Gatsby

Point out an idea or theme – stated in one or more sentences in the section or implied in the actions and events – that is meaningful to you. Explain its significance in the work and why it is meaningful to you, your life and beliefs.

In the second part of Reading Lolita in Tehran called Gatsby, the idea of why we read fiction often comes up, specifically during the Gatsby trial near the end of the section. In this trial, while the debate may center around whether or not The Great Gatsby by Scott F. Fitzgerald, should be read in Tehran, instead, the discussion develops into one over the significance and reason behind reading fiction. There are two different answers presented by both the prosecutor of The Great Gatsby, Mr. Nyazi and the defendant, Zarrin. Fiction is something which is very important and prevalent my life and so I also find it important to explore why I read fiction and what I consider good or effective fiction.

The first answer to this perplexing question is given by Mr. Nyazi who calls The Great Gatsby a “cultural rape” (Nafisi 126) and says that the only good thing about the book “is that it exposes the immortality and decadence of American society” (Nafisi 127). On the other hand, Zarrin argues that Mr. Nyazi, like many other Iranian leaders who were trying to oppress western literature, could “no longer distinguish fiction from reality” (Nafisi 128) and she argues that books like The Great Gatsby are read, not “to learn whether adultery is good or bad but to learn about how complicated issues such as adultery and fidelity and marriage are” (Nafisi 133).

Mr. Nyazi and his hard-line, fanatical, Muslim way of thinking, is not one which I am able to connect with or understand however, by looking through his point of view I am able to see his side of the argument. If newspapers and radio can be used as propaganda then so can literature. Many other leaders throughout the years such as Chinese dynasties and the Nazi party rid their countries of literature, which supported or even included ideas, which were not compatible with their own. Following these examples, I can determine that people are, or leaders are scared that people are, influenced by literature and so Mr. Nyazi does have the right to be worried about the people in Iran being swayed by the so called American Dream presented in The Great Gatsby.

Zarrin argues back at Mr. Nyazi a fair point, that he is becoming to enveloped in the literature and he can no longer distinguish fiction from reality. Zarrin explains that a novel succeeds when it “shakes us out of our stupor and makes us confront the absolutes we believe in” (Nafisi 129) which clearly the novel Gatsby has, if people are beginning to question the morals of American society and the American Dream.

After reading and thinking about both sides of the argument, I decided to consider another book which I had read in my grade ten english course which was, To Kill A Mockingbird. To Kill A Mockingbird is set in a southern town in which racism is a commonly accepted practice however, do high schools all over the North America read To Kill A Mockingbird to support racism? I believe that this argument is the same as Mr. Nyazi’s argument claiming that they are reading the Gatsby to support the negatives of the American Dream and that the author of the Gatsby is meaning, “to suggest that we should all be adulterers and bandits” (Nafisi 127).

To conclude, I would like to go back to the original question brought up in Gatsby, part two of Nafisi’s memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran that is, why do we read fiction? Both characters make interesting arguments however, after examining To Kill A Mockingbird I believe that if read correctly, fiction is not something, which should influence beyond question. Mr. Nyazi is correct when he says that fiction should never be read with such narrow-mindedness that one cannot see the negatives of the society presented and the people in Iran or anywhere else in the world should not blindly follow the American Dream presented in The Great Gatsby. On the other hand, Zarrin is also correct that there should be an even balance in which a reader can see both the negatives of a society and the superiorities of a society to their own and make them question the foundation in which their society stands upon. I believe that I follow this idea in my own life when I read fiction, as fiction to me is not only entertaining, but also makes me wonder about my society and my life. To me, fiction is something, which can be very powerful and persuasive, and functions best when you, as Nafisi states on page 111 to her class, “enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny….This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience." (Nafisi 111) In conclusion, I believe that the real point of fiction, and what it needs to succeed, is for the reader to dive into it and not only question the society presented in the novel, but also their own.