texts in three levels of fabula, story, and text. Feminist narratology can break the code. A female obstacle, at the level of fabula, frequently signifies patriarchal overwriting. A male subject with a female object and / or obstacle always indicates conformity with patriarchal gender, and may also mark the erasure of a female hero. At the story level, events are focused through an external focalizer or a character-focalizer who experiences the events of the fabula. Who is sensing, seeing, hearing and interpreting? Based on what body of knowledge? Is there a woman's body in this story? Finally, at the level of text or words, a narrative agent can comment, argue, describe or render ironic. How is the power of the narrator represented or used? Who is speaking to whom, and what kind of world is created in the process? Would a woman be comfortable in this world? (Knutson, 1989)

Zekaya’s predicaments are revealed by the heterodiegetic narrator who reveals how Sheikh Haj Ismail’s is using religion to do evil things in the name of Allah hence promoting corruption. From the time the Mayor sets his eyes of Zeinab, he has become restless and his sycophants have looked for every means possible to make Zeinab accept to go into the Mayor’s house with no success. Therefore, when Zekaya falls sick, Sheikh Haj Ismail seizes this opportunity to make their evil plan come to pass. Sheikh Haj Ismail uses his position to invoke religious fear on Zeinab and Zekaya.

He cheats them that Zekaya has an evil spirit which can only be removed from her if she accepts to do what Sheikh Haj Ismail says. The latter then goes ahead to elaborate how the two are going to meet the man of God who will then give them direction. They are supposed to obey the ‘man of God’ and do exactly what he says. What Zekaya and Zeinab do not know is that the ‘man of God’ that they would meet would be Sheikh Haj Ismail. The direction that he was to give them is for Zeinab to go to the Chief’s house an idea she had earlier rejected. The narrator reveals all the evils that are happening in this society.

Though the characters see themselves as pure in the society, the narrator scrutinizes and reports both the evil and the good of each character. The narrator is present at every stage in the life of the character. At the ‘fabula’ level as Knutson (1989) observes there is the overwriting of patriarchy.

At the fabula level, the woman figure is controlled by the man through dubious and corrupt deals. At the story level, the woman is not happy the way she is exploited. The narrator reveals that in God Dies by the Nile women are the one who are severely affected by corruption.

The heterodiegetic narrator also exposes the extortions of money from the poor by the use of the name of Allah. Sheikh Haj Ismail knows that Zekaya is not possessed with the evil spirit but goes ahead to give her an amulet which costs her money, the money that Zekaya herself does not have. Through the use of prolepsis, the heterodiegetic narrator reveals that the person who is going to receive the five piaster that Sheikh Haj Ismail has commanded is Sheik Haj Ismail himself. Therefore, the heterodiegetic narrator reveals that through Zekaya’s situation, Sheikh Haj Ismail is able to succeed in his evil plans of bringing Zeinab to the Mayor’s house. He also gets some money and this is corruption. They openly exploit the people in the name of God. They have done these for a long time until characters in the society see this act as a normal thing. To the characters, Sheikh Haj Ismail and other Sheikhs are messengers of God and authorized by God to take money from them.

The heterodiegetic narrator continues to reveal that it is not Sheikh Haj Ismail alone in this game of exploiting the poor. Other sheikhs have the same behavior. The narrator gives an account of the character undergoing the same experiences as Zekaya. The heterodiegetic narrator narrates:

‘No she is my wife, he answered. ‘She was in good health, but I don’t know what happened to her. Almost overnight she started to refuse all food and drink, stayed awake all night unable to sleep, and got into the habit of talking to herself, she sees things and screams out in the middle of the night [ description of the ailment ]. I took her to one Sheikh after another. They gave her amulets to wear, and we arranged a zar for her. I spent all the money [ the man’s savings all spent onsheikhs ] I have but nothing worked [ The man financially exploited by Sheikhs]. So Sheikh Abbas advised to take her on a pilgrimage to the Hajez so that she could visit the house of Allah. Allah will would forgive her for her sins, and drive away the evil spirits which entered her body. But I explained to Sheikh Abbas that I was a poor man and had spent all my money on the Sheikhs [ The Sheikh Abbasunconcerned and subjects the man to further exploitation ] (El Saadawi, 104)

The predicaments of the old man as revealed by the heterodiegetic unravels the corruption rooted among the religious leaders, they capitalize on the ignorance of the poor people to extort money from them. These particular Sheikhs are not merciful to these particular people. It is from this expose by the heterodiegetic narrator that the theme of corruption is constructed and shaped.



4.1. Introduction

This chapter presents a conclusion to the study which attempted to do a narratological inquiry into Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero and God Dies by the Nile. The study employed narratology as a canon of inquiry as advanced by Genette (1980), Stanzel (1984) among others. The study aimed at analyzing how the use of homodiegetic narration in Woman atPoint Zero and the use of heterodiegetic narration in God Dies by the Nile Presented particular themes in the two novels. The data was processed and analyzed within the framework of feminist narratology a strand of narratology. The analysis and interpretation were guided by feminist narratology as advanced by Lanser (1986). A number of section dealing with how homodiegetic and heterodiegetic narration present particular themes in the two novels are discussed in chapter two and three. It is in the light of these discussions that we give the following conclusions, findings and Recommendations.

