Social and Gender Standards: Tahar Jelloun's The Sand Child

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The Sand Child is a novel written about a man born a girl discovering through their sex and gender the differences held within the social norms of men and women. Ahmed, the main character and conflict, in the novel guide the reader through a story of self-discovery on the social status spectrum. In Tahar Jelloun’s novel women play an active role in accepting and portraying themselves as lower in social standards, through this the idea that gender is an individual’s compliance with typical social norms takes form. Ahmed’s mother is the first to fall into playing her stereotypical social construct after her husband; Hajji Ahmed beats her for not supplying him with an heir, a son. “One day he struck he struck her, because she had had refused to subject herself to a last, desperate ordeal…” This act shows Ahmed’s mothers weakness, a gender normative of women, compared to her husband. However instead of lashing back she accepts the fate she has put herself into. She punishes herself similar to the acts her husband acts onto her. “She, too, began to lose interest in her daughters…and struck her belly to punish herself.” At this point in the novel, it is evident that Ahmed’s mother is adjusting her own belief to match that of Hajji. His reoccurring distaste for his seven daughters has rubbed onto his wife. This compliance to accept her husband’s belief fits into that mold that says that women are not assertive and follow with what their husbands want. The next section femininity is seen in it’s natural essence is seen at the end of chapter three when Ahmed has been attacked and his father confronts him about his girlish ways. The reaction Ahmed has after being assaulted by a bunch of hooligans ties the ideas of nature and nurture toget... ... middle of paper ... ...live to that social norm, defining it more. Throughout the first half of Tahar Jelloun’s novel The Sand Child, the female characters within the novel all abide to idea that they are lower than the male figures in their lives. They suppress their feelings, thoughts, and even attacking themselves for what is not in their control but their men. The acceptance that the women hold for these actions forms the gender normative for women. Gender is defined by their actions, if they did not play the same role, the normative would change. However, since they comply, that is when the gender normative of women is created. The Sand Child uses Ahmed in his male and female aspects to point out that woman willingly accept their social standing, and therefore create their own gender stereotypes. Works Cited Jelloun, Tahar. The Sand Child. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 2000. Print

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