What is the connection to rape and feminism in "Nomad and Viper" by Amos Oz?

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huntress eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story's main character, Geula, is a 29-year-old unmarried woman, although the narrator repeatedly refers to her as a "girl," suggesting a patriarchal assumption that females are not mature adults until married. He portrays her as a smart woman, probably smarter and more mature than himself. In Part III, he notes that they'd once been friends, walking in the orchard together where they "would exchange unconventional political ideas or argue about the latest books." She was a "merciless critic," pointing out the "extreme polarity of situations, scenery, and characters, with no intermediate shades between black and white," suggesting that her understanding of reality and human nature was more nuanced than his, her understanding more informed and mature. 

Despite her intelligence, her usefulness in the kibbutz seems limited to her ability to make great coffee and perhaps contribute "good will" to kibbutz meetings. She is undervalued and bitter, and apparently considered undesirable by her fellow Hebrews, having an acne problem. 

When she meets the Arab nomad in the orchard, he is unfailingly polite to her and she is drawn to him. He shares a cigarette with her and they exchange pleasantries, but when he turns to pray--it being that time of day--she rudely interrupts his prayer to tell him that he has no girl yet because he's "still too young." Laughing and suggestively "embracing her hips" with her own hands, she says, "What do you think I am? What do you want here, anyway?" The nomad replies and then "a note of terror fill[s] his voice" and runs away with his flock of sheep. We aren't told what has passed between them, but the implications are that she has in some way come on to him and it frightens him. 

After he leaves, she's alone in the orchard, she is struck by panic but we aren't told why. Perhaps she is afraid he'll tell. She found him "repulsively handsome"; she is both attracted to him and repulsed, and she seems disgusted by her own conflicting reactions. When she is back at the kibbutz, she retells the story her own way, changing it each time. First, she imagines that she was kind and he tried to rape her "like a wild beast" and she ran away; second, she imagines his "black fingers" going for her throat, and how she had to bite and kick to get away. All of this is in her mind, and it reflects her confused feelings from the encounter. 

She has not been raped but may later relate a story in which she condemns the nomad, if only to condone the actions of the "lynch mob" of young kibbutz men who leave as she is lying behind the Memorial Hall. She is trying to "not hate him and wish him dead," but why? Perhaps because he ran from her, rejecting her, for which a rape story would be the perfect revenge. 

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Nomad and Viper

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