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There are several prominent differences between Mrs. Shin’s character from “A Temporary Marriage” and Firdaus in A Woman At Point Zero, though these differences seem to come together in the two women to make up a common goal of their own sense of freedom. Mrs. Shin claims that she prefers “a world without men,” a statement Firdaus would wholeheartedly agree with, but the former woman seems to rely on them to deliver something that she desperately craves: physical pain and force. When she discovers Mr. Rhee in his room, she “saw that he had been drinking alone, and with her head bowed, her hands clasped behind her, she approached, aroused by the idea of this man out of control.” She goes on to “see a vein in his neck throbbing, and found herself waiting, wanting his harsh, dry lips, his hands tightened around her neck.” These are the first hints given about her desires.

Later, when she is walking through San Julian Park, she says, “It was the other America that had Mr. Rhee trembling, but she stepped off the bus so bored, she welcomed disaster. She strolled around the perimeter of the park, wanting the terrible to happen…” We see the nature of her desires again, once she has tried on Mr. Rhee’s wife’s dress and he finds her, she asks, “How dare you insult me?” and she bows her head, “You should slap me,” she says, “You’re angry…You’ll feel better, after.” And again, later, she tells her ex-husband, “Hit me. No one can see us.” The most disturbing image is the end of the story when she has reached a more emotional point and takes “her sewing scissors and ran them along the back of her thigh. The pain erased all grief, stripping her of camouflage. She was hurtling, she was rapturous, as a wound so bright it looked pasted on, blossomed on her leg… She was becoming herself again in the ardor of the scissors and the flogging belt, loving herself…”

Firdaus, however, states boldly, “I became aware of the fact that I hated men…” (p. 120). At the beginning of her testimony, she says, “However, every single man I did get to know filled me with but one desire: to lift my hand and bring it smashing down on his face. But because I am a woman I have never had the courage to lift my hand. And because I am a prostitute, I hid my fear under layers of makeup” (pp. 13-14). Where Mrs. Shin claims that she would prefer a world without men and then relies on them, somewhat heavily, after becoming attached to them, Firdaus seems almost unable to make that connection with a member of the opposite sex, and extremely comfortable with that fact. At the end of Firdaus’ testimony, she states, “That is why they are afraid and in a hurry to execute me. They do not fear my knife. It is my truth which frightens them. This fearful truth gives me great strength. It protects me from fearing death, or life, or hunger, or nakedness, or destruction. It is this fearful truth which prevents me from fearing the brutality of rulers and policemen” (pg 140).

Both of these women have a similar goal of freedom and release from their male counterparts. Though I do not understand Mrs. Shin’s way of achieving this goal, and I empathize with Firdaus’, I think that in their own way, both women achieved their own kind of freedom by the ends of their stories.

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