THE OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN IN FARAH’S FROM A CROOKED RIB

by - October 05, 2017

THE OBJECTIFICATION OF WOMEN IN FARAH’S FROM A CROOKED RIB


Nuruddin Farah is a Somali novelist, who has written plays both for stage and radio, as well as short stories and essays.
From a Crooked Rib is his first published novel (published 1970).
The novel is centred on the life of its main character Ebla; the book takes us from her maiden days to her life as a married woman.
A predominant theme in the novel is the objectification of women in Somali, Africa.
Objectification is the process or manifestation or action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object and thereby denying them dignity.
The novel gives explicit and implicit examples of how women are regarded as nothing but possession to be owned and done away with as permitted by religion, culture, and society.
The novel opens with eighteen-year-old Elba who runs away from home because her grandfather gave her out in marriage to a forty-eight-year-old man, although she had younger suitors, her grandfather choose Giumeleh.
We see the grandfather’s reaction and the effect of her elopement from the dwelling; he cursed her, not because he found her action heartbreaking (after all his wife had eloped with him when they were younger) but because he was bitter that he had no one else to look after him.
Ebla who at first is concerned for her grandfather’s welfare later decides to execute her plans, the reason being that after all, he had exchanged her for camels.
Ebla begins to doubt the purpose of her existence:
But why is a woman, a woman? (12)
She realizes that her life isn’t only monotonous but her very reason for existence revolves around the man. A woman gives companionship to man and also beget him, children. After performing this essential “woman” duties, why is a woman still treated as a second class citizen, and, thus, she says:
…surely a woman is indispensable to man, but do men realize it? (7)
The above is a rhetoric question, which requires in-depth reasoning and reflection from the reader. She decides that although a man and a woman need each other, but not at the same degree.
Ebla decides that societal demands of womanhood were denoting the status of women and
…she loathed this discrimination between the sexes. (15)
She concluded that:
Maybe God prefers men to women. (15)
Ebla escaped to Belet Wene where she went to her cousin’s house (Gheddi) and served as a maid servant for his pregnant wife (Aowralla). There she met the widow (whose nephew she later married).
The widow narrates the story of her first marriage to Ebla, the story significantly draws a comparison between her Arab husband and the male monkey.
The male monkey, so possessive about his female mate cover her private area with sticky wet mud before leaving her, this will enable him to know whether or not the female has been made love to in his absence; if he sniffs her private part and there is an opening :
…he beats her like the devil. (57)
Ironically, Ebla who runs away from a forced engagement is given away by her cousin (Gheddi) to a broker. The broker offered him money for her dowry which he used to pay the fine charged by the police.
Ebla realizes that yet again she has been sold as cattle. She confirms that women in her society are just:
…like cattle, properties of someone or other, either your parents or your husband. (80)
Thus, there is no difference between her and a cattle.
Her cousin didn’t bother informing her about his exchanging her for financial assistance but instead, the widow informed her. She was to be married to the broker, a man very sick with tuberculosis.
Here again, we see Ebla question the purpose for marriage. She realized that enslavement and not love or friendship was what existed between the married couples she had met; the woman was the slave.
There is no friendship between a husband and a wife; the husband is a man and the the wife is a woman, and naturally they are not equal in status. Friends should be equal before they can become friends. if you despise or look down upon somebody, he cannot be your friend, neither can you be his friend. (156)
She also realized that most women got married simply for the sake of living a married life and thus, avoiding spinsterhood.
The thingification of the girl child is further solidified in the novel with this shocking quote:
From experience, she knew that girls were materials, just like objects, or items on the shelf of a shop. They were sold and bought as shepherds sold their goats at market-places, or shop-owners sold the goods to their customers. To a shop-owner what was the difference between a girl and his goods? Nothing, absolutely nothing. (84)
She further laments that this injustice against the girl child can’t be corrected since men are the law:
If a woman wants to argue about her fundamental rights, it is always a man that she must see – at the government office and every other place … before she has opened her mouth, she is already condemned to the grave. Aren’t men the law? (84-85)
She concludes by stating her helplessness:
I am nothing but an object. I am nothing. (151)
Ebla steals control of her life by eloping with Awill; she decides that she would not marry any man unless she chooses him.
On the night they get to Mogadiscio, Awill rapes Ebla and claims that she is his wife even though they hadn’t been properly married by a sheikh. He rains blows and kicks on her when she refuses to let him have his way, and, then we learn that:
… a woman never fought with a man, she should be submissive and never return his blows. A good woman should not even cry aloud when her husband beat her. (96)
The above statement further buttresses the fact that in addition to being oppressed, women are also forbidden from crying out; they are expected to keep mute and bear the pain in silence, therefore showing no emotions like inanimate objects. We see how culture has helped in the oppression and reification of women.
Awill travels to Italy for work purposes, leaving Ebla under the care of Asha (his landlady). While he is away, Ebla discovers Awill’s unfaithfulness to their marriage with a white lady. As a way of revenge, Ebla secretly gets married to Tiffo, following the counsel of Asha. She decides on this because to her:
I love life, and I love to be a wife. I don’t care whose. (125)
She decides that if Awill rejects her upon his return she’d remain married to Tiffo. We see here that Ebla’s whole existence depends on her being a wife. What else could life possibly be outside marriage? She fell fulfilled only as a wife to someone, it doesn’t matter whose.
Ebla gets irritated with Asha’s control over her life and says:
I am master of myself (but then she contradicts herself by saying) … at least, not until Awill comes home. (142)
The above statement proves that the African woman is always controlled by either culture, religion, society, nature or the law; there seems to be no absolute freedom. Moreover:
… a woman’s prophet and second-to-God is her husband
At the end, Ebla goes back to her marriage with Awill because he needs her even though it might just be for sex, besides:
…woman was created by God from the crooked rib of Adam, she is too crooked to be straightened. And anybody who tries risks breaking her. (150)






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