In the short story “From Behind the Veil,” written by Dhu’l Nun Ayyoub, the author changes how we feel about the main character throughout the sequencing of the plot. We as the readers learn more about how the protagonist really thinks coupled with what her motives are. The author also presents language that clearly expresses how the protagonist feels and uses examples to show an overall theme in the story.
In the exposition we meet our protagonist who is a young women of Islam who wears the traditional veil that muslim women are advised to wear under the law of the Quran were it says, “And tell the believing women to reduce some of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which necessarily appears thereof and to wrap a portion of their head covers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women.(Quran).”
Some women are not wearing veils. As readers, we come to the conclusion that the protagonist is a faithful woman of Islam. The veil is a symbol of power to women who wear it because they have the gift of modesty and can show their dedication to Allah. What is interesting is that even though the veil is supposed to cover the body and keep men from giving attention to a woman’s body, men are drawn to the women in veils because they are “enticing” and have an “alluring shape, and make the observer yearn to uncover the secrets which lie beneath them (Ayyoub 98).”
During the rising action, we continue to have the view about the protagonist that she is a “good girl” and respectable until she reveals herself to a man she finds enticing and who seems to fancy her. This contradicts what we previously thought about her. We also learn that she wants to have control of their relationship. She won’t allow the man to know her name or have any information that he could use to contact her at any time. This is an interesting exception to the stereotypical and usual relationship between a Muslim man and woman.
Usually the man would have the majority of power in the relationship, but the protagonist has made the relationship on her terms only. We also learn from the narrator that the protagonist has a strong disposition. We can conclude that she seems to exude some power . We also learn that her father thinks highly of her and feels that she is “intelligent”, “well brought up”, and “obviously knows the value of traditions and respects them.”
In the climax, we start to have a very different view of our protagonist. We learn that she might not be as genuine as we think she is. The climax is after her father reads the newspaper article a man submitted about a woman who revealed herself to him. She goes to her room and ‘talks’ to her veil stating that she despises the veil, how she uses it only to keep men away from her, she doesn’t care about her veil at all, she feels nothing for it, she defies it, and how she feels that other women say they wear the veil to preserve their virginity, honor, and good morals, but if they were honest about why they wore the veil it would be for no reason but to cover their flaws and scandals.
This is extremely surprising to the reader because from what we thought of her before she was a girl who wore the veil as a symbol of good morals when now we learn it isjust a persona that she exudes. This point of view she has toward the veil is very different from what we expect it to be and what most Islamic people’s point of view would be. We as readers now think of her as taking advantage of the veiling tradition for her own purposes instead of for religious ones. It seems as if though she wants everyone to think she wears the veil because she is faithful to Allah, when in all reality it is all staged. The only positive thought she has of her veil is that it creates a sense of anonymity and mystery even though she feels trapped underneath it.
The language the author uses to express how the protagonist really feels about the veil give you a sense of the true despise the protagonist has toward it. The author uses words such as “defy” which mean to challenge the power of, or resist boldly, showing that the protagonist is having an internal conflict with her religion. She also uses the word “despise” which means disgust. Readers really get the sense now that the protagonist has put on an act to seem like this respectable and honorable Muslim woman when really none of it matters to her. The Theme of the story is that sometimes we can feel trapped between what we feel and think and what we know is the status-quo or the excepted way of thinking and feeling. This is shown in the example of the protagonist with her father. She acts like she agrees with his thought of the veil because she knows that is what is expected and excepted when really her feelings are that the veil denies her freedom.