One of the most influential female writers to hail from the Arab community, Assia Djebar, wrote Children of the New World after her role in the Algerian resistance to French colonial rule. The novel reflects on the current global conflicts as it shows a determined Arab uprising versus overseas occupation. However, the author focuses on women’s experiences as they are dragged into politics of resistance. She recounts the interlocking lives of females in one of the rural Algerian towns who find themselves joined in solidarity plus empowering one another to engage in the struggle for independence. Giving an account of the tussle movement from a range of opinions, for instance, the view of traditional women to political organizers, she portrays the conditions that force depressed communities to engage in violence. At the same time, she reveals the consequences of war to the populace.
From chapter to chapter, her primary focus is on women in the community who took a stand against norms. The females make decisions that target to help the public, which was only allowed for men. Some use their egotistical nature to help them do something constructive. Others are determined to go against boundaries that have held women in the past from positively impacting society. Being of Arab descent, the author acts as an educator as well as an activist who is shining light on the various ways women have been held back. This book teaches women ways they can step out of the shadow of men in society and actively participate in the development of society. This paper will examine what liberation means for women.
In the book’s first chapter, the author narrates Cherifa, an illiterate female whose consciousness was awakened in her first marriage. According to (Djebar 2009), the woman was forced into marrying an individual she had no desires for: “a man whom everything in her had instinctively rejected.” Her choice of separating from the union she had not consented to was the first moment of realization about her existence, as suggested by (Djebar 2009). Another critical step in her awakening happens during the uprising when she steps out alone for the first time in her life. She does this in an attempt to caution her second husband, who was affiliated with village, about the danger he is facing.
The French police had set out to capture him. Stepping out of the house on one’s own for a contented woman married to a man is unimaginable. Married women were accustomed to leaving home in a man’s company and covered with a veil, according to (Djebar, 2009). Despite the hostile stares of the males in the street, Cherifa was determined to reach Youssef and warn him about the French police. She feels a sense of freedom and realizes the possibility of taking the initiative outside her enclosed home. Liberation to her means going beyond limitations created against her in the community and taking actions that save the same society.
The author uses another female character in the book, Lila, to bring out the meaning of liberation for women. Lila is an educated lady whose spouse has opted to participate in the struggle in the mountains. Her husband leaves her alone as she is not supposed to participate in the revolution (Djebar, 2009). However, she realizes awakening after participating in hiding a fugitive of the law. As she is waiting for interrogation and likely torture, she feels that she is now free from the tangles and solitude of her young life, as suggested by (Djebar, 2009). Even though she is staring at the solitary ordeal, she is courageous and knows that it is a price she has to pay in honor of active participation in the battle for her nation’s independence. Though her friend sees her as egotistical, she transforms that into something positive. To this woman, liberation means participating in issues that affect the whole nation, just like their male counterparts.
Similarly, Salima, who is a thirty-one-year-old teacher, is arrested and incarcerated. She has participated in a movement that aims to set Algeria free from foreign rule. She is also known to have a relationship with a fugitive of the law, Mahmoud. The latter is a revolutionary who escaped to the mountains, according to (Djebar, 2009). While in holding, she is questioned for long hours while being denied sleep. Instead of breaking down, she becomes more firm in her decision to hide information concerning her friends’ plans.
All this time, she is going through torture, her mind is fixed on the obligation she has to her nation and silenced females in her society. At this point, she sees liberation as being able to take a stand against something she does not believe is right, as suggested by (Djebar, 2009). She has chosen to stay silent and hide information that would be useful in capturing her friends who are fighting for the nation’s freedom. Women in her community are used to obedience, even if it means obeying the wrong instructions. She would have given up her friends in her past state, but she chooses not to obey in her new liberation.
During the night in holding, Salima fails to sleep because a man in a cell next to her is undergoing torture by oppressors. This could have broken her down in the past, but instead, she is filled with admiration (Djebar, 2009). When the noise from the other cell stops, she wonders whether torture has ended or life has. She sees herself as part of a long chain of a national uprising. Like other militants, she is determined to set her nation free from foreign rule, as suggested by (Djebar, 2009). Here, the author shows that women view liberation as serving the interests of the whole nation. Women in the Arab community are obligated to care only for their homes, but with the depiction of this character, it is evident that women can save a whole nation. The women in this community are now willing to suffer to save many instead of being at peace and serving a few.
