full title Woman at Point Zero

author Nawal El Saadawi

type of work Novel

genre Fictionalized memoir, semi-fiction

language English, translated from Arabic

time and place written 1975, Egypt

date of first publication 1975

publisher (English) Zed Books

narrators Nawal El Saadawi and Firdaus, a female prisoner

point of view The point of view is first person, but since the story is Firdaus’s story as told to Nawal El Saadawi, it seems as though there are two narrators: first Nawal, and then Firdaus. In the long section in which Firdaus explains her life so far, she is the narrator, and she is telling Nawal her story. In the explanations surrounding Firdaus’s story, Nawal is the first-person narrator.

tone Angry and bitter

tense Past

setting (time) 1950s to 1973

setting (place) Egypt (first Qanatir Prison, then a small town, then Cairo, then Qanatir Prison)

protagonists Nawal and Firdaus

major conflicts Nawal attempts to get Firdaus to relate her life story, and Firdaus struggles to attain some sort of dignity as she grows up.

rising action Nawal and Firdaus meet, Firdaus moves to Cairo with her uncle, Firdaus’s uncle marries her to Sheikh Mahmoud, Firdaus becomes a prostitute, Firdaus leaves prostitution for office work, Firdaus falls in love and is abandoned, Firdaus becomes a prostitute again

climax Firdaus kills a pimp who is trying to control her.

falling action Firdaus sleeps with a prince and tears up his money; sentenced to death for murder, Firdaus meets with Nawal and tells her her life story.

themes The connection between surveillance and ownership; the nature of power; the importance of attaining respectability

motifs Sexual pleasure; choice; captivity

symbols Money; books