The Spider’s Female

The Spider's Female

Publishing House: Rashad Press

Publication Year: 2000

Genre: Novel

Number of Pages: 200

“The Spider’s Female”، authored by the esteemed Saudi writer Qamashah Al Olayan, is a poignant narrative that delves into the grim realities of a Saudi Arabian society through the life of a girl beleaguered by oppression and injustice, a fate shared by her sisters and mother. Al Olayan’s storytelling is captivating, blending romance with impactful tragedy, and exposes a daily, yet hidden, reality behind closed doors.

This award-winning novel, recognized in the 2000 Arab Female Creators category in Sharjah, stands out in its explicit and profound critique of Saudi society and its traditions and customs. It differs significantly from other Saudi female authors’ works, such as “Girls of Riyadh”, “The Return”, “The Others”, “The Shyness of T”, “Discovery of Desire”, “Burhan Al Asal”, and others, in its approach towards the subjects of sex, women’s bodies, and suppressed emotions. While these novels predominantly criticize Saudi and broader Arab societies for outdated customs, “The Spider’s Female” refrains from overly sexual themes, focusing instead on deeper societal issues.

The story revolves around a tyrannical Saudi patriarch with archaic, rigid beliefs, representing many men in the Gulf, particularly in Saudi society. His domineering, unjust attitude towards his wife, daughters, and sons leads to a family filled with resentment and hatred towards him. Unable to maintain familial bonds, his actions result in his children, both sons and daughters, enduring similar struggles and injustices. His two wives suffer under his merciless rule, despite their beauty, due to his misguided understanding of male superiority and oppressive gender norms.

The protagonist of “The Spider’s Female”, Ahlam, grows up witnessing her mother’s debilitating illness and eventual death, missing maternal affection and warmth. She experiences life under the harsh rule of her father, who imposes severe restrictions on her and her siblings, dictating their lives with an iron fist. His autocratic decisions in matters like marriage and family life leave no room for personal choice or happiness.

Ahlam’s sister Badriya, married off without her consent, endures a life of torment with her husband. When she seeks her father’s help for a divorce, he adamantly refuses, adhering to the belief that women must endure whatever their husbands subject them to. Badriya’s eventual widowhood doesn’t bring any respite either; her father prohibits her from remarrying, continuing his relentless control.

The tale of each family member – from Ahlam’s brothers, who are forced into unwanted marriages, to her sisters, who face mental illness and societal neglect – paints a picture of a family crumbling under the weight of patriarchal oppression. Ahlam herself, despite her intelligence and academic achievements, falls victim to her father’s tyrannical ways, forced into an arranged marriage with an elderly man devoid of understanding or compassion.

“The Spider’s Female” is a raw depiction of the suffering and struggles of women in a patriarchal society. It’s a call for change, urging women to fight against injustice and for their rights. Through Ahlam’s story, Al Olayan not only critiques deep-rooted societal issues but also empowers women to resist oppression, seek education and assert their rightful place as equal human beings. The novel is a testament to the resilience of women in the face of adversity and their relentless pursuit of freedom and dignity.

Read More About Qamashah Olayan

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