Women and children are the most innocent individuals during a war, but history suggests that they are the ones who suffer a lot as a result of wars. Many communities, such as the Arab community, have ensured to reduce the role of a woman in times of conflict. She is forced to accept the outcome even if she did not participate. In her book, Djebar demonstrates how this narrative changes by showcasing a woman with a heart of a warrior who is willing to participate in war (Djebar, 2009). Hassiba is seen in the book to march alongside Youssef. This is liberating because it shows that women in this community a step in ensuring that what happens to them is not a result of men’s decisions. The female individual is affected by something that she is responsible for.
Hassiba, just like Salima and every other female character in the book, shows courage to go against societal restraints against women. She personifies the saying that behind every successful man, there is a strong woman behind, as suggested by (Djebar, 2009). In the world of today and in many governments in developed countries, women are obtaining respect for their male counterparts. They are actively engaging in important decisions that affect the world political order. The book shows that the author was ahead of time and gave a blueprint on how a community can accomplish much by integrating women in decision-making.
Women in the book show that liberation requires courage for one to gain. For instance, Cherifa had to be courageous to go against the social norms by walking out by herself (Djebar, 2009). Lila, too, had to be courageous to decide to suffer for the liberation of the nation even though she could have been obedient as she was supposed to and give away a fugitive. Liberation for a nation is the ability to decide on its own through a government of a nation’s choice and the children of the New World show that liberation could also be mental. For a long time, many documentaries and articles have been written on how women in the Arab community have little to no say at all in society.
Just recently, after the Afghanistan government was overthrown, there was a discussion on whether the terrorist group ruling over the country would allow women to learn and play sports. The Afghanistan women who had remained in the country feared that they could be denied freedom of doing so. This goes to show how they may be free physically, but mentally they still depend on the men in the society, as suggested by (Djebar, 2009). Hassiba, Cherifa, Salima and Lila gain freedom mentally and, for the first time, decide their fate and that of others in the community they live in.
Djebar shows that it is possible for a woman to have a mind on her own. One of the reasons this text was ahead of its time is because it can be applied in the current times to illustrate the meaning of liberation for women. Women throughout the world do not need to allow their lives to be decided for them. Just like the characters in the book, women who are dominated by chauvinistic ideas in society can gain freedom by taking a stand and choosing to decide on their own.
Djebar has focused on females’ interlocking lives as they are dragged into the struggle as well as connected in togetherness, sacrifice, and sisterhood. The author uses a different character in every chapter to show how the women gained freedom from a society that did not believe in women’s freedom. For instance, in the case of Cherifa, she is married off to a man she does not love. In the community, she is not allowed as a married woman to leave her house without the company of a man or be covered in a veil. She gains freedom when she goes against these norms when the French police capture her second husband. Another character named Lila gains liberation when she participates in the revolution. It was a man’s duty to participate in wars or uprisings aimed at liberating the nation. The woman is an excellent example of a woman who decides to participate in matters that impact society instead of just remaining back doing home duties.
The other woman in the book, named Salima, goes through pain and torture at the hands of oppressors. This creates a sense of liberation for her as she does something to help save her nation from foreign rule. All these women are doing these acts for the first time in their lives, which means they are no longer in chains of the societal norms and culture that held them back. In the book, an individual in the third person is narrated with a sudden shift from the thinking of one character to another.
The author has not set up any clear hierarchy between the various views of the characters as she refuses to privilege any specific ideology, for instance, learned women, traditional wives, liberated students, and political organizers. Truly, her account of the rising conflict, with scenes of suffering, pain, betrayal, humiliation, death, as well as torture, shows that taking a stand as the women did is not easy. She wants her readers to respect the women who sacrificed a lot for the sake of other women coming after them to enjoy freedom.
Djebar, A. (2009). Children of the new world: A Novel of the Algerian war. The Feminist Press at CUNY. Web.