How does Nawal el *Sadaawi??™s* characterization*s* of men convey* the hypocrisy of men in Egyptian society in ???Woman at Point Zero??™ *Michelle Davies 10/3/2010
The characterization of men by Nawal el Sadaawi in this book seems to convey the primary theme of hypocrisy in this particular patriarchal society. The author seems to describe these characters in a way to show the different facets of society that one may find hypocrisy. In this essay I will attempt to see to what effect does the usage of literary devices affect the way in which the men can be characterized as hypocrites, and how are they a microcosm ofthe corrupt and unjust sexist society in which she lives.
One way in which El Sadaawi conveys the hypocrisy of men in Egyptian society is through the characterization of Firdaus??™s uncle. Firdaus??™s uncle was educated at El Azhar University to become a Sheikh, and he abused her when she was a young girl. This is evident when he ???slowly??? moved his ???hand??? to ???touch??? her ???leg??? The fact that her uncle was touching her leg and when he heard someone there would ???withdraw quickly??? showing that he knew that what he was doing was wrong and would be seen as distasteful by other members of society. This seems to be the author could be showing, through the construction of this figurative situation, the weakness and hypocrisy of religious men, where they look down and shame people, and yet are capable of committing the same violations to their faith while still referring to themselves as ???holy??™.
The way in which Sheikh Mahmoud, Firdaus??™s husband, is also directly characterized is used to show the hypocrisy of men: ???large swelling??¦it would turn into a rusty old tap exuding??¦ pus.??? The hyperbolical description of Sheikh Mahmoud could be a direct physical representation, an allegory perhaps, of the hypocrisy of religious men; drawing a parallel to Islamic religion, being known for having a high regard for cleanliness, contrasting with this ???holy man??™ who is described in such a repulsive way.
By doing this Nawal el Sadaawi seems to be trying to break an illusion held by her audience through her construction and physical descriptions of religious men and their actions. I think this is to show blatant irony of a situation: exhibiting that even the most respectable men of society are corrupt and that ???respectable??™ people may not truly be worthily respected, as they are just as corrupt as the people below them.
Another way in which El Sadaawi conveys the hypocrisy of men is through the use of minor, static, characters such as Di??™aa. When Firdaus??™s friend Di??™aa comes to her house for her services, he is shocked by her professionalism toward her career. Di??™aa refers to her job using only dysphemisms, referring to it as something that is distasteful and shameful. ???My work is not worthy of respect. Why then do you join in it with me??? Although both her and her respective client are partaking in illegal sex, the author is showing the piousness of society: that only Firdaus is considered shameful and not the man. This idea reinforces the differences of the patriarchal society between men and women, how men are forgiven for illicit actions whereas women are not shows the hypocrisy, as the men are not only partaking in illegal activities but also choosing to do so whereas prostitutes do it merely to make a living.
Through the author??™s characterization of Ibrahim one can observe her opinions, through a physical embodiment, the false pretensions of Islamic society. Ibrahim is described as ???a fine man??¦ a revolutionary.??? He is first perceived to be a respectable and even admirable gentleman who is fighting for the rights of workers. However, through misconceiving Firdaus into sleeping with him and then marrying someone else one can observe the false virtues of this man ??“ therefore relating it to a microcosm of Islamic religion. The fact that Ibrahim is a revolutionary fighting for the working classes, and yet taking advantage of marrying the chairman??™s daughter shows his hypocrisy as it relays, like the religious men, that he does not have the morals that one may initially think and in contrastis instead purely thinking for himself. Also, Ibrahim embodies the sanctimonious qualities of men in society, as he is able to judge Firdaus for having sex before marriage whilst indulging in the same contemptible act himself, drawing parallels with Di??™aa reemphasizing the piety of their society.
The corruption and hypocrisy of men is prevalent, as Nawal el Sadaawi writes, within the legal authorities as well. This is seen in Firdaus??™s encounter with a policeman when he blackmails her into sleeping with him because of her illicit occupation. When the officer says: ???I am not like other policemen??? this not only shows his own hypocrisy as he ends up raping Firdaus and doesn??™t pay her afterward, but also the hypocrisy of the whole legal system as this quote indicates that there are policemen who are also willing to take advantage of and rape women when they know it is against the law. The author seems to be oversimplifying a stereotype not for obvious reasons, but perhaps to show that there is nothing more to expect from men; even those who enforce the law as an occupation. The policeman is described having: ???dirty black nails??? and ???foul sticky sweat??? evokes a repugnant image of the man but also could be a use of symbols to portray the disgraceful and repulsive life he, and all men like him, leads. It may also be a reference to the Islamic faith and the theme of dirt could again be a contrasting reference to the reputed cleanliness of their religion.
The characterization of Bayoumi also shows the hypocrisy of men through the transformation of his treatment of Firdaus. The character is at first kind, he is courteous in giving her his bed to sleep and a place to stay. He is also gives to Firdaus one of the first tastes of having choices such as whether or not she prefers ???oranges or tangerines??? showing his consideration for her preferences and generally caring for her. Bayoumi initially seems to be a very unconditionally kind man, however, when she proclaims to him her desire to get a job he seems to transform into the antithesis of this and turns on her. Why he does this is left ambiguous to the reader, all that is known is that he greatly disapproves of women working for themselves and being independent ??“ which perhaps contradicts him giving her other choices (oranges and tangerines). The reason why Nawal chose to construct the character in this way could be to show the hypocrisy of men by their perceptions of the line between what is right for a woman and what is wrong being so obscured, as they are allowed some, though few, freedoms but then not others that may seem to be natural if not helpful. She would hear insults from Bayoumi ?????¦you low woman???. This shows a massive contrast to the kind man who took Firdaus in at beforehand. Bayoumi is an example of a hypocrite because his morals are so flawed and inconsistent in the ways he respects a woman.
In conclusion, I believe the effect of men in the novel being portrayed as having their religious patriarchal views accentuates the hypocrisy and corruptness of society by the contrasting correlation between the two statements. It seems to have an oxymoronic effect as they are considered ???respectable??™ and yet their actions are so shameful. They are shown to have an initial guise, one that covers up their immorality through what they portray to their society to create a good image for themselves. Through the men in this book, the author seems to be constantly referring back to how religion plays such a major part in their lives and yet the religion is so unjust toward women. The patriarchal society gives men the freedom to be corrupt and women are the victims that pay the price of this. She may also be trying to portray through the description of Egyptian patriarchal society, the extremely harsh interpretations of the Qur??™an and Islam toward females and perhaps her own opinions as to the major defects occurring in Islamic society.

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