The Role of Women in Midaq Alley Essay

670 Words 3 Pages
Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz is a novel about a street full of colorful Egyptians coping with life towards the end of World War II. The role of women in marriage and Egyptian society is clearly shown in the novel.
The traditional gender roles in Egypt began to shift during the novel. Due to the war, women started to go work, for example Hamida's factory girl friends in Midaq Alley. Additionally, many of the women in Midaq Alley hold power over men. Husniya is strong and fierce, and reverses the common trope of domestic abuse because she beats her cowering husband. Hamida exercises power over all the men she attracts, but refuses to become servile and pregnant and thinks she deserves better than getting married and having children. Mrs.
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Mr. Alwan accuses her “of frigidity and of being sexually exhausted”. However, Salim Alwan shows no sympathy for her “obvious weakness” and does not “alter his passionate habits”. This demonstrates how the husband is the dominant one in a traditional marriage within the Egyptian culture, and that the wife is required to meet his needs, no matter how she feels about them. He considers his wife's complaining as “rebelliousness” which means he considers himself to be the master in their relationship and decides to obtain himself and new wife. This proposed wife is Hamida, and he believes that marrying a young wife will prove his virility and allow him to fulfill his needs.
However Hamida is already engaged to marry Abbas, a neighborhood barber who she really doesn't care for but who might be a ticket out of her mother's household. When he initially becomes her suitor, she is disgusted by what ordinarily constitutes the most important element of any marriage, his undying love. Mahfouz describes Hamida as realizing "this humble young man and her own greedy ambitions” were not compatible and would “ignite her natural aggressiveness and turn it into uncontrollable savagery and violence”, which foreshadows the death of Abbas. Hamida only decides to consider his marriage offer after discovering his own plans for escaping Midaq Alley; as she tries to fend off his advances, he finally utters the magic words that open up, if not her heart, at least her coldly

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