“The Story of Zahra” written by Hanan- Al Shaykh, is an insight into the fractured psyche of a young Lebanese girl, scared by the unrequited love of her mother, the many meaningless relationships she entered into, the intimidating and critical social norms of Beirut and finally by her own intense confusion, disarray and low self esteem which further aggravated her fragile state of mind It is a story about a girl who is in search of fulfillment, in search of her self, terrified of the outside world and its menacing accusations and judgments . Ever since I can remember I have felt uneasy, I have never felt anything else “.It is an iconoclastic story of a person who is able to find peace and ones true self in the midst of the anarchy and chaos of a civil war. It is a bizarre account of how while the ravages of war were destroying the lives and composure of other individuals such as her brother Ahmad, at the other end of the spectrum Zahra was discovering in this abnormality her strength ,self and the normalcy she had been yearning for.
A large part of Zahra’s insecurity can find its roots in her relationship with her mother, which held many paradoxes and can perhaps be best explained as a love-hate relationship. She despise
However this can also be attributed to the distance and fear she felt for her father as she describes him as " always brutal " and the fact that he the " Lord of the Tram-car " was striking both Zahra and her mother , in some ways made them both the collective victims of his ferocious ways . However on reaching Beirut, her parents did not greet her with concern and affection, instead surprise and almost disappointment at her early return. d her mother for making her suffer by exposing her to her infidelity and disloyalty at such a young age, Yet at the same time she longed for her mother to shower her with the affection and love which she saw her mother was capable of possessing and expressing to her lover " I would watch her when she was with me and study her when she was at distance , I thought all the while as I looked up at her of how much I wanted to draw her towards me , to draw myself closer to her" I wanted to disappear into the hem of her dress and become even closer to her than the navel is to the orange! . What also struck me as interesting was the fact that the Snipers efforts to pleasure Zahra in lead her to finally experience sexual gratification. Everyday of my life I have gone on wondering who in the world would ever marry you. Zahra"tms relationship with malek can be understood as her aimless search for some sense of fulfillment. Since her experiences were now the same as others Zahra felt equalized with society in which from time immemorial she had been the misfit and element of abnormality. I thought I could influence him ; that was my delusion" (33). She left for Africa in the search of fulfillment after having suffered so intensely in Beirut. This predominantly sexual relationship which the author describes quite vivid idly expressed the sordidness and emotionless aspect of the relationship, devoid of any affection, understanding or compassion. "He killed me with the bullets that lay at his elbow as he made love to me. Her justification for this relationship can once again be seen in her lack of self confidence which are apparent in these lines" Whoever has a face and a body like mine is easily persuaded or that was how I later rationalized my actions "(30) . It was also during this time period when her face cleared off its vicious acne, which she use to insistently poke and peal , yet another indication of an individual who at one point was perpetually nervous ,stress and restless and is now much calmer and composed. Now as I lie in bed, I look at the print of a Persian women hanging next to the wardrobe, a picture with which I grew up. " Thus her family life, where her mother was unsupportive and in many ways detrimental to Zahra"tms erosion of self-worth, her fathers fearful and detached attitude, the constant preference of Ahmad by both parents " Meat continued to be for Ahmad, Eggs were for Ahmad .