Blog Post 4: Reading Lolita in Tehran — Chapters 19–22
The chapter starts off with Nafisi in present day, discussing something that happened a few weeks before. She is talking to her kids about Iran (currently living in American), but they are forgetting. “They keep repeating ‘they,’ ‘they over there.’ Over where? Where you buried your dead canary by a rosebush with your grandfather? Where your grandmother brought you chocolates we had forbidden you to eat?” They were not young children when they lived in Iran, her daughter was eleven. The fact that the memories fade away so easily is saddening to me. The only that ties them to their mother-country is a few small memories and music, forbidden music they used to listen to.
It was only one specific memory that Nafisi’s children remembered vividly, even more vividly than Nafisi remembered it herself. It was when the government guards came to their home, asking if they could go through their backyard to get to the neighbor’s house because they didn’t have a search warrant. They told them no, but then things got our of hand. The neighbor ended up in Nafisi’s yard, Yassi was holding the kids, and the guards went in trying to get him. But the whole time this was happening, all she was worried about was the illegal satellite dish she had. “Later, we all wondered how it was that our concern was not so much for our lives or for the fact that five armed strangers were using our house for a shooting match with a neighbor who was also armed and hiding somewhere in our garden. We, like all normal Iranian citizens, were guilty and had something to hide: we were worried about our satellite dish.” If you think about it, it’s very tragic that they’re brainwashed so much that Nafisi and her children were more worried about their satellite dish instead of their lives. It shows how much the rules are ingrained in them. Eventually, the guards got the neighbor and Nafisi had to watch over his children for awhile.
I think the form of her writing and novel is very important for Nafisi to take into consideration. The effect could hinder what she was trying to convey in the first place. Just as one guy took this a political book going against Ayatollah, she has to tell him that this is merely a literature novel. So her form could help tell people that, “Hey! I’m not for or against these things. Just read and be happy!” But, it also depends on the person and how they take it. Maybe she shows the right form that doesn’t lean to one side or the other, then it’s up to the reader, and what they want to see.
“Manna and Nima were never, strictly speaking, my students.” During this chapter, Nafisi describes Manna, Nima and them together. This honestly made me really happy, not because I think they’re cute as a couple and all lovey dovey (which, I cannot lie, it’s a little bit cute, but it’s not the main reason I liked her talking about them), but because I love to see how the grow together, how they go off of each other, and how they both “fall” for the same teacher. It’s awesome to see their differences and similarities come together to make them Manna and Nima.
So, how they met Nafisi was they were both going to the University of Tehran and getting a degree in English Literature. They read articles of Nafisi’s class and decided to go watch. “They had met at the University of Shiraz and had fallen in love in large part because of their common interests in literature and their isolation from university life in general. Manna later explained how their attachment was based, more than anything else, on words. During their courtship they wrote letters and read poetry to each other. They became addicted to the secure world they created through words, a conspiratorial world in which everything that was hostile and uncontrollable became soft and articulated. She was writing her thesis on Virginia Woolf and the Impressionists; he, on Henry James.” This paragraph alone shows their companionship. It shows how much they trust each other, confide in each other, and rely on each other. Nafisi’s describes what it was like to seem them in her class on the first day. “They reminded me of my two children whenever they entered a conspiracy to make me happy. At first Nima was the more talkative of the two. He would walk beside me, and Manna followed a little behind him. Nima would talk and tell stories and I’d notice Manna peering past Nima to catch my reaction.” I just love how Manna and Nima act around each other. Like best friends, yet lovers. I like how Nima would talk and went up to Nafisi, being that person Manna is, we know she probably couldn’t have done that without the help of Nima. It’s awesome to see how much he helped her progress. Then, she ended up being in the group. Funny how things work. “I have chosen to give them rhyming names, although their names sound different in real life. Yet I was so used ti seeing them together voicing the same thoughts and feelings, that to me they were like two siblings who had just discovered something wondrous in their back garden, a doorway into a magical kingdom. I was the fairy godmother, the madwoman in whom they could confide.” I like how she words this, how she sees them. And I love how she says she made them have rhyming names. It gives you a flash back to reality, and makes you wonder what their names are, what they look like, and where they are at now. This chapter helps me to see who they are. It’s really neat.
