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Thief and the Dogs: A glance into Nur's Role in the novel

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Nur, a Filthy Prostitute and Inferior Representation A study of Nur?s role in the Thief and the Dogs Women take on various roles in different societies and literature. In conservative societies, a woman?s role is generally restricted because they are only allotted with menial housework. On the other hand, liberal societies allow more freedom for women to engage in society. In The Thief and the Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz, Nur?s role is closely associated with the stereotype of prostitutes and women in Arab society. She abolishes the stereotypical image of prostitutes by arguing that prostitution is simply an occupation, and at the same time represents exploited women in Arabian societies. Mahfouz defeats stereotypes by presenting prostitution simply as an ordinary profession. When Said queries Nur whether she had been drinking, she responds directly and almost flippantly, ?I have to; it?s part of my job. I?m going to take a bath. Here are your newspapers? (96). She is completely at ease discussing her profession, and is not at all troubled that her beloved knows about this part of her life. Through this dialogue, Mahfouz argues that prostitution is simply another way for an underprivileged person to make a living and gain financial freedom. ...read more.


Even when Said first meets Nur, he can only think of taking advantage of her. While Said clearly respects and cares for Tarzan, he seeks to financially benefit from Nur as he tells her that what he ?really needs is a car? (62). Instead of asking Tarzan to provide a car for him, Said asks Nur to help him steal one because he reckons her as inferior, treating her as bait in his crime. Said?s abuse of Nur represents the general attitude of Arabian men towards women. Mahfouz uses the word ?needs? to relay the idea to readers that women are subordinate to men and thus can be demanded to provide something for their superiors (62). In an Arabic society, this word, ?need,? is supposed to act as a cue for the female character to work to satisfy the man. In addition, Nur is not only materially abused, but also taken advantage of emotionally. Said takes Nur?s love for granted and expresses none back to her. Mahfouz describes Nur?s affection towards Said, that ?[she] had been like a nightingale singing to the rock, a breeze caressing sharp pointed spikes? (60). ...read more.


This allows the readers to feel that Nur?s love was not shallow, but truly devoted. By using ?life? and ?breath,? Mahfouz successfully conveys the idea that to Nur, Said is like a primary necessity (129). Through the portrayal of a rejection by Said of a true love, Mahfouz successfully passes on the idea that women were viewed as inferior to men and women?s emotions were leeched off by men. Although through the profession as a prostitute, Nur is able to find financial and emotional autonomy, she is constantly exploited by men and thus represents Arab women. The actions of using Nur indeed reiterates that Nur is a representation of general Arab women of Mahfouz?s days when they were viewed as subordinate to men. Nur certainly holds a very important role in The Thief and the Dogs through reputing the customs on prostitutes and representing women in Arab society. This is evident through her interactions with others as she defines prostitution simply as another job while being exploited by men throughout her career. The stereotypes held on prostitutes and Arab women are still persistent in the modern society. Mahfouz?s depiction of Nur, however, makes the readers curious whether such commonly held views will be eradicated in the future with the influence of novels such as The Thief and the Dogs. (Word Count: 1212) ...read more.

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