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Women's Fight for Gender Equality in Midaq Alley

Naguib Mahfouz’s novel, Midaq Alley, is a story about a group of folks living in an alley in Egypt in the 1940’s. Currently, from that description, the reader can see that the females of this tale have a significant disadvantage in equality. Surprisingly sufficient, the females prove to be extremely strong, independent, and powerful, in spite of the novel’s setting and time. But, is that altogether true? There are many situations where the women rise above and take things for themselves when they want it. They beat their husbands, call the guys out on their sins, swindle their way toward a greater rank, and attempt to escape the reality of their alley life, yet, no matter their dominance, they are usually defeated or put back in their place by the male characters of the book. Midaq Alley is a representation of feminism in the 1940’s, signifying that even in a male-led society in Africa, girls can and will do what it takes to be equal, or, in a sense, be the dominant sex. Ladies have powerful attributes that permit them to do this, but, in the finish, their powers turn out to be their personal downfall, simply because it is nonetheless a male-led society.

Midaq Alley entails the stories of a lot of individuals living in the alley, but, arguably, the main concentrate is on the character of Hamida, an independent and ambitious young lady living with her foster mother. She is described as a very pretty girl with “black, gorgeous eyes, the pupils and whites of which contrasted in a most striking and desirable way.” (Mahfouz 14). But, “…she could take on an appearance of strength and determination which was most unfeminine.” (Mafouz 14). It is really evident that the narration of Hamida’s beauty is written from a male point of view, drawing out the way Hamida uses or, perhaps to state it a lot more clearly, does not use her femininity to prove her feminist way. In his post, “Narrating the marginalized Oriental female: silencing the colonized Subaltern,” Saddik Gohar states that “Even in episodes in which [Hamida] was given concentrate, the readers see her via the spectacles of the male imperial narrator embodying the voice of the author or by means of the eyes of the male characters in the novel” (Gohar 52). Currently we can see how Hamida’s sexually pleasing attributes sway the narrator and the male character’s even before she starts her journey or proves the descriptions we see of her. As an established stunning and strong woman in this alley, Hamida’s story is revealed. She has a difficult time discovering a husband that suits her independent approaches and want for wealth above enjoy and affection. She longs to marry for riches, and she hates the notion of the domestic life of raising young children. “…the most frequently stated issue about her was that she hated kids and that this unnatural trait made her wild and entirely lacking in the virtues of femininity” (Mahfouz 22). She wants to see the planet, but the only way she can feel of following her dreams is to marry a rich man. In this era and place, that genuinely is her only escape. She wishes she had been educated as a young child like the Jewish girls in her town, but, “her age and ignorance had deprived her of their opportunities” (Mahfouz 22). According to Sheridene Barbara Oersen, in her thesis essay from the University of the Western Cape, the feminist movement of western culture was just spreading its wings toward the East, announcing that ladies are capable of getting a proper education. It soon became policy, but in Oersen’s words, “government policy and societal beliefs are seldom harmonious and most households did not see the necessity of obtaining their daughters educated.

The vital aspect of raising a girl was to ensure that she would make a great wife, and since Hamida is from the poorest class of society, she has not been afforded the opportunity of a simple education” (Oersen 62). Since of Hamida’s independence and unfeminine-like attitude, she soon realizes that she can take her life into her own hands. When she is discussing marriage with her mother, she says, “I am not the a single who is chasing marriage, but marriage is chasing me. I will give it a great run, as well!” (Mahfouz 15). This indicates that she feels trapped in a predicament that she desires to get out of. She feels as if she is above the alley and the individuals that reside there. She very first reluctantly accepts a proposal from Abbas, the barber, soon after he promises to get a job outside the alley, but later in the book, she finds other means of escaping her alley prison. She, and other women in the book, escape their plights by employing their cunning deception and sexual charm. Hamida, when starting her really like affair with Abbas, finds techniques to manipulate the man so she can get what she desires. She deceives the one particular that actually loves her, since she knows he will not give her the wealth and adventure she longs for. She forces him into leaving the spot he enjoys living in and to becoming a man he wasn’t meant to be. Stephanie Hasenfus puts it really merely in her report, “Destroy or Be Destroyed: Contending with Toxic Social Structures in Naguib Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley.” She states, “[Hamida] transforms marriage into a tactical endeavor from which she hopes to maximize potential luxury in her life” (Hasenfus 99). Hamida does this by purposefully displaying her beauty and comparing herself to other ladies. According to the text: “She was effectively aware of her attire a faded cotton dress, an old cloak and shoes with timeworn soles. Nevertheless, she draped her cloak in such a way that it emphasized her ample hips and her complete and rounded breasts. The cloak revealed her trim ankles, on which she wore a bangle it also exposed her black hair and attractive bronze face” (Mahfouz 21-22). And, “She walked along with her companions, proud in the knowledge of her beauty, impregnable in the armor of her sharp tongue, and pleased that the eyes of passersby settled on her a lot more than on the others” (Mahfouz 23). Hamida is not only a lovely girl with an unfeminine attitude, but she also knows how to attract men with these attributes. Hasenfus powerfully acknowledges this by saying, “For Hamida, remaining single inevitably indicates letting old age steal her beauty although she remains stranded in the alley. She recognizes that her beauty is her only advantage, her only source of energy. Her beauty makes it possible for her to seduce men, and thereby, to control them” (Hasenfus 99). Along with sexual charm, females have other techniques of proving themselves superior to males in the novel.

