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Woman At Point Zero

Woman At Point Zero is a haunting account of the life of Firdaus, a woman imprisoned for murder. The author, Nawal El Saadawi, serves almost as Firdaus’ translator. Although Firdaus is perfectly capable of communicating, she is an incarcerated woman with a tale of woe that men do not want to hear and in some ways truly seems to speak a different language than those around her. Saadawi’s choice to write Firdaus’ story from Firdaus’ point of view is an important one: it not only eliminates what would’ve been countless extra pages and breaks of dialogue but allows for a connection between reader and Firdaus that would not have been as accessible if Saadawi’s thoughts and opinions had interfered. I think this choice to tell Firdaus’ story in her “own” voice was extremely respectful and fitting of the author’s reputation as a feminist, as well as wise in the way of craft.

The author’s use of repetition in this story also resonated with me. There are several instances, but the one most often used is the imagery of eyes. On pages 20 and 21 Firdaus says, “I tried to recall what my mother had looked like the first time I saw her. I can remember two eyes. I can remember her eyes in particular. I cannot describe their colour, or their shape. They were eyes that I watched. They were eyes that watched me… Two eyes to which I clung with all my might. Two eyes alone that seemed to hold me up.” On the next pages, she describes the woman that her father told her was her mother, the one in whose eyes she could “look into” and “feel she was not my mother… No light seemed ever to touch the eyes of this woman, even when the day was radiant and the sun at its very brightest” (22-23). The eyes are mentioned in detail again when Firdaus is talking with Miss Iqbal. She says, “I could see her eyes looking at me, observing me, despite the darkness. Every time I turned my head, they were after me, holding onto me, refusing to let me go… She remained by my side, seated in silence. I could see her black eyes wandering into the night, and the tears welling up in them with a glistening light. She tightened her lips and swallowed hard and suddenly the light in her eyes went out” (37).

The repetition in the sentences (They were eyes that I watched. They were eyes that watched me.), as well as the repetition of imagery with the eyes, are used several times throughout the novel. The eyes seem to be the first thing, or the most important thing, that Firdaus observes about the people around her, and how they change in accordance with their behavior or personalities.

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