This study aims at examining the depiction of female characters in two postcolonial novels set in the mid-twentieth century, namely, Naguib Mahfouz’s The Beginning and the End and Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s theory of the silent female subaltern poses a challenge to reading the (hi)story of any female character when the narrator assumes a dominant role in the literary narrative. Research in this thesis extends Spivak’s dichotomy of silence and speech to accommodate a middle ground that allows us read the characters’ presence as speaking voices of their (hi)stories. While Spivak is interested in how Western feminists approach to third-world woman, this work offers a variation on this inquiry, asking whether it is possible for third-world women in their fictional writings to retain limited autonomy, while constraints are nonetheless imposed on them by male narrators. Specifically, I ask if it is possible for Mahfouz and Márquez to represent the female subaltern without fully sustaining a patriarchal perspective in both literary works. This examination concludes that both male authors succeed at providing Nefisa and Angela, main female figures, with a limited subjectivity that gives voice to the often marginalized in the history of postcolonial worlds, and reflects the limitations of their societies’ convictions towards woman.


English & Comparative Literature Department

Degree Name

MA in English & Comparative Literature

Graduation Date

Fall 2015

Submission Date


First Advisor

Amy Motlagh

Committee Member 1

William Melaney

Committee Member 2

Adam Talib


53 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


Numerous people deserve acknowledgment for helping me complete my research on this thesis. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Amy Motlagh for her tireless efforts and patience in reviewing the countless drafts pertaining to my research, as well as Professor William Melaney for stimulating discussions and helpful encouragement. I would also like to thank Professors Stephen Nimis, Adam Talib, Ferial Ghazoul, and Tahia Abdel Nasser for their insightful comments that helped me finalize my writing. Besides my professors, no words can describe how much I would like to thank each member of my family for their unconditional love and endless support during the time I needed to fulfil this part of my MA degree. Last but not the least, I am especially indebted to my friends, Sama and Rania, for the several discussions that helped me focus on my argument, as well as many others for their emotional support throughout this phase of my studies.