“There Is Always the Other Side, Always”: Women’s Voice and Identity in Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea and Kanafani’s Umm Saad


Published in the 1960s, Ghassan Kanafani’s Umm Saad and Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea portray a gendered image of women under the shadow of patriarchy and post-colonialism. With this in mind, this paper calls into question the differences in the representations of women’s voice and identity from the perspective of a female author and a male author. The selection of these two texts is justified by the fact that both delineate the most vibrant depictions of women, ‘the other side’, toiling to persist subsequent to the Emancipation Act in Wide Sargasso Sea, and the 1967 war in Umm Saad. The paper argues that Kanafani places the Palestinian woman, represented by Umm Saad, in a biological mold as a mother. Kanafani’s pen confiscates her freedom to have a name by associating her to her son, the protector of the motherland. Evidently, she’s deprived of having a distinctive identity as she can only be defined within the societal, patriarchal, and biological constraints. Umm Saad is coerced to have a passive role and a silenced voice in the Palestinian narrative while the dynamic influential role is an exclusive privilege of men. Conversely, Rhys attempts to contravene the established masculine rules of possessing women, silencing their voices, and monopolizing the narrative by empowering Antoinette to tell the real story of ‘the other side’. Antoinette, in contrast to Umm Saad, eventually regains her identity and finds her voice iconized by burning and demolishing Thornfield, the house of patriarchy and oppression.

Author Information
Aya Halabi, An-Najah National University, Palestine

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2021
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon