Magazine 2012
Struggle for b Spaceb  of Women in  
Orhan Pamukb s b Snowb   
Ms. Trupti Sabharanjak  
Maniben Nanavati Womenb s College,Mumbai.  
Female Body has become a recurrent thing in many contemporary novels in English. The body is central, yet  
so invisible and displaced in space, both mental and physical. The body becomes a subject of political power  
and control without their consent. The paper aims at analyzing how a female body has multiple representations  
and functions within a nation and a text like b Snowb .  
In more recent literature on Globalization, Mcdowell (1997) brought feminist theory and arguments about  
space to explain Global fragmentations and the displacements and discontinuities that characterise the  
contemporary Global era Nagar et al. (2002) draw on feminist critiques of development to critically engage  
globalisation. In the latter case, they reject.... simplistic generalizations that cast globalization as either totally  
victimizing or completely liberatory and ....illuminate .... the subtle ways in which power relations,  
interdependencies, negotiated constructions of feminity and masculinity, and multi-layered politics of difference  
constitute the everyday politics and realities of globalization.b   
This paper analyses the women characters in the novel keeping this framework in mind.  
Orhan Pamuk, has written the most illuminating and insightful fiction and also questions the underlying issues  
in the novel. The novel is post modern, as it focuses on multiple issues like religion, politics and gender by  
shuffling back and forth in time and also reveal facts and differences between society, culture and genders in  
This paper is an attempt towards the feminist re-readings of the text focusing more on the presentation and  
play of spaces of the two genders. There is an inter play of female space within the text and the narration and  
the male space keeps changing and growing in the narrative. The novel talks of recognition of self, of cultures,  
empowerment of marginal groups and displaced people. Although the world is talking about breaking the  
national barriers, migrations and absorption of communities and cultures, but this narrative proves that relocations,  
displacements and self discovery is not rewarding. It srengthens the belief and faith in oneb s own nation, group,  
gender and class slots.  
We need to question through mapping of this text whether it is giving a possible solution or merely reflecting  
and giving voice to the experiences of marginalised group, specially women and their identity crises as against  
the cultural and political changes within the nation, the projections of their real lives, their lives used in the  
formation of social thoughts, political identities, and self identities.  
The novel deals with the space for minorities. In the analysis of the novel, minorities refer to the women  
characters in the novel .The real challenge is to think about the experiences of these minorities within the space  
given by the majority. The question is related to the differences within the nation and country .Although the  
novel deals with multi- national places, there is a struggle to separate nation within a nation through movement.  
What is interesting is the way in which it de-centres and wipes out the minority in the novel. Each of these  
minority groups are struggling to become a part of the majority but socio political incidents in the nation  
suddenly place them in the position of the b Otherb , thereby changing there b Positionb , b Perspectiveb  and b Placeb   
in the narrative. The need is to concentrate on literary representations of the female body which contributes in  
understanding the cultural and political construction of the nation. We need to examine how the female body  
is related to and used in political, social and ideological context and acquire particular political meaning.  
Snow deals with shifting spaces specific to gender and politics within the country.  
Pamukb s novel deals with womenb s bodies as objects of sight which are standardised and controlled by the  
dominant male characters. The men control the nationb s identity through the empowering of female body  
starting with b coveringb  of the female body. b Coveringb  is equivalent to subordination and internalised control by  
visuals, ideals which men have imposed on them. Power in this text is expressed by eyes, by looking, so  
visibilityb  of female body is related to authority and power. The novel brings out the whole debate of some  
women wearing headscarf and others rejecting it to construct stronger identities and powerful bodies challenging  
male power.  
In b Snowb  the visibility of female body stands for national identity indoctrinated with religion. b Visibilityb  is seeing  
which in turn is related to knowing and that means b powerb  and hence the state and leaders in power impose a  
code of dressing for women the b headscarfb  which is a cover for reality as the gunman points out that the holy  
Koran states that b headscarfb s protect women from harassment, rape and degradation.... gives women respect  
and a comfortable place in the societyb  (Pamukh 2004, 46).The movement of women are under permanent  
surveillance from male eyes. Through out the novel the girls from the university are caught in this dilemma  
which leads to suicide. One group under guidance dares to defy the patriarchal control by uncovering their  
But in this novel death is chosen over surrender by the women.The body is inserted into the development  
discourse and becomes a subject of political power. Linzi Manicom (2005) says Body Politics are also constituted  
relationally within households, families and community processes. In these processes power relations are  
constantly negotiated through everyday acts as through the body (Baines 2003, Moffet 2006 sangtin writers  
006). Dorothy Smith (1987) argues for a contrast between the local and situated everyday life and the world  
of those in power.  
We need to study this interplay of identity and power operating between women and men in everyday life  
within households, in community work and in conflict with the state.  
