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A Woman of Her Own

How many were the years of my life that went before my body and my self
became really mine, to do with them as I wished? How many were the years of my life that were lost before I took my body and my self away from the people who held me in their grasp since the very first day?
— Nawal El Saadawi, Woman at Point Zero

Throughout Woman at Point Zero, Saadawi depicts Firdaus as a woman who is treated as an object to be used and placed at will by all those in her life. In her youth, she is abused and tormented by those meant to care for her and as she grows it seems she is all but abandoned when she is deemed “unuseful,” and subsequently married off to a stranger. It seems throughout the book, that power and autonomy are only allotted to men, and even within that subset, only men with means can fully wield the power of their privilege. Rich men do not have to obey or respect anyone, even their God, while women, of any social class, are expected to serve and obey almost everyone. Firdaus seems to recognize this from a young age as she witnesses the abuse of her mother and the uncaring manner in which she is treated by her father. She is not allowed the privilege of choice from the time of her birth until far later into her life.

The effects of Firdaus’ lack of autonomy are obvious as she grows throughout the novel. Her sense of identity seems to be mostly tied up in who is, “in charge of her,” and where she has been stationed as opposed to an innate sense of purpose. She constantly seems to be seeking the care and emotional support that was denied to her and almost seems to mythicize the few moments she can recognize as being comforted or supported, as seen in the repetition of the occurrence of her mother’s eyes glowing and growing until they eclipse everything. Firdaus is a woman who spent most of her life being made to endure traumatic experiences where her only options were to suffer in silence or run away into a world that was largely a mystery to her. It isn’t until she is seemingly free from the trappings of societal norms that she is, in turn, allowed the right to make decisions for herself and “take” her identity back.

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