Distant View of a Minaret – The Wife, “My World of the Unknown”

The narrator, the wife of a government official, never explicitly
indicates that her marriage to her husband is unsatisfying, but because she is
so easily seduced by the snake-spirit that inhabits their home, she reveals the
extent of her unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The snake provides fulfillment in
every capacity. She satisfies the narrator sexually, lavishes her with youth and
vitality, and takes her to hidden spirit worlds. The adventure of the
relationship completely eclipses her domestic life. However, the narrator is
initially ambivalent about the snake. She is attracted to the snake, then she
tells her husband to board up the house’s cracks so the snake can’t enter, then
she yearns for the snake. Her request to her husband is significant. Though the
snake is female, it has a phallic form, and it eventually replaces the
husband in the role of sexual partner. When the wife asks her husband
to help keep the snake out, she is making a final attempt to impel him
to take action before she seeks sexual fulfillment in other ways. Later, when
the wife stops up the cracks in the wall, it is in a playful, teasing way, which
illustrates how she has changed from being fearful of her sexuality to embracing
In the narrator’s fantasy world of passionate sexual fulfillment,
adventurous romping through other worlds, and love with a companion who is
considerate and giving, we find the model of an ideal relationship—the only
clear representation of an ideal relationship in all of Rifaat’s stories. Though
the events are likely only products of the narrator’s imagination, it shows a
true understanding of what characterizes fulfillment in marriage.