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Woman at Point Zero

One of the major things I noticed while reading Woman at Point Zero is the repetition of eye imagery. The first time I noted that this was something to pay attention to was when Firdaus describes what her mother looked like the first time she saw her. She says, “I can remember two eyes. I can remember her eyes in particular… They were eyes that watched me. Even if I disappeared from their view, they could see me, and follow me wherever I went, so that if I faltered while learning to walk they would hold me up” (21). She continues, “All I can remember are two rings of intense white around two circles of intense black. I only had to look into them for the white to become whiter and the black even blacker, as though sunlight was pouring into them from some magical source neither on earth, nor in the sky, for the earth was pitch black, and the sky dark as night, with no sun and no moon” (21-22).

The same description is repeated in a number of scenes throughout the novel, including when Firdaus is talking to Miss Iqbal, during the school ceremony in which certificates are given out, and when someone stares at her on the street. She also describes Bayoumi’s eyes when she first meets him, saying that “his eyes were resigned and calm. They did not seem to me like the eyes of someone who would kill” (62). Later, when he slaps her, she describes his eyes as “two jet black surfaces,” a description much more similar to the description repeated thus far. She also describes Sharifa’s eyes when they meet, this time drawing attention to the color green rather than black or white (69).

It seems that these descriptions all lead back to Firdaus’s mother, though I am still trying to discover what it all means, as I have not yet finished the novel. The description of the black and white circles appears many different times and when Firdaus is dealing with many different emotions. She seems to be at ease when she is talking to her teacher at night, but she is overwhelmed during the ceremony, and she is uneasy when she sees the eyes on the street. These different situations might represent the different sides of her relationship with her mother – the soft, maternal side, and the side in which Firdaus is afraid of doing anything wrong. It is worth noting that her description of Bayoumi’s eyes changes once he hurts her, and the fact that she focuses on a different color when describing Sharifa. I am interested to see how this imagery continues to play a part as I finish reading the novel.

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