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The Demonization Of Male Characters In Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero

ABSTRACT

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Studies abound on the phallic nature of African literature; that is, how the male writers and literary critics have dominated the African literary space, and have relegated the women to the background in the male-authored African novels. In response to this proclivity, many female African novelists have exposed the patriarchal nature of African society in their novels. However, not much study have been done on how the feminist-oriented female African novelists have deliberately demonized and bestialised the male characters in their novels in order to get even with the male novelists. This study fills this gap.

With a particular reference to Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero, it examines how several female African novelists have demonized men in their novels. The feminist theory, specifically radical feminism is our theoretically framework. Radical feminists seek to abolish patriarchy by challenging the existing social norms and institutions. The study demonstrates that the novelists in the reviewed novels, especially Nawal El Saadawi in Woman at Point Zero gives an exaggerated negative and unfair representation of men in their novels. The paper concludes that there is the need for the contemporary female African novelists to give a fair representation of women in their novels.

The Demonization Of Male Characters In Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero

INTRODUCTION

African male novelists have, over the years, reflected the patriarchal nature of the African society by painting the picture of African women as subordinate, subservient, docile and inconsequential in their literary works. This is particularly common with pioneer African novelists, notably Chinua Achebe, Peter Abraham, Cyprian Ekwensi, AyiKwei Armah, and several others. The female characters in the novels of these writers have either been outright negatively portrayed or relegated to the background. For instance, Achebe’s first four novels, Things Fall Apart (1958), No Longer At Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964) and A Man of the People(1966) showcase this trend or tendency.

 African female novelists have responded to this literary tendency which they found disturbing in two significant ways. Some, who can be described as womanists or liberal feminists, have responded by empowering the women in their novels. They do this by either subverting the norm in the African society by assigning the role of the bread winner of the family to the women or by at least endowing them with psychological depth and economic independence. Flora Nwapa’s Efuru (1966) and Idu (1976), and Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn (1987) exemplify such novels. The other set of African female novelists, who can be categorized as the radical feminists have, as their category implies been radical in their response to the African male novelists’ portrayal of women. These writers have demonized and bestialised male characters in their novels.

This set of writers provides the main plank of this study. The study examines the demonization of men in female-authored African novels with a particular reference to a discernibly feminist African novel, Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero (1983). It examines how various female African novelists across the generations have demonized and bestialised the male characters in their novels. It critically evaluates Nawal El Saadawi’s Woman At Point Zero, a work which is remarkably devoid of a single attractive male character.

The study is grounded in feminism. The radical feminist approach provided the analytical model. The word “Feminism” appeared first in France in the 1880s, Great Britain in the 1890s, and the United States of America in 1910 (Weedon,1987). It is a movement which is geared towards the advancement and emancipation of women. Also, it is an ideology which is aimed at liberating and emancipating women across the globe from oppression, marginalization, subjugation and brutalization in the hands of men. Thus, it cuts across various disciplines such as law, politics, literature, medicine, etc.

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As a distinct approach to literature, feminist criticism emerged in the late 1960s (M. H. Abrams, 2005). Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949), Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1945), and Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics (1970) are seminal works which formally articulated literary feminism.  Radical feminism is one of the major strands of feminism. Radical feminist approach roundly condemns and seeks to abolish patriarchy in different societies across the globe. In applying the approach to literary texts, the manifestations of patriarchy and the oppressive proclivities of the perpetrators of patriarchy (men) are exposed. In most cases, the male characters in such literary texts are negatively portrayed and demonized.

THE DEMONIZATION OF MEN IN FEMALE-AUTHORED AFRICAN NOVELS

In many African novels, female African novelists have demonized and bestialised the male characters who mostly champion the patriarchal order which is pervasive in most African societies. This demonization of male characters is a response to…

 

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