“Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors.” Evelyn Cunningham.
Hanan Al Shaykh is a Lebanese novelist, short-story writer and a playwright. She is regarded to be one of the leading contemporary women writers in the Arab world. In fact, she follows Nawal Al Saadawi’s footsteps, especially in her explicit representations of women’s role in the traditional Arab Middle East world. Throughout her works, there is a glimpse of the patriarchal oppression she faces during her life. Not only by her father and brother, but also by the traditions enforced upon her by the neighborhood. The Story of Zahra is seen as Al Shaykh’s ...view middle of the document...
If my father asked, she would mumble, “Ahmad is sleeping.” She lied for he son. (Al Shaykh,p.25)
This in fact shows that even the mother is affected by the vicious patriarchy of the Arab society. Throughout the years “Man” has achieved his superiority and has the ability to degrade “Woman” to the rank of inferiority. In addition, Fatime is described as a brutal mother who “Shows her daughter no appreciation at all, not a single spark of tenderness. She often insults Zahra about her ugliness and taunts her for never attracting any suitors.”( Sakkut 64)
The mother, Fatime, is seen as the basic foundation for Zahra’s breakdown. At the very early pages of the novel, the mother puts her hand on Zahra’s mouth.“The reason for her hand tightly cupping my mouth”(Al Shaykh 3). This shows that the aim of the mother is to control her daughter’s voice. A kind of subjecting the daughter to her power. The conflict begins by the appearance if the mother’s lover. For Zahra on the one hand, does not want to be separated from her mother. She describes their relationship as follows “I wanted to disappear into the hem of her dress and become even closer to her than the navel is to the orange!”(Al Shaykh 8). Zahra refuses the idea that she can be separated from her mother. On the other hand, she establishes great anger towards her mother. “Zahra’s deepened feelings of disappointment and hostility towards her mother establish a critical moment in which the sense of self she begins to develop enables her to form her own gender identity…influenced by the patriarchal structures unconsciously embraced and transmitted by her mother”( al Masri 70). The first part of the novel shows how Zahra is abandoned by her mother, physically and emotionally.
Regarding Zahra’s relationship with her father it is more or less the same of a Master-Slave relationship. She is always afraid of her father that she describes him as a brutal beast. “My father was always brutal. His appearance seemed to express his character, a frowning face, a Hitler-like moustache above thick full lips, a heavy body…He had a stubborn personality. He saw all life in terms of black and white.”(Al Shaykh 24). The reality that he is associated with the Nazism figure like stresses upon his brutality and cruelty. Zahra’s father always mistreated her. On several occasions, she declares that he might kill her if she ever breaks the strict moral code of a Muslim girl.
I never asked myself whether my fear of my father was on a mental or a physical level. It was all part of conglomeration of fear, of fear , above all, that my image of myself might be overturned… (AlShaykh40)
Not to mention that he also preferred Ahmad as his best child. Putting in to consideration that Zahra is more intelligent than Ahmad, that Ahmad can barely read and write, her father’s only dream is “To save money to send my brother Ahmad to the United states to study electrical engineering”(AlShaykh25).The attention the parents provide for...