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The Women's Baths Essay

1507 words - 7 pages

The Women’s Baths

The short story, The Women’s Baths, by Ulfat al Idlibi is a respected piece of writing in the Middle East which demonstrates the importance of women’s public bathing. It carries a religious connotation, which suggests that cleansing is also a part of religion. According to the Prophet Muhammad, ablution is “the half faith and the key to prayer,” even though public bathing is not performed for the purpose of prayer, it is still a form of cleansing that many women enjoy, where they would socialize and feel a sense of purity after each bath. In addition, this story also relates to the social change towards public bathing in the Middle East. The grandma, who is constantly ...view middle of the document...

She was very voluble, and like a spinning-top, never motionless, and her feet in her Shabrawi clogs made a rhythmic clatter on the floor of the baths. (16) This illustration shows that even though these baths were only meant for women, the women still presented themselves in their best image. Since Umm Adbu is one of the people that represents these baths, she shows the importance of women taking care of themselves. After that, the narrator would take the audience to a different image, the specious hall called al-barani. She describes the beautiful fountain in the center of it and the narrow benches around the hall, which had brightly-colored rugs where the women could lay their belongings. The walls were decorated with vintage mirrors, and there were panels on which a variety of different sayings were inscribed. On one of the panels it said, “Cleanliness is part of Faith.” (16) The author chose to emphasize his symbolic detail because it reminds the readers that theses public baths are essentially part of faith. As the narrator walked through the baths, she described everything she saw, heard and smelled. She heard a woman signing a song to her daughter, who was a bride and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves as if they were at a celebration. The main character seemed to admire the attributes of the place more and more.
The style and language was very consistent throughout the story. There was a little dialogue but mostly told in first person with very in depth descriptions. There is only one protagonist and that is the narrator. She develops throughout the story by the experience she gains from the public baths. Before she seemed to be close minded since she had never assisted her grandma to go with her to the baths, but after she let go of the idea that public baths are only for old people, she allowed herself to relax and understand the true meaning of these baths. It was a place where variety of women went, not just a certain age group, where they would cleanse, socialize and connect. Umm Mahmud, said, “Our baths are doing well today: we have a bride here, we have a woman who recently had a child and we have the mother of the Bey…” (17) This statements indicates that all different types of women were there to also celebrate life.
The main character felt more connected to her grandma at the end of this experience because she has come to understand the reasons why he grandma enjoys these public baths. Even though there is a huge age difference, it seems that the grandma and the girl have the closest relationship. In contrast, it felt as if the relationship between the mother and the mother-in-law was based on power. It felt as if the mother wanted to be the superior one over her mother-in-law and whatever she said that to be done. However, even after constant criticism and arguing, the old lady did as she wished. The factors that make their relationship different then the once in the United States are that most families do not...

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