Austen

What people and situations in the memoir remind you of people and situations in your own life? How are they similar and how are they different?

In part 4 of Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, called Austen some of the issues that the girls of Nafisi’s book club discuss are men, marriages and sex. These topics do not only bring out a different more intimate side to the characters in the book club but also bring out some of the personal views and problems the girls face in their own lives. For example Azin deals with an abusive husband, discussing marriages men and sex has more of a deeper meaning for her.

In the beginning of Austen, we hear from Manna as she actively participates in the discussions. Manna was the character that stood out to me the most; she was the character that I felt helped me relate to the novel on a personal level. Her personality, her responses, her behavior and the situations she created seemed especially familiar in this part. This is because I know someone who is very close to Manna’s nature, and possesses the same style of communication that Manna distinctively shows through her eyes. “Manna had a way of secretly communicating with the few people she liked. Her chief means of contact were her eyes, which she focused or withdrew from you” (Nafisi, 257). I felt these sentences drew the major link between Manna and my dad as he also has very distinct and powerful eyes that he uses to convey his thoughts with, sometimes even more effectively than with words. Another description which I re-read again and again because it was so accurate to my dad was “we had developed a hidden code between us and only when she felt offend would she lower and divert her gaze to one side” ( Nafisi, 257). Despite Manna’s somewhat aggressive eye-contact when she is trying to get a point across or is provoking something she also uses her eyes as a tool to show discomfort. I find that almost always in groups, there is always at least one person who despite their constant clever remarks and blunt statements will be silent at times when they feel offended or insulted. These were the major sentences at the very beginning that created the link between Manna and her interactions with the book club members and my dad with me and others, and then throughout the chapters I made the link frequently.

The one time I saw a difference between Manna and my dad was through this quote: “she glanced at me conspiratorially, her black eyes brimming with humor, knowing she would draw a reaction.” ( Nafisi, 257). This was a different characteristic because my dad’s remarks always cause a strong reaction but he never seems to do so intentionally. This quote shows Manna’s deliberate attempt of provoking a reaction as she is challenging what someone else has said.

Throughout the novel Manna’s eyes have been mentioned time and time again as a distinct and crucial characteristic of hers. I think in this part of the memoir the way Nafisi gave importance to Manna’s communication helped me link Manna with my dad. This link was a very interesting one because I always knew there was something very different in the way my dad interacted sometimes; I was just never able to pinpoint what that unusual difference was. However using Nafisi’s elaborate descriptions of Manna’s character and the way she interacted with the rest of the book club helped me understand how my dad carried some of the same physical aspects of communication that Manna did; something that was very insignificant otherwise.