The traditional gender roles in Egypt began to shift during the novel. Due to the war, women started to go work, for example Hamida's factory girl friends in Midaq Alley. Additionally, many of the women in Midaq Alley hold power over men. Husniya is strong and fierce, and reverses the common trope of domestic abuse because she beats her cowering husband. Hamida exercises power over all the men she attracts, but refuses to become servile and pregnant and thinks she deserves better than getting married and having children. Mrs. Saniya Afify is a self-sufficient woman who only wants a husband for companionship. As Egypt was throwing off the shackles of British rule, so these characters are emerging from beneath gender roles that have stood for centuries.
Most of the marriages in Midaq Alley are marriages of opportunity. Hamida is looking for such a marriage, first with Salim Alwan and then with Ibrahim Faraj. She wants to gain wealth through a union. Kirsha doesn't love his wife, but tolerates her because she keeps his home for him. Radwan Hussainy treats his wife poorly too, and she doesn't have motherhood to take solace in anymore since all of her children are dead. Mrs. Saniya Afify wants a companion but has to settle for covering her own dowry. Abbas hopes for a real, love-filled marriage with Hamida, and that desire leads to his death. In this way, Midaq Alley offers a critique of the social construct of marriage.
One relationship which demonstrates the role of women in marriage is Salim Alwan, wealthy businessman, pursues Hamida, a young beautiful woman in Midaq Alley. However, Mr. Alwan does not love Hamida but because he fears that his 'youth and virility' are vanishing, and wishes to prove to himself that he is still virile. Mr. Alwan has a... [continues]
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