Children Of The New World Essay

1533 words - 7 pages

Children of the New World: Acting out “The role of Algerian women in their own society has rarely been what it has seemed” (Heggoy 1). Prior to the Algerian war, women in Algerian society were under patriarchal rule and, under such rule, were expected to meet certain expectations. Among other rules and regulations, Algerian women were prohibited from being outside their home unaccompanied and were required to keep themselves heavily “veiled” at all times. They were not to question the authority of the Algerian men, especially the ones in their family. Despite these limitations, Algerian women found a place in the revolution. Although it sometimes meant defying their status quo as women in ...view middle of the document...

While her lie may seem rather insignificant, it actually sheds much light on notions of identity and collective struggle. Youssef (as local politician) serves as a representation of the Algerian people as well as their collective struggle for independence against the French. Amna’s decision to lie to Hakim shows that her loyalty is to her nation (or future nation), above all. Her decision was one aimed to be a contribution to the resistance. This decision to act is also present in Chérifa, Youssef’s twenty-nine year old wife. Chérifa’s strong and determined character is discovered early in the novel through her refusal to bear the children of her first husband and, eventually, her separation from him. This assertion is seen, even more so, when Youssef (her second husband) faces the risk of being arrested. It is then that she realizes: “I have to act.” After the arrest of Saidi, a fellow local revolutionary, Cherifa feels obligated to find her husband and warn him of the danger that Saidi might reveal information during his interrogation that might jeopardize Youssef’s safety. In order for her to do this however, she must leave the house alone, an act that is prohibited for Muslim women. Cherifa, When faced with this difficult decision to either remain loyal to her role as Muslim woman and potentially endangering her husband, or, defying this prescribed role and reaching out to Youssef, she chooses to act. The problem, though, is that as a Muslim woman, she cannot leave the house unaccompanied. When faced with the choice of remaining faithful to this prescribed role or potentially losing her husband (who, again, serves as representative of the Algerian struggle), it is simple: she must act.

“For a happy wife, living inside a house she never leaves, as tradition has prescribed, how for the first time to decide to act? How to act? It’s a foreign word for someone imprisoned in custom (and to experience that custom as an instinct, as if every woman in her family, in the neighboring homes, in all the previous generations, had bequeathed it to her in the form of imperative wisdom). The custom of having that behavior be intended only for a man, the husband, the father, or the brother.”(137) It is obvious that the notion of acting is new to Cherifa, who never questioned her role as a woman in her society which confines her to a life of domesticity. Despite the newness of this idea to act, Cherifa unveils a new sense of agency when realizes that she must “create a new step, a new approach-- a different way of seeing, being seen; of existing” in order to protect her husband. By protecting Youssef, she is fighting for the Algerian cause. “Cherifa’s existential epiphany also signals Djebar’s sensitivity towards locate and contingent tactics of resistance” (Lindsey Moore). Cherifa represents the struggle of women finding their place in the resistance. Should they remain loyal to their roles as women, or do they do their part to contribute by helping the men...

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