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The Use Of Personal Relationships To Represent Cultural Oppression Of Women In The Story Of Zahra By Hannah Al Shaykh And So Long A Letter By Mariama B

1445 words - 6 pages

In the novels The Story of Zhara by Hanan al-Shaykh and So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ, personal relationships are used to highlight the oppression of women in different cultures. Relationships, in each novel, show female oppression in different cultures, how oppression is fought and how it is escaped. Both novels show the reader the reality of female oppression and its effects on women’s lives. Using relationships between characters is an effective way to achieve this shared theme of female oppression in each novel.Both al-Shaykh and Bâ show the reader different cultures and how women are oppressed by its traditions. The marriage of Zahra’s parents, Fatmé and Ibrahim, is used in The Story of Zahra in order to show the reader the horrors of patriarchy in Lebanese culture. The couple represents a traditional Lebanese marriage: Ibrahim being the head of the household while Fatmé the housewife. Ibrahim is described in the novel as “…always brutal. His appearance seemed to express his character: a frowning face, a Hitler-like moustache… He had a stubborn personality. He saw life in black and white” (The Story of Zahra by Hanan al-Shaykh. Page 24). Ibrahim is portrayed as a symbol of the standard patriarchal husband in Lebanon: cruel and ignorant. A scene created by al-Shaykh is described on page 15 of her novel: “My mother was sprawled on the kitchen floor as my father, in his khaki suit, his leather belt in one hand was beating her. In the other hand he held a Qur’an” (The Story of Zahra by Hanan al-Shaykh. Page 15). This quote shows the reader the reality of patriarchy in Lebanese culture and the physical and emotional pain that it can cause. Fatmé and Ibrahim were created by al-Shaykh in order to represent the standard Lebanese marriage and to demonstrate the harsh reality that is patriarchy in Lebanon. In So Long a Letter, Bâ likewise uses Moudo’s polygamous marriage to Binetou in order to show the effects of polygamy on women in African cultures. When Ramatoulye receives the news that her husband Moudo has married a second wife she thinks to herself “I acquiesced under the drops of poison that were burning me: ‘A quarter of a century of marriage’, ‘a wife unparalleled’ ” (So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ. Page 37). Moudo’s second marriage is described as physically and emotionally crushing for Ramatoulye, but because it is an accepted African tradition, Ramatoulye is incapable of fighting the marriage and forces herself to “check my inner agitation … Smile, take the matter lightly, just as they announced it” (So Long a Letter by Mariama Bâ. Page 38). Even though Ramotoulye believes that polygamy is a dated and unjust, she must stifle her pain because it is an accepted African tradition. Bâ demonstrates the effects of polygamy on and African woman through the Ramatoulye’s response to...

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