Beauty is a strong asset employed to dominate, but being in a position to tactfully use it as a ruse for the ultimate aim calls for cunning and deceptive strength. In Hamida’s story, we already know that she is independent, robust, and deceptive with one particular goal in thoughts: to marry a man outdoors of the alley that has riches beyond evaluate. Hasenfus explains even though describing Hamida’s objectives and modernity of her methods that “in this forward-pondering style, she transforms marriage into a tactical endeavor from which she hopes to maximize prospective luxury in her life” (Hasenfus 99). It is no mystery how Hamida cunningly deceives the guys around her. Her beauty is used in a clever show of her dominance. Abbas is determined to marry her, and, simply because of her desire for riches, he feels obligated to leave the alley to operate for the British Army though he is quite content material with how items are. In the novel, Hamida is only interested in his proposed idea of working in the war to acquire a lot more cash, and “if he had been successful he could definitely give some of the issues she craved. A disposition like hers, no matter how rebellious and unmanageable, could be pacified and tamed with money” (Mahfouz 46). Hamida is a prime instance of a lady employing deception to get what she desires, but she is not the only lady in the alley. But yet another woman uses tact to attain her objective, regardless of her rising age. Miss Afify and Umm Hamida trick a younger man into marrying Miss Afify by getting her gold teeth and giving the man a younger picture of herself.

Miss Afify is an aging widow that not too long ago decided to marry when once more. The text does not specify specifically why she has decided this, but Oersen, has an astounding way of hunting at it. She says, “It appears that more than the years, Mrs Saniyya Afify has discovered herself increasingly isolated from society. In spite of her wealth, she has no social status simply because she is an unmarried lady.” (Oersen 57). This tends to make a lot of sense when seeking at girls at the time. Women in that time and location could be really wealthy and prosperous, but without becoming married, they lack the title of a prosperous individual. A title comes with a man, so, to have a higher spot in society, a woman must be married. Sadly, Oersen relays that, “Through the character of Mrs Afify, it can be assumed that even wealth and the a lot of political alterations in favour of women are not enough to crush classic societal mores” (Oersen 58). Saniyya Afify achieves this marriage a comical and unconventional way, nevertheless. Since she lacks her youthful beauty, she and Umm Hamida come up with a strategy to deceive the match Umm Hamida found for her. The two start by discussing the man and his job and wealth. Then Umm Hamida says that he wanted a image of Miss Afify, to which this dialogue takes place: The widow fidgeted and her face blushed as she stated, “Why, I haven’t had my image taken in a long time.” “Don’t you have an old photo?” She nodded toward a image on the bookcase in the middle of the room. Umm Hamida leaned over and examined it cautiously. The photo have to have been far more than six years old, taken at a time when Mrs. Afify nonetheless had some fullness and life in her. She looked at the image then back at its topic. “A quite good likeness. Why, it may well have been taken only yesterday.” “May God reward you generously,” sighed Mrs. Afify. Umm Hamida place the photograph, with its frame, into her pocket and lit the cigarette offered her (Mahfouz 64). Not only are they giving the man an old photo of Miss Afify, but Umm Hamida also tells him that she is in her 40’s and not the late 50’s age she is. Along with this deception, Mrs. Afify buys a set of golden teeth to cover the truth that her teeth have been rotting and falling out with her age.

