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Distant View of a Minaret

Characters

The Wife, “My World of the Unknown”

Characters The Wife, “My World of the Unknown”

The narrator, the wife of a government official, never explicitly indicates that her marriage to her husband is unsatisfying, but because she is so easily seduced by the snake-spirit that inhabits their home, she reveals the extent of her unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The snake provides fulfillment in every capacity. She satisfies the narrator sexually, lavishes her with youth and vitality, and takes her to hidden spirit worlds. The adventure of the relationship completely eclipses her domestic life. However, the narrator is initially ambivalent about the snake. She is attracted to the snake, then she tells her husband to board up the house’s cracks so the snake can’t enter, then she yearns for the snake. Her request to her husband is significant. Though the snake is female, it has a phallic form, and it eventually replaces the husband in the role of sexual partner. When the wife asks her husband to help keep the snake out, she is making a final attempt to impel him to take action before she seeks sexual fulfillment in other ways. Later, when the wife stops up the cracks in the wall, it is in a playful, teasing way, which illustrates how she has changed from being fearful of her sexuality to embracing it.

In the narrator’s fantasy world of passionate sexual fulfillment, adventurous romping through other worlds, and love with a companion who is considerate and giving, we find the model of an ideal relationship—the only clear representation of an ideal relationship in all of Rifaat’s stories. Though the events are likely only products of the narrator’s imagination, it shows a true understanding of what characterizes fulfillment in marriage.