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For the Love of God and His Prophet

Weblog for Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54

Week 12 Response: Isolation in “Sultana’s Dream”

Filed under: photography — cspendleton at 10:51 pm on Wednesday, May 7, 2014



I decided to do my final response on the short story “Sultana’s Dream.” Rokeya Hossain was inspired to write the story by the cultural practice of purdah — the complete isolation of women from men, and the resulting confinement to the private sphere. Her short story flips purdah on its head. Men are the ones who are confined to the private sphere after women harness solar power. Sister Sara tells the narrator that the Queen of this society is a lover of science (11), and while men are still acknowledged as physically stronger than women, women gain control of society through their scientific prowess (12-14). The implication of this is that Rokeya Hossain — an active supporter of women’s education who founded a girls school and fought for women’s right to education for her entire adult life (40-42) — regretted the untapped scientific potential of women in a purdah-practicing society that restricted their movement so conservatively and resisted their education (48). In her interpretation of Islam, there is nothing prohibiting women from pursuing an education. Education is, in fact, so important to her that it occupies a central role in “Sultana’s Dream”: women compete with men not through physical strength, but through the educational opportunities given to them at a university.

I had yet to try any type of photography for a creative response, so I took a picture of my roommate — a Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology concentrator — and photoshopped her onto a picture that I thought conveyed a sense of isolation and loneliness. She is surrounded by her MCAT prep books and textbooks from various science courses on the dock, alone. I thought this photograph would convey both the isolation of women that so angered Rokeya Hossain as well as the emphasis on scientific learning that pervades her story.

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