As a precursor to my analysis, I should mention that ‘Woman at Point Zero’ by Nawal El Saadawi is about a woman’s story as she adapts towards an oppressive society in Egypt, eventually being put in prison where she tells her story towards an interviewer. Many have stated that ‘Woman at Point Zero’ is considered a feminist novel, but why?
Looking at the ‘Beginning Theory’ extract on feminism and how it can be utilised to critique literature, I’ve applied said knowledge to define ‘Woman at Point Zero’ by Nawal El Saadawi as a feminist novel. One portion of the extract states that “…a female phase (1920 onwards) looked particularly at female writing and female experience” (Barry). This most definitely applies towards the perspective of the book, which is more specifically a first-person perspective of both the interviewer, as well as Firdaus, the main protagonist of the novel. As the readers follow the bildungsroman format, they are subject towards the experience that Firdaus had undergone as she was a child transitioning into adulthood. The female experience is further emphasised by the “female writing” that the secondary first-person perspective achieves. The concept that a woman is rediscovering and sharing another woman’s life story shows an element of sisterhood that allows for women to be supportive of each other and generate a positive message in terms of femininity.
Secondly, another portion of ‘Beginning Theory’ states that feminist critics should analyse text for “[examining] power relations which obtain in texts and in life, with a view to breaking them down, seeing reading as a political act, and showing the extent of patriarchy,” as well as “[raising] the question of whether men and women are ‘essentially’ different because of biology, or are socially constructed as different (Barry). These two points, out of 12, are most important in terms of critiquing ‘Woman at Point Zero’ as Saadawi does use the book to explore such dynamics in contemporary society. In the modern that we live in today, Saadawi exposes such experiences that some women still have to undergo in societies that do support (to an extent) woman’s rights through law, yet still oppresses them through daily interactions. Changing the mentality is quite the challenge, even as Saadawi mentions the equality and hardships that woman face are equal, if not even more, sacrificing than men. In Saadawi’s novel, Firdaus had to subject herself towards degrading work, even if it gave her the false sense of security or power. Despite this, Firdaus was not acknowledged as an honest worker by men, and thus was rejected as a women, highlighting the stubbornness of social constructs by men against women.
After ‘performing’ my second Lit IO (and my first live performance) to my english teacher, I can confidently say that I came out more satisfied than my first performance without even knowing my scores. I felt that the actual guidance and preparation resources that Mr. Dalton provided us really gave me a good idea of what a good IO should be like, and thus gave me a solid foundation for what my IO was going to be like.
I was most happy/satisfied with my development of ideas, and how I kept linking it back towards my global issues. At some times, I felt like I repeated the GI way too many times, but looking back I realise that perhaps saying it that many times allowed for the teacher to connect my points with my main idea easier. Also generally, one thing that I was both surprised and happy with was how natural the whole process flowed over 10 minutes. Before, I didn’t have much actual practice, just looking at the bullet points and imagining what my points were going to be fleshed out. I did do one full practice IO the day before, which did help me include one or two points that I was missing.
I guess not only more full process practices are needed for me, but also the analysis of the actual text and its context and literary elements. After the presentation, I learned that the format of the IO is very similar to how a paper works, and therefore I’ve concluded that next time I should adhere towards said parameters. One thing would be to signpoint what and when I was going to address regarding the work or text, and the other would be to explore more of the literary elements, and see how they reflect the global issue. Overall, however, I am very satisfied with this IO round and I really do want to continue improving my performances as the year progresses.
In Jeanette Winterson’s “Oranges are not the Only Fruit”, we are put into the first-person perspective of the author’s semi-autobiographical narrator, a reflection of Winterson’s own past. Much like the Bible’s actual chapter, ‘Genesis’ in Winterson’s novel is the first chapter which not only establishes the characters within the novel, but also gives a religious background towards the story that is to follow.
Early on within the chapter, us as readers are given a couple of lists that determine the foundations of Jeanette’s childhood and life. In the Bible, we have a list, or rather, a series of days in which God himself supposedly created the universe, another list that created the foundation of the world. This also goes further one more step, with the establishment on the first page of “Oranges” being the definite list of what is good and bad. In Genesis of the Bible, the establishment of good and bad is shown through the Devil (snake) and God in the Garden of Eden.
Having said this, the book, and especially the chapter, lends itself to establish the contrast between Jeanette’s self/beliefs and the biblical scripture. Thus, by taking the title of the chapter of the Bible and creating a parallel structure of Jeanette’s discovery of individualism against Christianity as opposed towards the Bible’s goal of self-discovery through religion, Winterson utilises her chapter Genesis as an introduction of how “Oranges” is quite the opposite of religious devotion. Instead, her dismissal of the Bible and religion in the chapter establish motifs of how she tries to integrate her contrasting personal life with the religion bestowed upon her.