Woman at Point Zero and Reconsidering the Problem of High Murder Rates in the USA
On average, around 17,000 people are murdered annually solely in the United States. When you hear of someone committing homicide, you automatically have a prejudgment of them. How can you not? The amount of hatred it must’ve taken to end someone else’s life must be immense is most likely what you think at first. Many people would agree with this statement, but Nawal El Saadawi’sWoman at Point Zero takes readers into the life of a woman who has been imprisoned for murder. She killed a man; by law should she be sentenced to death? Does this automatically make her an awful human being? Nawal El Saadawin shows us differently. Although she does not absolve the crime that has been committed, she does prove that sometimes there’s a difference between something you simply do and something you simply have to do. Her book sheds light on the line that is drawn between society and the individual. Society shouldn’t always automatically be right.
Woman at Point Zero was taken account by Nawal El Saadawi in Egypt while she was doing some work in the prison of Cairo during the 1970’s. As a sociologist and psychologist, she was taken aback when she heard about Firdaus. What was it about this woman who was convicted for killing a man, yet neither the doctor nor warder thought she was capable of committing such a crime? After the narrator finally meets Firdaus, readers are taken into Firdaus’ life; everything from her struggles and downfalls, to the reason she wants to have her life ended.
This book brings about many points; one of the first being the issue of the individual vs. society. In the novel, Firdaus struggles to live as a woman in Egypt. Everything that has happened in her life: her witnessing of the abusive relationship her mother and father had, the sexual abuse committed against her by her uncle, being married away and abused herself; the endless cycle forces her to run away and live on her own, where she eventually becomes a prostitute. To Firdaus, men are in authority, and there’s nothing she feels she can do about it. Looking at a situation like this, it makes you think: this can’t be the individual person’s fault. Why didn’t anyone do something about it? In a society where men were looked up at and abusing your wife was a crime that was brushed under the carpet, what did society expect Firdaus to do when the violent man that claimed rights as her pimp started abusing her? There is no condoning Firdaus’ crime; but in a world with a society like that, just how much should the individual be accountable for if there so little they can do?
In the 1970’s, Egypt had just been seized, and the king had been overthrown. Because of this, political parties replaced women’s organizations, and women independent movements were banned. Firdaus was living in a world where men were in power. Though, what did it mean to have that? Throughout the book, she finds that someone else is always above her, especially a man. It isn’t until she moves in with Sharifa that she learns what that means. When she starts working for herself, Firdaus realizes what it means to act for herself, and to make her own decisions.
Throughout this novel, the question on whether or not society gives people a chance to have free or not will is raised.Firdaus has never had free will. Before she ran away, she didn’t have a say in whether she wanted to be abused or not; she didn’t ask for her clitoris to be removed; to be abused, or see her mother be abused. When she runs away; this is the first time she gets to make her own decisions. Even when she is asked what fruit she prefers, she is shocked because she realizes how is supposed to know that? She has never been asked something like that which results in her making a choice of her own. Once Firdaus becomes a prostitute, she then has the power to make her own decisions. Although usually prostitution would be looked down upon, in this case, for a while, it set her free from everything else that was holding her down.
This book was very impacting because it taught us how to look at things in a different way. In a way, it reminded me of Bartleby. In the end of Bartleby, you realized what was really causing conflicts throughout the story was society. As Nawal El Saadawi drove away after talking to Firdaus, she realized the same thing. She realized that Firdaus was a much better person than most of us can strive to be.
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