Lolita

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 the significance in the work and why it is meaningful to you, your life and beliefs.

There is one quote, it’s a single sentence but it’s sentiment is retold throughout this section and the memoir. “Later she told me that the guards had tried to use her as a human shield, saying that this man would shoot at them but not at her” (Nafisi, 65). ‘She’ refers to Tahereh Khanoom, ‘the guards’ are men from the revolutionary committee who were trying to capture the ‘man’, who was the tenant of Nafisi’s neighbour. In justifying the use of Tahereh as a human shield, the guards become villains in my eyes. They say the tenant wouldn’t shoot a woman, but to me, if he had shot, then it would have been just as much the guard’s fault for forcing her into the compromising position. I’m used to books where men sacrifice their lives for women, not where they sacrifice women’s lives for their own. I’m not saying that the first is good, or accurate to any society, but maybe that’s why this quote is so shocking to me. This quote says something to me about Iranian society at the time and the value of women in the society; that sentiment is echoed in may other quotes of this section.

Nafisi spends a lot of time in the first section of her memoir discussing how fiction parallels life in Tehran. When her group discusses A Thousand and One Nights Nafisi explains that, “the women in the story are divided into those who betray and then are killed (the queen), and those who are killed before they have a chance to betray (the virgins)” (Nafisi, 19). Other than to say that they discussed how literary works could help them in their present situation as women in Tehran (Nafisi, 19), Nafisi doesn’t say that the categorization of women in A Thousand and One Nights applied to women in Tehran, and I don’t think it does. But, there are similarities between the two worlds; the first of which is that each places on minimal value on female life. In A Thousand and One Nights the killing of the virgins is to prevent them from betraying men, and in Iran, preventative measures are also taken against women, such as enforced behaviour, dress code and lifestyles.

The role of women, is a prominent and important theme in Reading Lolita in Tehran especially in its first section. The expectations and controls placed on society fight to control the lives of the women in the book club. As a group they fight back in many ways, including the study of literature. They begin to realize the power they possess. Nafisi says, “Does she realize, Sanaz, of her own power? Does she realize how dangerous she can be when her every stray gesture is a disturbance to public safety” (Nafisi, 27)? Ironically in Iranian society, the women may be more powerful than in Western society. If women could send the government a message by showing their hair in public, would they have bothered to fight for the vote? I’d like to think so, because there are different types of power. A small militia group does not have the same power as a national army. Besides, it would seem those who feel no remorse are the most powerful; you can void anyone’s power if you are willing to kill them, or use them as a human shield.

This theme is so interesting and important to me because the inequality renders me in disbelief. As a female, I can hardly bear to imagine myself in such situations as the women in Reading Lolita in Tehran endure. For me, the role of women is one of the most powerful themes in the memoir, and the quotes developing it are some of the most thought provoking.




Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran. New York: Randomhouse, 2003 . Print.