Fictionalized memoir, semi-fiction


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.



Setting (time) 

1950s to 1973

Setting (place) 

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


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


Firdaus kills a pimp who is trying to control her.

Falling Action 

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