Orhan Pamuk also uses the spectacular overpowering nature in the form of Snowfall which falls in Kars in Turkey  
and cuts off the city from the world and thereby starts the exposure of the reader to multiple things in the novel  
like conflicts between secular state and Islamic government, poverty issues, role of army, and the most important  
of all, the issue of veil, and the resulting suicides of young women. The novel is loaded with some interestingly  
build characters like Blue, who is an Islamic terrorist gifted with good looks and verbal skills, the actor manager  
and his wife who staged revolutionary plays in the Anatolian towns Serdar Bay who is the local newspaper  
obsessed with writing up events through his press before they occur. Apart from these the characters who  
manage to make space in the readerb s mind are Kerim Alakusoghli, more known as KA in Kars the young  
university girls and Ipek who was Karb s schoolmate. These people bring to the forefront the most interesting  
and important issues the novel deals with. i.e the issue of headscarfb s and the loss of power dignity and space  
by the young girls. Another situation which becomes the core area of the novel is the last conversation between  
a college professor in a bakery and his Islamist assassin who are discussing the pressure put by the college  
authorities on the girls to follow compulsory unveiling thereby supporting the secular state groups.  
These loaded issues and characters unfortunately have not been given the required space and importance by  
Pamuk, instead he chose to develop the weaker side of the novel by focussing on Ka, his love interest in Ipek  
and his lyrical ability to write poems which gives a very dull tone to the otherwise rich narrative.  
Above all the narrative is made rich by use of irony i.e using the novel form, the European literary form in Turkey  
which highlights the importance of individualism, liberal ideas and democracy in the European nations but  
which stand meaningless in a typical traditional Islamic place.  
Although the novel is full of multiple issues, certain developments of the story gain more importance than the  
other events in the narrative. The main focus of the reader is drawn towards three main issues: that of headscarf  
girls, religious agitations in the city and political manipulations. The story begins with KA who at once strikes  
to the reader as the escapist who has left behind the leftist policy of his youth and shifted his focus to art in  
Germany, thereby isolating himself and wiping out his own space and second loss is when he stops writing  
poems leading to his loss of space in the field of art and his final move towards journalism when her returns to  
Turkey after 12 years but is still not confident and strong enough to face the religious agitations in the city. In  
Kars also he faces serious issue of young girls committing suicide and the pressure of Islamist who are poised  
to win the Municipal elections. He is exposed to violence and terror of the military and police force and slowly  
learns it is the manipulation technique of the intelligence service headed by villainous character Z. Dermikol.  
He also is a witness to the assassination of a local school head in a cafe which is one of the most thought  
provoking incidents in the story which unveils the real beginning and unmasking of the extremely malicious  
plans of the state which are the cause of the suicide of the girls .What is worth noticing is despite being  
exposed to such serious and violent incidents KA is not able to live up to the image of a strong brave journalist.  
He remains an escapists with a weak character who chooses to temporarily hide behind his poetic skills and  
rekindles his love for Ipek, therefore KA is a mere witness and a catalyst more than protagonist who fails to  
impress and inspire the reader with his poems. KAb s character is reflected by Pamuk through Snow which  
confines as well as gives freedom to some selected people who can go ahead with their motives absolutely  
unquestioned and unnoticed by the outside world. KA himself does not take sides even after being dragged  
into townb s political crisis and being accused of being a spy, his double ness only leads to KA losing his space  
as a strong character in the narrative and in the mind of his love Ipek who refuses to go with Ka in the end and  
in the mind off the reader also.  
What gains more space as the story develops is the serious issue of the head scarf girls who had made a  
statement by covering the head but were denied the right to education and were dragged off and arrested  
raising serious questions like, b how much web ve caused our womenfolk by turning headscarves into symbols-  
and using women as pawns in a political game (Pamukh 2004, 43).b  The director of education is also made to  
confess that he was part of a, b secret plan to strip the Muslims of the secular Turkish Republic of their religion  
and their honour and thereby to turn them into slaves of the Westb  (Pamukh 2004, 47).The head scarf issue  
takes a serious turn towards the end of the novel when Dermikolb s puppet Sunay Zain a theatrical star performs  
a play b  My Headscarfb  at the cityb s main theatre becomes the pretext for bloody suppression by soldiers  
which kill the religious high school kids who had come to support the head scarf girls issue.  
Both Sunay and KA represent Pamukb s characters who use art as escapism but resulting in no solutions or  
shame for not contributing in reducing the blood shed and repression of Kars. Snowb s real herob s are the  
suffering people and the middle class young girls who chose death over submission or suppression. Their  
strong decision to give up lives through suicides does not allow the issue of women to loose space in the  
narrative till the end. Although the girls have physically lost space in the world, their thoughts and messages  
leave silent but strong impression and carry forward the development of the plot.  