For her part, Hamida not only deceives Abbas in the starting, cunningly sending him off to make riches for herself, but also deceives him later soon after she becomes a prostitute. Gohar says that “when she encountered Abbas in part thirty-two, she cunningly moved him against Farag in order to get rid of each males according to critical allegations” (Gohar 56). Hamida wishes to get out of her situation, yet, she is disgusted by the believed of going back to the alley and living with Abbas for the rest of her life. Her deceptive strength takes a hold of her, and she, when again, brings Abbas to carrying out some thing he would in no way do. Hussain tries to warn Abbas, and being like a brother to Hamida, he can see via her beauty and deception. Oersen says, Hussain’s reaction is harsh but totally in line with conventional social values…. Abbas feels that the man must be punished and though Hussain agrees, his absolute disgust with Hamida is expressed as follows: ‘Why didn’t you murder her? If I have been in your position, I wouldn’t have hesitated a minute. I’d have throttled her on the spot and then butchered her lover and disappeared…That’s what you should have done, you fool! [Mahfouz,1992: 279]’” (Oersen 59). Hamida’s deception can only go so far, and, although it operates on Abbas, Hussain is immune to it. There is an additional man that is immune to Hamida’s deceptive ways, and he leads us into the last section, revealing how although girls in the novel try to be the dominant sex, they ultimately fail due to societal customs and beliefs. This man is Ibraham Farah. Hamida is the most prominent crucial to seeing the strength the girls of this culture possess. She represents Egypt as a entire, and enables Farah to take benefit of her just to prove how robust she is. In permitting the man to dominate her every single moment, she feels she is getting the upper hand and becoming the dominant a single in the relationship. She, like numerous women, utilizes her body and sexual charm to lord more than men, and, in return, she soon realizes her error.

To get on best in the society that the novel depicts, ladies must sacrifice one thing. This could incorporate freedom, virginity, innocence, happiness, morality, or dignity. Hamida loses her virginity, morality, and innocence when she runs off with Ibraham, although she feels she is dominant in the predicament. She desires love from him, but all she gets is his enjoy for the income she is creating him. She tries to tie him down, but he will not have it, and, in return, she falls into his trap. Gohar states that Hamida believed [Farah] fell in enjoy with her like other folks and was intoxicated by his warm words: ‘This is not your quarter, nor are these folks relatives of yours. You are completely distinct. You do not belong here at all. How can you reside among these folks? Who are they compared to you? You are a princess in a shabby cloak’ (143) (Gohar 55). Sadly, Hamida is merely getting what she dished out to Abbas. Farah woos her with his type words, promises, and wealth, bringing her to her ultimate downfall. No matter what the girls of the novel do, however, the social order of the time and location basically can not let a woman to dominate. It was clear from the starting that Hamida would not get her way, and if she did, she would shed component of herself, but why was this so evident? Bede Scott, in his write-up, “’A Raging Sirocco’: Structures of Dysphoric Feeling in Midaq Alley,” sheds some light on the issue. He says: “The intervention of colonial modernity in the novel radically destabilizes the old social order, however with no implementing a new order that can be effortlessly comprehended by the characters or assimilated into their lives. And because they are unable to realize completely the processes of transformation they are undergoing, due to the fact these processes are not completely visible to their consciousness, several of the characters internalize a vague sense of social crisis which eventually resurfaces in the kind of displaced anger” (Scott 33). Simply because this time in Egypt is a huge moment in the transition between the old approaches and the new methods, the men and women of Midaq Alley are agitated. They extended for the new, but can't let go of the old. The girls face this in a way the men do not recognize. They see progress and comprehend that this is their time to show their true colors, however, simply because the guys are still tied to old cultural traditions, the ladies get no further in their pursuit of equality.

Women, specifically Hamida, in the novel Midaq Alley, are faced with a growing sense of the outside planet, and a newfound indicates to reach their objectives and uncover dominance in a relationship with a man. No matter the way they attempt, even so, society can not allow them to reach these heights, and places them back down in a domestic circumstance, cooking and cleaning and raising kids just as they have often accomplished. Women have sturdy attributes that permits them to uncover techniques around these societal norms, but, in the finish, a worthwhile component of a lady can be lost when they try such feats.

Operates Cited

Gohar, Saddik. “Narrating the marginalized Oriental female: silencing the colonized subaltern.” Acta Neophilologica, vol. 48, no. 1-two, 2015, pp. 49–66., doi:10.4312/an.48.1- 2.49-66. Hasenfus, Stephanie. “Destroy or Be Destroyed: Contending with Toxic Social Structures in Naguib Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley.” The Oswald Review: An International Journal ofUndergraduate Analysis and Criticism in the Discipline of English, vol. 15, no. 1, 1 Jan. 2015, pp. 95–108. The United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. Accessible at: http://scholarcommons.sc.edu/tor/vol15/iss1/7 Mahfuz, Najib. Midaq Alley. Translated by Trevor Li Gassick, The American University in Cairo Press, 1966. Oersen, Sheridene Barbara. “The representation of girls in four of Naguib Mahfouzs realist novels: Palace stroll, Palace of desire, Sugar street and Midaq alley.” The University of the Western Cape, The University of the Western Cape, 2006. Scott, Bede. ““A Raging Sirocco”: Structures of Dysphoric Feeling in Midaq Alley.” Journal of Arabic Literature, vol. 42, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 29–48., doi:ten.1163/157006411×575792.
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