"Another Evening at the Club"

by Alifa Rifaat

"It was only a few years ago that she had first laid eyes on him at her father's house, meeting his gaze that weighed her beauty and priced it before offering a dowry."

As we read this short story, we are practicing:

Analyzing an Author's Argument

Describing an Author's Style

Understanding Literature in Context: Culture

Take a look at this amazing website and e-zine called World Pulse. I was introduced to World Pulse via Britt Bravo's excellent local Podcast Big Vision, where I heard the founder of World Pulse speak about her organization. World Pulse works to provide access to and a venue for women from all over the world. The vision is for these women to become correspondents, using cellphones and the internet, in order to tell their stories, views on current events and issues, and to share their wisdom and experiences with other women in the world.

On this site are several articles, blogs, recordings from Egyptian women regarding the state of women's rights in Egypt.

I particularly recommend this article by an Egyptian woman who has a well-known blog called Torture in Egypt. In this article, she articulates her views about the demonstrators in Egypt. The blog which was started in 2006, exists to document and "expose police officers who commit torture". Here is a video of her discussion of the blog. Torture in Egypt Video

Analyzing an Author's Argument

As always, we want to ask questions that shed light on what the author's choices for her story. In Rifaat's story, she paints a subtle and complex portrait of Arabic Egyptian culture in which there are power imbalances between women and men, and where marriages are arranged according to these assumptions. She paints both the landscape of this culture and the internal landscape of Samia, who is a young woman in an arranged marriage with an older and more successful man.

There are a variety of questions that we might ask ourselves in Rifaat's use of particular literary devices or the significance of scenes. These were some of the questions I suggested posing for the story

1. What is the function of the flashbacks in the story? How do they help us understand Samia and her relationship to her family and then husband?

2. Why did the gesture of Abboud Bey putting his hands on Samia's face feel like a slap to her?

3. Why doesn't Samia do anything about the plight of the maid?

4. Why is Samia smiling at the end of the story?

As we look at these questions we see several ideas emerging. Rifaat is writing about both the patriarchy of Egyptian culture, and particularly the patriarchy implicit in arrangements of marriage. She is also writing about women's own sublimation of their desires to have free expression and power over their own lives.

Describing an Author's Style

Literary devices we notice being used in the story include flashbacks and imagery. Rifaat uses flashbacks in order to provide context for the story in describing the circumstances of Samia's marriage and her background. She paints pictures with imagery to describe the serene and beautiful environment of her story, which are then contrasted to the internal conflict within Samia which she realizes she is not allowed to show.

Understanding Literature in Context

As stated previously, Rifaat provides cultural context through flashbacks and other descriptors of Samia's world, to help her audience understand Samia's circumstances.

Women's Rights in Egypt

More information about the pursuit of women's rights in Egypt can be found with the New Women's Foundation. An interview with the founder is here. The website is unfortunately in Arabic without English translation, but information can be found in English on the organization's Facebook Page, and I have included a report written by the foundation about the state of women as workers in Egypt.

Today we reviewed our reading of "Another Evening" a subtle and subversive short story about the role of women in the the Arabic culture.