EN 1001: Introduction to Literary Study
November 17, 2011
Rebelling against Societal Restraints
The two female protagonists in Scorched and Antigone are given the archetype of the madwoman—Nawal as a cause of her silence and Antigone because of her “crazy death wish” of wanting to bury her brother. The two women feel that they have been wronged and in the end, find an escape. In a patriarchal society where men rule over women, the only choice the two female protagonists see, which could potentially lead others to empathize with them, would be to rebel against societal norms and to disregard human laws. Their motives for rebellion are explored in their character portrayal, as well as through the themes of identity and fate versus free will.
The first motive for the protagonists’ rebellion is expressed through the theme of identity. In Scorched, this theme is introduced towards the beginning of the play during a conversation between the protagonist, Nawal Marwan, and her grandmother, Nazira. Nawal promises Nazira to “learn to read,...write,...count,...speak” (Mouawad 32) because her grandmother understands that would be the only way Nawal can defy her gender role and become knowledgeable—it would be the only way she could succeed in life. This way, she wouldn’t be another woman who simply grows up, becomes a housewife, takes care of her children, ages and dies. She could finally escape an unending cycle of poverty and hatred; she could then be known as a literate person.
The theme is developed when Nawal comes back to engrave Nazira’s name on her tombstone; she “demonstrates her use of language in the act of providing someone with a foundational piece of their identity” (Renault 30-31). Had she left her grandmother’s tomb unmarked, it would have been as if she never existed—an unknown grave in a cemetery.
The theme is concluded when Nawal’s children discover the reason behind their mother’s silence. By...