Analysis of Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero

Woman at Point Zero is a novel by Nawal El Saadawi written in 1977. The novel is based on Saadawi’s meeting with a female prisoner.

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Woman at Point Zero
Woman at Point Zero
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Woman at Point Zero is a novel by Nawal El Saadawi written in 1977. The novel is based on Saadawi’s meeting with a female prisoner in Qanatir Prison and is the first-person account of Firdaus, a murderess who has agreed to tell her life story before her execution. The novel explores the themes of women and their traditional place within a patriarchal African society.

The novel is divided into three parts. Chapter 1 follows the narrator, who is also the author, as she describes her experiences as a psychiatrist in Egypt. She gives insights into the psychological effects of prison on female prisoners. Chapter 2 is about Firdaus’s life story. She begins to tell her life story, from her childhood to her current situation. In Chapter 3, after Firdaus finishes her story, the police come to her cell and take her away to be executed. The psychiatrist, who now is the narrator, leaves the cell and is ashamed of the world.

Chapter by Chapter Summary

Characterisation

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 the novel. 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.

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Themes

Some of the themes in the novel include betrayal, religion, self-worth, fear, eyes, and dependence versus Independence. Beneath these themes lie other sub-themes like women oppression and patriarchy. A core thread running through all of Firdaus’ relationships is the element of betrayal. Each person, whom Firdaus trusts or loves, betrays her in some way.

Memorable Quotes

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