The brewing issue of the headscarf girls is given another perspective in the 8 Chapter when KA gets to meet  
Blue who reveals the true picture, the dubious games played by the police and the political Islamist and the  
pretentious secular governor. Blue says, b Girls who commit suicide are not even Muslims.... destroyed by the  
pressure put on them by the Police and their parents....they are the poor girls caught between their schools  
and their families....b  (Pamukh 2004, 77). This helps in again giving more space to women in the narrative  
through Blue and a strong character Kadife who unlike Ipek is a complete and realised character who is not  
only moved but becomes part of the unnerving manipulative and political male world.  
The reader is in for a big surprise when Blue lays bare the tale of headscarf girls into a fabricated tale which  
slowly grows into a monster of suicides.  
The whole issue was a state plot against the covered girls with only the belief of the boys at the religious high  
school, in support for them. The state pressurised the girls, brain washed the Director of Education Institute  
into enforcing their cruel measures and slowly fabricated stories of suicides from the death of a covered girl  
who died on account of a broken heart and conveniently blamed the Muslims for aggravating the problem and  
gave it a political platform.  
This is followed by the debate between the growing atheists and the believers. Then the strength of the  
narrative slips and floats towards KAb s poetic abilities, his growing love for Ipek and his neutral stand over all  
issues. The narrative then oscillates after each chapter between the development of the head scarf issue,  
growing strength of the staunch believers and reveals how the poor head scarf girls were dragged into the issue  
and their innocence projected as their support for the cause. The story slowly builds strength through the  
Islamists who never ask but make people part of their plans and on the other hand the Bakhtinian theatre gains  
popularity headed by Sunay Zaim. They spice up the issue of headscarfb s and suggest through their play,b  My  
Fatherland or My Headscarfb  that only fools and whores take off their headscarfb s. The plays affront to covered  
women provoked the religious high school boys and intensified the differences between the religious fanatics  
and the supporters of the modern nations of the west.  
Ironically these powerful high school boys get cleared as they are gunned down in the end as a part of the  
clean-up operation of the state headed by Z Demirkol who also orders the cleaning up of the Director of  
Education Institute, Mayor and many more to follow. These incidents shift the entire narrative from the womenb s  
issue to the military plans and theatrical events. The reader looses out on the personal and inner voice of  
women who become silent baits, victims and pawns at the hands of the powerful muscle flexing military  
people. This was followed by Blueb s revelations of the coup which was designed to prevent the Islamist from  
winning the elections and bringing an end to Democracy in Kars. Unlike KA, Blue is presented as a very bold  
and a strong character.  
Among women it is Kadife who is projected as a strong female character who supports Blue in exposing the  
state plans of Z. Dermikol. She is also instrumental in drawing KA and Ipek closer. This love story runs parallel  
to the assassination of Sunay Zaim on stage and the role of double agent played by Ka. Then the story slowly  
moves towards collective terror and the final arrest of Blue and the last performance by Kadife and Sunay in the  
drama titled b Tragedy in Karsb . Through this drama Kadife exposes the truth behind women of Kars committing  
suicides not because of headscarf issues but because they canb t bear the husband beating and the piercing  
impoverishing poverty. She says that women have been killing themselves to show their pride and to gain  
something, b to escape all forms of punishmentb  (Pamukh 2004, 406). She also unravels that there was only one  
suicide Telisme who was involved in the headscarf protest. She pretends to support the religious group and  
announces that she will Kill Sunay who unfortunately becomes part of the clean up operation of Z. Dermikol.  
This role of Kadife is revealed through a flashback which starts at mid-point of the novel. Unlike the passive  
Ipek, Pamuk has given Kadife an active space in the narrative bringing out the true fighting spirit of contemporary  
women who are ready to jump into the frying pan of socio-political events and also keep the right of taking  
individual decisions without compromising on their pride and identity.  
The novel deals with sensitive issues of Islam and secular Turkey who battle on the issue of religion and  
government at the expense of all the women characters in the novel. The real heroes of Snow are the long  
suffering people of Kars and the women who struggle to survive amidst religious and political clashes.  
The novel gives us an insight into various issues through the cleverly constructed fable revolving around  
infatuation, spiritual fragility and enchantment with the West, globalisation and violence which makes the novel  
gripping, and engrossing for the imagination. Of all the women characters Kadife and the headscarf girls  
uphold and create a niche in the narrative and a deserving space in the minds of the global readers. They also  
raise some thought provoking questions, that, even in this globalized world where concepts of liberalization  
and empowerment of women are spreading, we find women still struggling to make space in the personal as  
well as the socio-political world.  
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