Woman at Point Zero

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Characters Sharifa

Sharifa is the high-class prostitute who finds Firdaus sitting by the Nile after her escape from Bayoumi’s house. Sharifa takes Firdaus to her luxurious home, and it occurs to Firdaus for the first time that she could one day have a home of her own and be surrounded by nice things. Sharifa, through her confidence and the skillful application of makeup, helps Firdaus see that she has beauty and strength. Unfortunately, Sharifa shows her these things in order to make her more appealing to the men to whom Sharifa hopes to sell Firdaus’s body. Though she takes Firdaus under her wing in order to earn more money, Sharifa does act as a mother figure to Firdaus, and it is under Sharifa’s care that it first occurs to Firdaus that she might be able to live without the protection of a man. Like Firdaus’s own mother, Sharifa both supports and undermines Firdaus. Under Sharifa, Firdaus is reborn as an attractive woman aware of the power that she has over men. But like Firdaus’s mother, Sharifa is jealous of the attention men give to Firdaus, and seeks to control her.

Eventually, Firdaus realizes that she has to leave Sharifa. This realization comes because she needs to make her own money and determine the course of her own destiny. In addition, Sharifa’s imagination is constrained by a patriarchal society in a way in which Firdaus’s is not. Sharifa only wants money and a comfortable life, and is willing to play the game that powerful men have set up in order to attain these things. Sharifa is more charming with the men who come to visit, and more eager to please. This is because she still believes herself to be, in some respect, a supplicant, lucky to get whatever money men throw her way. Firdaus wants to be comfortable, but she also wants power of her own. Firdaus begins by emulating Sharifa, but it is only after Firdaus leaves Sharifa that she realizes that as a prostitute, she commands power over men, not the other way around.