Characters in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero

Some of the characters in Woman at Point Zero include Firdaus, the psychiatrist, the prison doctor, the prison warden

Woman at Point Zero
Woman at Point Zero

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi is a novel that tells the story of Firdaus, a female prisoner for killing a man. Using the flashback technique, she recounts her life story to a psychiatrist who is conducting a research about female prisoners. In this post we are going to look into the characters in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero.

Some of the characters in Woman at Point Zero include Firdaus, the psychiatrist, the prison doctor, the prison warden, Firdaus’ parents, Sharifa, and Ibrahim.


Firdaus is the protagonist of Woman at Point Zero. She is a young woman who flees her abusive husband, and becomes a prostitute, then an office worker, and then a prostitute again. She finally kills a man who forces her to accept him as her pimp.


All her life is a struggle for respect, independence, love, and happiness. However, all her efforts are in vain, for women’s position in her country is almost as low as animals’.

This story shows her transformation from a kind-hearted person to a cynic and murderer. In spite of the fact that Firdaus commits a crime, she doesn’t evoke negative emotions. She is a victim of the circumstances, traditions, and a perverted interpretation of religion. Firdaus represents all women who suffer from domestic violence and have nowhere to go because laws protect their abusers.

The Psychiatrist / the Narrator

The psychiatrist, who performs the role of the narrator in the first and last chapters of the novel, is trying to conduct research about female prisoners. That is how she meets Firdaus.

The Prison Doctor

He is a doctor at the Qanatir prison where Firdaus is incarcerated. He originally introduces our narrator to Firdaus’s story and tries to arrange a meeting between the women.

The Prison Warden

The warden of the Qanatir prison; initially, she tries to bar the psychiatrist from visiting Firdaus. Eventually, when Firdaus finally agrees to meet with the psychiatrist, it’s the warden who runs and stops the psychiatrist from leaving.

Firdaus’ Father

Firdaus’s father is a poor man, whose selfishness is so severe that he has no qualms eating while his children go hungry. In spite of the fact that he often attends a mosque and prays to God, he beats his wife and behaves as if nothing in the world matters except for him.

Firdaus’ Mother

Firdaus’s mother is an obedient wife, who works as hard as a mule and gives birth to a large number of children. She is also very ignorant because she arranges for Firdaus’s circumcision.

Firdaus’ Uncle

Firdaus’s uncle is described as a literate man. He starts taking care of her after the death of her parents. He is also a rather religious man, but this doesn’t prevent him from sexually assaulting his own niece.


Mohammadian is a young boy Firdaus used to play with when she was a little girl. Firdaus uses euphemisms when describing her times playing with Mohammadain, but it’s implied that their “games” were sexual in nature.


Iqbal is Firdaus’ teacher. Wafeya suspects that Firdaus could be in love with Iqbal. Even if there is no direct evidence of it, Iqbal definitely pities or maybe even likes Firdaus.

Firdaus’ Aunt-in-law

The wife of Firdaus’ uncle, she is a cruel and mercenary woman who convinces Firdaus’s uncle to marry Firdaus to Sheikh Mahmoud.

Sheikh Mahmoud

Sheikh Mahmoud is Firdaus’ husband. He is described as an ugly, greedy, and cruel man, who can easily beat his wife if there is something that he doesn’t like. Eventually, he beats Firdaus so hard that she decides to run away to Bayoumi’s house.


Hala is Firdaus’ cousin. She is the only remaining person in Firdaus’ family who shows her affection.


Bayoumi is one of the characters in Woman at Point Zero. He is a restaurant worker who shelters Firdaus after her escape from her husband’s house. At first, he is kind to Firdaus. Later on, he proves to be no better than Sheikh Mahmoud. He beats her, sleeps with her, and sells her body to his friends, inadvertently making her a prostitute.

Sharifa Salah el Dine

Sharifa Salah el Dine is a successful prostitute. She takes Firdaus in and persuades her that the life of a prostitute is better than the life of any wife. Initially, she is a hero for Firdaus, but eventually, it’s revealed that she is also taking advantage of Firdaus. She makes a profit out of Firdaus’ body until she runs away.


Ibrahim is a man with whom Firdaus falls in love. They both met at the industrial company they both work for and became friends. She believes that he is different from the rest, for he is revolutionary. However, he uses Firdaus for sex like every other man in her past. He eventually marries a woman from an affluent family, and their relationship ends.


Fatheya is Firdaus’s friend at the industrial company she works for. Fatheya tells Firdaus that she is living a dream world when it comes to Ibrahim’s feelings for her.


Marzouk is a pimp. He starts threatening Firdaus and acts as if he owns her. The climax of the novel is when Firdaus kills him because he tries to beat her.

The Prince

The Prince is Firdaus’s last client. After they have sex, she tells him she killed Marzouk, and he calls the police on her.


Di’aa is one of the characters in Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero. He is a journalist and onetime client of Firdaus. He becomes her friend and then, tells her she is not respectable. This prompts Firdaus to give up prostitution and start working in an office.

Further Reading:

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