The Concept of Otherness in The Heptameron and The Thousand and One Nights

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The Concept of Otherness

The society expects a person to behave in a certain way that is normal; however, when a person is seen and perceived as different, they create the concept of otherness. According to an online definition by Miriam Webster site, otherness is the state of being the other or different. The other can be regarding race, gender, sexual minority, religions and many other factors that make a person unique. In the books the Heptameron and the thousand and one nights, there are some aspects of otherness. The book Heptameron by Marguerite de Navarre is a collection of short stories. Many of this short stories talk about the topics that come from love, romance, and relationships. In the thousand and one nights is a collection of small stories and has a different origin and even different topics. However, they are told by a woman named Shahrazad to her husband.

Storytelling and Rape Culture

Storytelling uses imagery which describes the rape culture and feminism in general in both of the books. In the story the Heptameron, there is a culture of rape or attempted rape (Glidden 25). Storytelling brings out the imagery which enhances the understanding of the relative power of men and women. Most of the stories in the book talk about rape encounters and attempted rape, for instance, tale number 10. In the tale, Amador tries to rape a virtuous woman who refused his advances. In the story the thousand and one nights, some of the women like Shahrazad have education, and few of them are not submissive, during the period it was common for many men to demand submission from their wives. The story talks about women who were slaves and concubines and must follow all the rules that their husband, yet have incredible strength to overcome adverse conditions (Borges and Weinberger 568). In both, the stories women are seen as objects of pleasures. The only power they have is through beauty, desire, and sex.

The Concept of Good and Evil

Storytelling creates the concept of otherness in what is seen as good and evil. Both of the books have different views of good and evil in their various stories. In the book the thousand and one nights, it starts with the Sultan killing his wife and killing every woman he marries each evening. The killing of women is terrible, but nobody in the society stands against the leader to condemn the actions. The Sultan believes the women should suffer just as he did. In the story Heptameron, the concept of good and evil is different. For instance, a woman is punished when her husband leaves her (36). These acts are evil; however, the society believes that it is good.

Gender Difference

Another vital storytelling technique is a gender difference. The stories show the contrast of the position of the women and men in the society. Both stories hold that the women are to be faithful, they are supposed to be submissive, and objects of pleasure. In the tale Heptameron, this view of women as objects of pleasure led to the raping of many of the women. The men were the rule makers and if the women did not obey they would be beaten. The men main desire was to control the women. All these features of gender difference are also evident in the thousand and one nights. In one of the nights, Shahrazad tells a story of "The merchant and his wife." The story main message is that men have the permission to beat women to submission. The story reflected on the actions of the Sultan himself and other brutal men in the society.

Social Class

Otherness is evident in the difference is social class. The story the thousand and one nights shows clearly, the difference through one of its stories the "Fisherman and the Jinni." The jinni is known as a powerful creature while the fisherman is very poor (Borges and Weinberger 573). In another story, it talks about a woman whose hands were cut off because of helping the poor. The rich were not supposed to associate with the poor in any circumstances. In the story Heptameron, social class is evident as there is the difference between the royalty and the ordinary people. The poor vie to provide the king with the best hospitality available (32). The poor had to obey the commands of the nobles, or they would undergo severe punishments.

Understanding Others through Storytelling

The stories the Heptameron and the thousand and one nights help in the understanding of others as it creates meaning to some of the actions that make them different. For instance, in the thousand and one nights Shahrazad tells a story of beating women as a way of making the husband understand the errors of his ways. I think that the husband did not know how his character did not develop obedience but the opposite. The beating was not for pleasure but for the women to be submissive and be faithful to their husbands. It also helps us associate some of our actions to theirs. The others behave uniquely making them seem as different. In the story, the Heptameron, the hands of a woman are chopped off because she helped a poor man but was later rewarded. This relates to some of the actions that we do and then receive unexpected rewards.

Work cited

Borges, Jorge Luis, and Eliot Weinberger. "The Thousand and One Nights."The Georgia Review

38.3 (1984): 564-574.

Glidden, Hope. "Gender, Essence, and the Feminine (Heptameron 43)."Critical Tales: New Studies of the Heptameron and Early Modern Culture. Ed. John D. Lyons and Mary B. McKinley. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania UP (1993): 25-40.

December 12, 2023



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