In both Woman at Point Zero by Nawal el Saadawi and Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, the narrative point of view is used to inform the reader of the political and socio-cultural context of the situation in which the protagonists find themselves. The narrative voice supports the way we react to certain issues within the texts. Narrative point of view is communicated to the reader in a variety of ways; including authorial intrusion, use of imagery and the way the narrator selects the anecdotes, themes and settings. Esquivel’s narrator is the great- niece of the protagonist, and el Saadawi’s narrator is herself, the psychiatrist who tells the story of Firdaus embedded in her story. In both instances one would expect the narrator to be biased towards the protagonists because of their special relationship with the protagonists.Order now
Both writers successfully portray the traditional oppression of women through their imagery and hyperbole. A few of the obvious forms of imagery used are: gustatory imagery, thermal imagery and visual imagery. In Saadawi’s work the oppression is embedded within the Islamic traditions as well as the lack of gender equality. In Esquivel’s work there is an obvious lack of gender equality, however the aspect of traditional oppression that most affects Tita, is the burden of family tradition.
In Saadawi’s novel, hyperbole is used to accentuate the inequality, which the Egyptian women face. Through this hyperbole el Saadawi is able to communicate the harshness of society to the reader. (example of hyperbole here) In Esquivel’s work, hyperbole is used to emphasise the point and capture the reader’s attention. “The house became a battlefield. Slammed doors were the order of the day”. This emphasises the anger that was circling the house. Gustatory imagery is a key aspect to both novels and supports both authors in successfully portraying the oppression of women. In Saadawi’s novel food represents the inequality of gender; apparent through the fact that women are always being left to eat the scraps. When Firdaus is able to pay for her own meal, it is obvious that she is radiant with joy and excitement. The fact that she is only able to pay for this meal due to prostitution does not reduce her pleasure in her newfound independence. “I realised this was the first time in my life I was eating without being watched by those two eyes gazing into my plate to see how much food I took”.
To Firdaus, this meal represented freedom. In Esquivel’s work the structure is based upon twelve recipes (with one recipe at the beginning of each chapter), which are metaphors for what you can expect throughout the chapter. It is evident that the way Tita produces and presents her food depends on her emotions. When she is joyful, her food is flamboyant and tasteful but when she is upset, her food is dull and sour. The representation of food also has a major role in Esquivel’s novel, as the title is a Mexican expression that refers to the making of hot chocolate, in heating it boils vigorously, so an extremely agitated person is said to be “like water for chocolate”. An example of this is when Tita was preparing a meal whilst being disturbed by all the events occurring in the house; “Tita was literally ‘like water for chocolate’ – she was on the verge of boiling over.”
Repetition is used in both novels to show the importance of certain events in the lives of the characters and their importance to the central themes. For example, in el Saadawi’s novel, we are constantly told of how Firdaus faced relentless child abuse and how she was persistently mistreated by men. And in Esquivel’s work, the repetition is used to develop the structure of the novel, as the novel is set out into twelve different sections, which all begin with recipes. This initiates the repetition of food throughout the novel. It is obvious that one of the central ideas in Esquivel’s novel is the emotional tie people have to food. Esquivel uses repetition to convey this theme; the most obvious form of repetition within the story is the structure of the novel. Esquivel also commonly speaks of how Tita grew up making and preparing food, and that as a young girl she would stay in the kitchen with the family’s chef, watching and learning how to cook. Esquivel also frequently shows how the aromas and tastes of the food affect the feelings of the household.
This is repetitively re-stated in order to support the central idea of the novel. In Saadawi’s novel, repetition successfully emphases how punishing Firdaus’ childhood was. This repetition is an interpretation of el Saadawi’s bias, and it shows how she is constantly trying to portray the central idea of the novel, being the oppression of women. Saadawi commonly speaks of how her father was very abusive and never gave any of his family members anything, including a sufficient amount of food. Saadawi also continually speaks of Firdaus’ obsession of looking deep into the eyes of everyone, and how Firdaus could distinguish between people by simply looking into their eyes. Saadawi commonly refers to the two eyes, because it displays how Firdaus is not able to trust anyone, after all the mistreatment she has faced. It also portrays the evil in the eyes of the men and the fear in the eyes of the women. “Those eyes were not the same eyes that were there to catch me when I fell”. This quote is from when Firdaus was describing how she could tell that the lady her father said was her mother, did not have the same eyes, as the woman she remembered to be her mother, and therefore did not evoke the same emotional response and feelings of safety.
The authorial intrusion in both novels plays a key role in the way the reader interprets the story. Due to the issues that were occurring in Egypt at the time Saadawi wrote her novel, it is obvious that Saadawi had a political view of feminism, which she demonstrated through feminist principles in her portrayal of the protagonist’s responses to certain situations she experienced in her life as an oppressed Egyptian woman. Esquivel wrote her novel in revolutionary Mexico, during the turn of the 18th/19th century. The narrator’s point of view is that the protagonist should not be bound by strict family rules, which have always prevailed in Mexico. Esquivel uses the fact that society is changing so quickly in the political sense to show this inconsistency between the society in general and private lives. In both novels the way in which the authors select the anecdotes is a key contributor in displaying their opinions. The fact that the authors have the ability to add any information they see fit, and can also supress information they do not want the readers to see, means that they can further increase their bias and affect the opinions of the reader.
To conclude, the way both authors use specific crafts to enhance the key ideas of the novels is supported by the narrative point of view. This point of view is relatively biased, due to the circumstances the novels were written under. However, this bias is somewhat irrelevant because even looked at independently the circumstances of the times invited the same stance as that taken by the authors.