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In the novels, “Woman at Point Zero” by Nawal El Saadawi and “Three Sisters” by Anton Checkhov, the body is used as a tool to achieve certain goals for the characters of Firdaus and Natasha. Firdaus, a young girl who grows up in a world that is ruled by men, must use her body as a means of survival, leading her to prostitution. Where as Natasha uses her body to work her way up the social ladder of aristocratic life in pre-Revolutionary Russia.
In “Woman at Point Zero”, Firdaus has to use her body as means of survival. She is brought up in a society that is dominated by the male gender, and is used repeatedly by “them” (the male population) until she gets her revenge. Her revenge comes in the murder of a pimp, who like all the men in this novel want to have control over her. Firdaus’ problems begin at an early age, with her father. Her father is described as a cold heartless man, only content when his stomach is full and when his wife slaves for him.
Firdaus, being very young and growing up in a poor family, does not speak out against her father, yet she notices the mistreatment her mother endures whilst her father doesn’t work too much yet manages to eat and sleep well. Further in the book, Firdaus is sent away with her uncle and manages to live with him for the time being. She enjoys his company, and can be seen to be in love with him.
He eventually goes off and marries someone else and Firdaus is used as a slave. She goes on to earn her secondary school certificate and an honorary diploma for finishing so highly.
With these two honors, Firdaus’ aspirations of working are born. Sadly, as we find out, her aspirations are never fulfilled, because in every situation, a man manages to try and take advantage of Firdaus. Somewhat like her dealings with Ibrahim; Ibrahim worked in the same building as Firdaus, and they shared a “special relationship”, one in which Fridaus was in love with a man who acted as if he loved her too, but actually did not. Since Firdaus cannot earn money in a “respectable” way, her last resort is prostitution.
We find Firdaus living a much nicer life, she can afford a nice flat, fashionable clothes, and a meal three times a day. Firdaus manages to become quite a successful prostitute, yet all the while we know that she prefers to earn her money more respectably. Her use of her own body, just to eat, shows the desperation that Firdaus faces. Her body becomes a tool, yet an essential tool to survive, only utilized in these dire circumstances, due to the fact that Firdaus, being a woman, cannot achieve her goals.
In light of what has been said, Natasha from Anton Checkhov’s “Tree Sisters” uses her body, yet again as a tool, but a tool that is employed to procure her own ends. Natasha marries Andrey, the brother of the famous “Three Sisters”; Irena, Masha, and Olga. At first we find Natasha to be timid, unfashionable, and obviously from a lower class when compared to the Serghyeevna family and their “old friends”. Natasha manages to have Andrey fall in love with her and furthermore marry her. Well as it turns out, we find Andrey to be less and less happy as the play furthers itself.
This marriage to Natasha has caused a great many things to change around the house. Natasha now feels that she has some sort of ownership towards the property and its inhabitants. At the beginning of Act 2, we already find Natasha dictating to Andrey what must be done around the house, and not really paying any attention towards his input. Andrey’s reaction to his newly wed wife is shown somewhat through his dialogues with Ferapont. He tells Ferapont that eventhough he has a free day tomorrow, he wants to spend it at the office.
He is “so bored at home! ” He later continues by saying that he must talk to someone “but my wife doesn’t seem to understand me, and as for my sisters… I’m afraid of them… ” Andrey is married and has friends all around him, yet he is alone, because either nobody understands him or cares to listen. Later that day, Natasha again presents us with her ignorance when she tells Soliony that “even tiny babies understand what we say perfectly well! ” This idiotic comment further shows her humble upbringing and that she does not belong amongst these people.
She further shows herself to be misfit with the rest of the party, when she stumbles through a few lines in French that she had obviously learned to impress. Not only does she sound stupid, the desired effect failed, and in retrospect produced the opposite effect. The Baron (Toozenbach) suppresses laughter as he hears these lines. Not taking the hint from the Baron, Natasha continues her blunderings and eventually leaves. That evening, the evening of the carnival, Andrey tells the guests that they must leave on the behalf of Bobik and Natasha.
Masha speaks out and says to Irena, “It isn’t Bobik who’s not well, it’s her… There!… [Taps her forehead with her finger. ] Petty little bourgeois housewife! ” This shows that there is a general discord with Natasha’s presence. The guests leave, and so does Andrey, taking the first opportunity he can to get away. Natasha then confronts Irena, and tells her that Bobik must have her room. Once again, we find Natasha controlling others around her. It is even more outrageous due to the fact that this is not her house, but the house of the sisters and their brother.
After this dictation, Protopopov calls for Natasha to come and join him in a ride in a troika. This is really the beginning of the end for Andrey, his wife is now going on a date with his boss, and there really is not much he will be able to do about it from now on. From now on, Andrey is stuck in the middle of this relationship between his wife and his boss. This ordeal continues through the duration of the play. Through this play, Natasha manages to start with very little and end up being the true victor. She starts off as truly middle-class and ends up messing around with the local board’s chairman.
Her use of her body to climb the social ladder proves to be quite effective, yet dishonorable. Andrey only now, truly knows what Natasha is, he calls her “an animal” and goes even as far as to say that he does not love her anymore. Their relationship deteriorates through the course of the play. Andrey gives us the audience a glimpse into his true feelings about his marriage in the line, “The wives deceive their husbands, and the husbands lie to their wives, and pretend they don’t see anything and don’t hear anything… ”
In this line, this single line, we see the torture that Andrey has to endure, all because he married the wrong woman. A woman who manipulates and uses her body to better herself and not concern herself with the problems of others. Although, we find both of these women to be in fairly dishonorable positions, our pity lies with Firdaus. Firdaus never truly used people that cared for her and that’s what makes her the better of the two. Natasha’s neglect of Andrey is inexcusable. Natasha can easily be called a calculated, cold hearted bitch.
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