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The characters Mrs. Shin in “A Temporary Marriage” and Firdaus in Woman at Point Zero have many similarities. A primary example is that both women live their lives in the remembrance of former sexual pleasures that, for various reasons, cannot be attained again. Mrs. Shin, in particular, is obsessed with her memories of physical abuse during sex and is frustrated that she cannot find a man who is willing to punish her. Firdaus does not quite cling as dearly to her former sexual pleasures as Mrs. Shin does, focusing instead on freedom. However, after her mutilation, she can never reach the full pleasure that she once did.

I believe that Firdaus’s distance from her memories of sexual pleasure is because her condition is unalterable. There is little that one can do to heal after female circumcision. This final outcome would have cleanly severed any of Firdaus’s hopes to experience that type of pleasure again. Mrs. Shin, on the other hand, did not have quite that clean a separation to the root of her memories. She has to live with the hope that she will receive punishment from a man and can experience her former pleasure whether she wants it or not.

The two women have another similarity in that the reader must question whether they experienced the freedom they were looking for at the end of their story. Firdaus believes that she is free from being a victim; however, she is also in jail and scheduled to die the next day. It could be argued that Mrs. Shin’s last scene was her experiencing freedom from the social and sexual norms expected of her as a woman and as a Korean, despite the fact that she was mutilating herself. Both endings depend a great deal on the reader’s interpretation of the story.

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