Throughout the course of this novel so far, I think the author does come across as knowledgeable and fair. She shows no favoritism in her girls, and she shows no hate towards political matters. She is simply stating all things. And the amount of things she states (and how much she remembers), shows she is very smart. Even the way she words her writing shows her intelligence.
The next meeting, no one knows where Sanaz is and what has happened to her. She hasn’t been responding to anything. So, they begin the meeting without her, convinced she has been called away to her fiance. Once the meeting was almost over, Sanaz came in. “She seemed so distraught at being late and having missed the class that she was ready to burst into tears.” Sanaz goes on to explain why she hasn’t been here and what had happened to her. She had gone on a two-day vacation with five girls. On the first say, they went to see one of her friend’s fiance. “Sanaz kept emphasizing that they were all properly dressed, with their scarves and long robes. They were all sitting outside, in the garden: six girls and one boy. There were no alcoholic beverages in the house, no undesirable tapes or CDs. She seemed to be suggesting that if there had been, they might have deserved the treatment they received at the hands of the Revolutionary Guards.” To continue the story, the guards came in with a search warrant and armed to the ‘T’. After they saw there was nothing for them to be taken to jail, the guards made up a false reason, saying they were going to jail for “infractions in the matters of morality”. They stayed in jail for forty-eight hours. The woman were given virginity tests, both at a hospital and a woman gynecologist. On the third day, the parents were worried, but the guards tole them “that their children might have been killed in a recent car accident”. After the parent were told that, they set of to the town and found them. “The girls were given a summary trial, forced to sign a document confessing to sins they had not committed and subjected to twenty-five lashes.” Sanaz was wearing a T-shirt under her robe, so the guards gave her extra lashes, saying it’s because she had an extra garment and wouldn’t feel the pain. “For her, the physical pain had been more bearable than the indignity of the virginity tests and her self-loathing at having signed a forced confession. In some perverse way, the physical punishment was a source of satisfaction to her, a compensation for having yielded to those other humiliations.” This right here shows the wrong in the government. Nafisi doesn’t have to say she hates the government, doesn’t have to put pressures on her readers to believe one way, when they can see it for themselves: through the experiences her students had to go through.
Certain things such as the mention of certain famous bands and people (Michael Jackson, the Doors, etc.), and how her students talk help show the time period that this takes place in. She also places times like 1994 and 1995 which doesn’t hurt. What helps show the location is how Nafisi talks about the restrictions of women, strict regulations on what you can and cannot do, and the mention of the University of Tehran (plus it’s on the cover).
Nafisi goes back to how, in the beginning of their classes the women had trouble talking about who they are, but as the class progressed, they began to find ways to express who they are.
Sanaz: “It is a simple drawing in black and white, of a naked girl, the white of her body caught in a black bubble. She is crouched in an almost fetal position, hugging one bent knee. Her other leg is stretched out behind her. Her long, straight hair follows the same curves line as the contour of her back, but her face is hidden. The bubble is lifted in the air by a giant bird with long black talons.”
“Most of the others expressed themselves in words.”
Manna: “Manna saw herself as fog, moving over concrete objects, taking on their form but never becoming concrete herself.”
Yassi: “Yassi described herself as a figment.”
Nassrin: “Nassrin, in on response, gave me the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the word paradox.”
They all see themselves in different ways. Some in drawings, some in writing and words, and some in physical features/and or objects. It’s wild to think people associate themselves with so many other things. Even people who, as the stereotypical Americans (maybe even British) people think that the Iranians are all the same, Nafisi shows how different everyone is. Just because you wear the same clothes, or possibly look the same, it doesn’t mean you are. We can compare it to twins or triplets. Just because the siblings look alike, it doesn’t mean they are. One may be loud, the other quiet. One nice while the other is mean. So maybe it’s time to change the stereotypical view, to change this whole idea of personality based on physical attributes, and make it where we base physical attributes on personality. Where we listen to the words of the Iranian, or of anyone thought to be the same, before looking at their clothes.
This was the end of part I, and I really liked it. I mean, some parts aren’t the greatest (as expected), but I like when Nafisi talks about her students and their backgrounds. Thumbs up!
- What effect could the form have, and does this aid or hinder the author’s intention?
- Does he/she come across as knowledgeable? fair?
- How do the allusions, historical references, or kinds of words used place this in a certain time and location?