Nawal El Saadawi
The author and narrator of the book. Nawal is a psychiatrist who
interviews women in prison. She meets one prisoner, Firdaus, and decides to tell
her the sad story of her life.
The narrator of most of the book. Firdaus is a young woman who flees
her abusive husband and becomes a prostitute, then an office worker, and then a
prostitute again. She finally kills a man who forces her to accept him as her
pimp. When Nawal El Saadawi meets Firdaus, she is in prison waiting to be
in-depth analysis of Firdaus.
The man who takes Firdaus in after her parents die.
The coffee shop owner Firdaus meets after she flees her husband’s
beatings. Bayoumi is kind to Firdaus at first, but then he begins to beat her.
Eventually, he locks her in the apartment and allows his friends to have their
way with her.
The journalist and onetime client of Firdaus. Di’aa becomes her
friend, and then tells her she is not respectable, prompting Firdaus to give up
prostitution and begin working at an office.
Firdaus’s friend from work. Fatheya suspects that Firdaus is in love
A male friend of Sharifa’s. Fawzy wants to take Firdaus with him and
become her pimp, but Sharifa is already making money off of Firdaus and won’t
let him. When Firdaus hears them discussing this, she flees and sets up her own
A toddler. Hala is the youngest of Firdaus’s uncle’s
children, and the only one who is kind to
One of Firdaus’s colleagues at her office, and a “revolutionary.”
Ibrahim joins Firdaus in the courtyard of the office compound one night, where
they cry together. Firdaus falls in love with him, and they have a relationship
that ends when she overhears that he is engaged to be married.
Firdaus’s teacher at secondary school. Iqbal joins Firdaus at the
school playground one night, and they cry together.
The little boy from Firdaus’s childhood, with whom she used to play
“bride and bridegroom.” This is the first time that Mohammadain and Firdaus
experience sexual pleasure.
The Prison Doctor
The doctor at Firdaus’s prison. The doctor filled out an appeal for
Firdaus (to commute her sentence from death to life imprisonment), but she
refused to sign it.
Firdaus’s uncle’s servant girl.
Sharifa Salah el Dine
A high-class prostitute who takes Firdaus in and turns her into a
prostitute. Sharifa makes a profit off of Firdaus’s body until Firdaus runs
Firdaus’s husband for a brief period of time. Sheikh Mahmoud beats
Firdaus and she flees to Bayoumi’s home.
Firdaus’s friend at school. Wafeya suspects that Firdaus is in love
with Miss Iqbal.
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!