4.2. Conclusion

In Woman at Point Zero, the novel uses the homodiegetic narration objectively. Saadawi’s choice of narrating her story through a homodiegetic narrator, and more so a woman character, reveals the conditions that women go through. Firdaus is subject to ordinary human limitations. She is restricted to personal subjective view; she has no direct access to events she did not witness; she cannot be in two places at the same time and she has no way of knowing for certain what goes on in the minds of other characters. Therefore, what Firdaus says is believed because she witnessed it. The oppression that she has undergone and the female genital mutilation that she is forced to undergo are the factors that lead her into prostitution. Because it is only in prostitution as she confesses that a woman is able to control a man. This is because she is the one who names the price. Homodiegetic narrator of the story witness’s and experiences every action that takes place. Through her eye, the injustices and predicament that many women endure are revealed. Through her eye, the social and religious hypocrisy represented by her father who is an ardent follower of Islam, but brutally batters her wife is revealed. It is also through her eye that we learn the abuses that women perpetuate against each other. Finally, it is through her aye that we are able to scan the legal system which favors men to women.

God Dies by the Nile, Saadawi adopts a heterodiegetic narrator to tell her story of the predicament that befalls the people of Kafr El Teen. The Mayor and his sycophants are using every opportunity to exploit the poor people in their society. The women in the society are looked down upon by powerful men represented by the Mayor who constantly and repeatedly oppress them. God Dies by the Nile is gendered and it questions the issue of class and gender. It scrutinizes the societal placement of a woman and all the hard manual labor placed on her by the society a great concern of feminist narratology. The male characters are placed higher in the society as compared to the female characters. This has made them become poor hence vulnerable in the hands of men who control everything in the society. The narrative also scrutinises the issue of class. Those people like the Mayor who are in authority indulge themselves in corrupt deals hence affecting the economy of their people making them remain poor. The poor people are then oppressed and threatened until they are not able to speak their minds out. This perhaps explains why Saadawi picks a heterodiegetic narrator who is covert to narrate the story. The heterodiegetic narrator, having the power of omniscience, is able to observe and record what is happening to her characters even deep inside their minds. The heterodiegetic narrator moves from one character to another revealing their behaviors and associations and it is from this report that the themes of corruption and oppression have been constructed.

4.3. Findings

In the analysis of how the use of homodiegetic narration presents particular themes in Woman at Point Zero (1982), it is observed that Saadawi adopts the first person point of view in narrating her story. All the events and actions are told by a highly overt narrator who narrates everything that happened to her. Because of lack of omniscience, the narrator concentrates on her own life experience thus being able to unravel many things that happened to her. The experiences are too personal and quite genuine hence advancing the themes of oppression, female genital mutilation, prostitution and fight for self-identity by female characters. These themes are shaped from the experiences that the homodiegetic narrator goes through.

Being a homodiegetic narrator the story concentrates on only one character who is a reliable narrator. The narrator gives detailed events and actions that happened to her and therefore exposing many things that happened to her. Themes are then drawn from the narrator’s confession.

In Woman at Point Zero (1982) Saadawi concentrates so much on analepsis in telling her story. The main character constantly remembers what happened to her, revealing her love, hatred and disillusionment. From her confession themes like oppression, female genital mutilation, fight for self-identity by female characters and prostitution are brought out.

In God Dies by the Nile, Saadawi adopts heterodiegetic narration in her work. The narrator is a highly covert narrator who does not reveal himself or herself hence making us to employ Lancer’s rule. The narrator is a reliable narrator who tells the story from the beginning to the end. The story is focalised by external Focalizer hence allowing authorial intrusion. Saadawi extensively uses analepsis. A foreshadow is given by the narrator on what is going to happen to her characters. It is this beforehand information that we are able to deduce themes discussed in the novel.

Both novels are a commentary of women’s struggle in the male dominated society. The theme of oppression has been extensively discussed in both novels, therefore, putting the issue of gender into question. Through the use of feminist narratology, it has been revealed that God Dies by the Nile and Woman at Point Zero are gendered. The issue of gender is embedded in the narrative hence making us to agree with Lanser (1986) that novels written by female writers are carriers of gender.

4.4. Recommendations

The present study formed a basis for a narratological study of Saadawi’s works. It concentrated on only one aspect of narrative design: point of view. Therefore, more research needs to be done on Saadawi’s works in terms of setting and fictional space and narrative mode.

The present study concentrated on two novels written by Nawal El Saadawi as a representation of other novels but further narratological research needs to be done in other novels written by Nawal El Saadawi as each novel contains its unique narrative features.

The study used feminist narratology a strand of narratology to analyse the data but narratology is wide with different strands. Therefore, research needs to be done on Saadawi’s work with a bias in other strands of narratology.

In both novels the writer has extensively used analepsis in the presentation of her work a style that needs to be explored and further analysed.


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A Narratological Study of Nawal El Saadawi's Novels "God Dies by the Nile" and "Woman at Point Zero"
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Clement Baraza (Author), 2015, A Narratological Study of Nawal El Saadawi's Novels "God Dies by the Nile" and "Woman at Point Zero", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/509658


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