Gender Roles and Ideas

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Gender Roles and Ideas

The Male Character in Arab Women’s Novels:

Often in literature authors, particularly men, are criticized for falsely or inaccurately portraying or "writing" women. This debate has been historically confined to male authors, but is on occasion reversed and female authors are criticized for inaccurately writing men. Although it may sound like a fair trade—or at least the beginnings of one in the world of critics—these situations are limited to primarily European and predominately North American literature. Examining the portrayal of men and the male sex as a whole, by women, is an important if not essential undertaking in this modern world, but where is comes to a point of being absolutely crucial is when it is the women authors of a world where they are second class citizens only because of their gender. If the writing of men in Arab women’s novels can be understood at even the most basic level it may allow some insight into what these women think and assume consciously and subconsciously, about themselves and their position in society and about the inherent oppression that they deal with and resign themselves to—no matter how weak or extreme the degree of the oppression, ranging from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

The purpose of this discourse is to first, examine and delineate the manner in which Arab women novelists portray or ‘write’ men; and second, to discuss the most relevant reasons why the women write them as they do. This will be accomplished by focusing mainly on three novels written by women from Jordan and Palestine with settings form Beirut to London.

The first of these three novels is Fadia Faqir’s, Pillars of Salt. This story is set in Jordan before and during the British occupation and Mandate. The book itself is broken into a number of chapters, each shifting between the voices of "The Storyteller", Maha, and Um Saad, and Faqir’s third-person. For purposes of ease in this discourse these short chapters will be grouped into eight natural sections, as each five or six chapters between Maha and Um Saad is set off by an interlude from The Storyteller, who himself appears nine times altogether. In this book there is a large spectrum men that Faqir writes, but in terms of relevance to the topic above we will focus on the following characters to illustrate how Faqir portrays the male sex: The Storyteller, who could be argued as not being a man, but with very little success, as it is undoubtedly Faqir’s intention to have the story’s told by The Storyteller to be from a male perspective.
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