19 October 2018
Character Analysis Essay
A Look into Zuleika: An Aspiring Female Poet
It is historically clear that there has not been enough recognition given to women in art.
In the novel, The Emperor’s Babe, Bernardine Evaristo gives a look into history through the eyes
of Zuleika- an immigrant originally from Sudan, who is settling into life in Londinium 200AD.
Even as a young girl, Zuleika has ambitions to write. Despite the things that are holding her
back, including society, her husband, and even her friends, she works hard on her poetry writing
even though she may not have the support she needs. Zuleika is an aspiring poet who wants to
write about people who have no voice in society and Evaristo uses Zuleika to give a voice to
African immigrants and women who might have lived in Roman London. Throughout history
women have have underrepresented in the art world, specifically in writing and poetry. There are
no saved recollections of poetry or writings by women in this time. The only known female
writer before Zuleika’s time was Sappho, from the ancient Greek times of 600BC. Evaristo uses
Zuleika’s experience as a fictional example of what women artists have faced in history.
Zuleika’s character is a metaphor for women’s exclusion in the arts throughout history because
her writing gives her a sense of value, she has been societally trained that other women's work or
her own has less value than men, and she mirrors the historic inferiority of women’s expression.
A big part of Zuleika is the exploration of her writing. She is an aspiring poet and she
mentions that she will be famous multiple times in the book, like when Zuleika says “I want
exposure. I want recognition. I want a standing ovation!” (Evaristo 191). She emphasizes that
writing poetry is not only very important to her but it also gives her a sense of value. In Zuleika’s
life, especially in her marriage, she is often isolated, so spending hours writing poetry has made
her feel like she had more value than as just an object for her husband. With all of Zuleika’s time
that she has spent alone, writing poetry is a way for her to feel important and that she has a
purpose, and she wants to work harder on her poetry to become a better writer; “I would devote
every spare moment to it, which meant most hours in any given day” (Evaristo 103). Zuleika’s
motivation to write poetry is crucial because she faces an uphill battle as a woman writer,
especially in 200AD, where writing is not common for people in Zuleika’s position. Even her
tutor, Theodorous discourages her poetry writing because she is not considered wise enough,
which makes her doubt herself; “I’d never write good poetry because what did I know about war,
death, the gods and the founding of countries?” (Evaristo 85). Almost all of the famous writings
of the time were written by people who were considered gods and war heroes, which were all
men. Zuleika’s ambitions are admirable because she wants to be a vo...