Woman at Point Zero

by Nawal El Saadawi

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In chapter 2 of Woman at Point Zero, wherein Firdaus is assaulted by a police officer who asks him to have sex with her and labels her as a prostitute, what literary devices are used, and how do these reveal the theme of misogyny and rape culture?

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In Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi, the author uses vivid sensory detail, symbolism, irony, and dialogue to construct the scene in which Firdaus is assaulted. Let's look at this more closely.

Firdaus is walking at night, and she feels detached from herself. She is not feeling the cold, and she wonders if she is walking around in another woman's body. She looks at her fingers, and they are hers. They are not changed, yet they represent a different person, someone Firdaus cannot quite identify with. She laughs, and the sound surprises her.

Then a man comes up out of the dark. Notice the symbolism here. The dark is dangerous, and the man is more so, quite ironically, since he is a policeman and should be protecting Firdaus. Instead, the man assumes that Firdaus is a sex worker, and he refuses to believe her when she says she is not. He threatens to take her to the police station. This is expressed in a dialogue with short sentences. The words and phrases are clipped and abrupt, just like this encounter.

The author skims over the actual assault with just a mention of weight. We can see from this how little Firdaus wants or enjoys what is happening to her, yet we also see her despair and her inability to stop it. Of course, the man breaks his promise to give Firdaus money, not that she wants any. He says he has none on him and dismisses her into the night in one final insult.

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