Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir of Books and the Story of an Hour

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Leta Tingle
Final Paper
December 10, 2012
Dream Upon Our Reality

Setting nearly 100 Years apart, The Islamic Revolution and The Victorian Era differentiated in literary styles and texts, but the one central focus that seems to tie together the texts of both times is Oppression. The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) defines Oppression as “The action of oppressing; the condition of being oppressed. (1) Oppressiveness; an uncomfortable or distressing sense of (physical or mental) constriction; affliction; depression or heaviness. Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir of Books and Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour, both deals with and centers around oppression. Oppression is not always of a physical nature, but of a mental one as well. Although Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books was published in 2003, it depicted the life during the Islamic Revolution (1978-1981) when a battle was taking place against Iran and Iraq. According to the novel Reconstructed Live, “The Islamic Revolution transformed all areas of Iranian life. For women, in particular, the consequences were extensive and profound, as the state set out to reverse legal and social rights women had won and to dictate many aspects of women’s lives, including what they could study and how they must dress and relate to men.” In a sense, because of the changes in their society and the limitations on the things one could wear and/or read in Islam, women became oppressed by the government, both mentally and physically. It was evident, the seriousness of the Revolution and the things that were taking place, because Azar Nafisi, herself, even took the precautions to shield the characters in her story from those whom seek to harm. In the beginning of her novel she wrote an author’s note that stated “Aspects of characters and event in this story have been changed mainly to protects individuals, not just from the eye of the censor but also from those who read such narratives to discover who’s who and who did what to whom, thriving on and filling their own emptiness through others secrets. [...] Azar Nafisi goes on to say how she baptized each with new names and disguises so much so that it is even to hide them perhaps even from themselves. This statement alone, tells me much about the times in which women lived in during the revolution. The simple fact that it has been decades since the Revolution ended and there is still so much secrecy and shielding going on. It also shows me that even today, the women are still oppressed and the literary styles in which Nafisi wrote in depicted that very reasoning. Even though her book was published in the past decade, her texts were still in a way veiled.

Reading Lolita in Tehran refers to the story of Lolita written by Vladimir Nabokov. It is a “tale about a middle aged man who has a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old pubescent girl. The book 'Lolita' is used by the author as a metaphor for life in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” [...] “The author implies that, like the principal character in 'Lolita', the regime in Iran imposes their "dream upon our reality, turning us into his figments of imagination.” In both cases, the protagonist commits the "crime of solipsizing another person's life." Solipsizing and/or Solipsism are defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “The view or theory that self is the only object of real knowledge or the only thing really existent; the theory or view that the self is the only reality.” What this means to me is that, the government took many lives, maybe not always literally but mentally as well. Imposing on those women’s real lives, their imagination of what should be and because women didn’t have the power to go against that during those times, it was allowed and carried through. One of the biggest ways that silenced the women’s voices were not only by dictating the things that they were allowed to read, but by allows forcing them to wear the veil, in which the referred...
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