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Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
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Reading Lolita in Tehran > Reading Lolita in Tehran, Part 2: Gatsby

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Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
Reading Lolita in Tehran, Part 2: Gatsby


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Rumana Papia | 8 comments Throughout this section, the audience is introduced to a wide variety of themes relating to one another. One of the primary themes that recur within the pages is of dreams and its relationship with reality. The protagonist Humbert of the novel Lolita and Jay Gatsby of Great Gatsby both fantasize of attaining another human and they even succeed but only to a certain point. They are able to possess the their prey physically but never mentally or of their own will. Like these two driven men, the regime of the Republic of Tehran holds a strong passion in creating a country where the Qur’an is law and nothing comes before it.
Humbert dreams of composing and possessing a perfect Lolita who has no will and will satisfy his sexual desires. Gatsbys one desire is to have Daisy and most importantly, have her love. The regime of the Republic of Tehran dreams of maintaining a society where the Qur’an acts as the constitution and the public willingly follows its words. Each dreamer obtains some sort of advantage whether it be power, wealth, or strength which keeps their prey in line.
The parallelism between these situations is that in Humberts quest of molding Lolita, she is completely destroyed, her childhood is snatched from her and so is her right to live. Tehran’s regime ends up damaging the country and most importantly Islam by utilizing it as an “instrument of oppression” thus wounding it deeper than any foreign country could have done. In each case, either a person or group of higher and stronger power aims to “possess and control imaginative minds” and in the process, end up either hurting their target or themselves. In Gatsby's case, he ends up with the label of being a murderer and eventual execution for loving a girl and taking the consequences of her actions.
In all three cases, the biggest crimes of the culprits is being “blind to others problems and pains.” Had they acknowledged their preys existence and emotions, then perhaps they could have succeeded in their goals of fully possessing them. Gatsbys blindness to Daisys emotions made him feel that she could love him and that she would if he tried hard enough. His love for her causes him to be blind and overlook the fact that she’s someone elses. If he could see that there is no love for him in her then perhaps he would have refrained from taking the blame for her. He could have lived but because of his own blindness and carelessness he invites death. Like Gatsby, Humbert chooses to be completely blind to Lolita’s pain, for him its in black or white, its yes or no, either she accepts him fully or faces the wrath of her rapist. Since Lolita never accepts him, each time they engage in sexual activities it becomes “crueler and a tainted act of rape.”
Tehran's regime’s carelessness in paying heed to the public's desires causes the uprisings. The regime is only able to see things in black or white, they behave as if “drunk of their own righteousness,” causing them to overlook the pain they direct inflict on the country as well as its people. This pain is what ignites the resistence. The regime of the Republic of Tehran can send out as many groups of morality police but where there’s oppression, one has to expect resistance. This resistance is the public expressing their emotions but to the regime, nothing comes before war other than the Qur’an and according to them, the Qur’an is telling them to engage in war in order to show their faith. For the regime, the people aren’t allowed to not want this war or not support it. They aren’t allowed to have any opinion or any disagreements. Each time the morality police harass an innocent woman for her hair peeking out of her chador, they make a wound on the minds and hearts of the public. The country feels the pain of the war perhaps even more than the enemies but due to the blindness of the leaders and their dreams of a perfect Qur’an based country, no humans pain makes an inch of a difference. The country as a whole has to deal with consequences of this blindness.


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Jackie Galvez | 8 comments I thoroughly enjoyed this section very much. Not only did the narrator begin to really show how she picked the students for her book group but I began to really see all the different traits of the students as well. It also showed how she knew the students beforehand. They were certainly very special people.
My favorite part of this section was the in-class trial of The Great Gatsby. She allowed her students to be judge and jury, even though she knew already how the judge and prosecutor felt about such a Western book. She allowed herself to be in a vulnerable position in front of her students and even if they didn’t speak up on behalf of the book she really got those to start thinking for themselves and not just blindly follow the revolutionist Muslim students. This also shows that she is more fearless than what meets the eye. She isn’t afraid to put herself in an awkward situation if it is needed to make her students look at something in a different foreign way that may not be the most comfortable way to approach a subject.
The trial brought to light how Western works were viewed. Only works that were allowed to be distributed without any censorship were by poets and writers of Tehran were purposedly printed out. The regime said it was to instill Iranian pride in the people. On the other hand, Professor Nafizi wanted them to judge the book for its plot and the author’s skill not just by his nationality. Her husband jokingly said that she studied the book in the same “intensity as a lawyer scrutinizing” a law book (122). This technically was the situation in a nutshell. But because of this intense appraisal, the experiment worked because at the end of it, several of her students did come up to her and tell her that they secretly liked it. This is one point that the Professor starts to think of creating her at home literary book club. Nassrim from the beginning showed such promising attributes. How many students would sit in a class in their free time and do the coursework without fail and willingly agree to write a fifteen page paper at the end of the year? As I said before a very special type of student, who might’ve suffered intellectually if this type of class hadn’t been created by the Professor.
Bizarrely this section of the book shows all the characters flaws very starkly and yet somehow this makes them even more decently Western to her students instead of just people who made some questionable choices. This brings to light the problems that the regime tried to hide like prostitution. The funny thing is the more the regime tried to make things illegal and wrong the more the public found loopholes to get them; such as making homemade vodka and alcohol and 5 minute marriages so that men could get their quick fix. So in a way this section also shows the regimes hypocrisy in itself and the leaders running it.


Natalie Fallano | 8 comments In part 2 of Nafisi's novel, she recounts her life as well as focuses on a different time in her life than that of part 1. The audience is told the prequel story to her life as well as given a history lesson of the Iranian Revolution. The most engaging part of this section is the trial of Iran vs. Gatsby. The university as well as her literature class is full of students from opposing sides, including radicals and revolutionaries. Their political beliefs differ and show in the classroom. One student challenges Scott Fitzgerald's the Great Gatsby and Nafisi decides to hold a mock-trial in her classroom, Iran vs. Gatsby. The student prosecutor charges Gatsby with containing "cultural rape," unpunished "adultery" and "the immorality and decadence of American society" (126-127). The defense attorney, Zarrin, retaliates by accusing Mr. Nyazi of not being able to "distinguish fiction from reality" (128). She does not defend Jay Gatsby's actions, but rather asks a deeper question: what is the role of fiction?
The class ponders this question through Gatsby even though it can be applied to all works of fiction throughout every time period. Fitzgerald is not egging on adultery or forcing morals onto his readers. Zarrin expresses "A good novel is one that shows the complexity of individuals, and creates enough space for all these characters to have voice," therefore being democratic. (132). Within fiction there lies universal truths which we are able to understand because of characters and stories. In the case of Gatsby, Nafisi emphasizes the idea of lost dreams: "What we in Iran had in common with Fitzgerald was this dream that became our obsession and took over our reality" (144). In other words, the revolution spiraled out of control because this dream of Iran was unattainable, like Gatsby's American dream. But looking past Gatsby Nafisi delves deeper when she notices her students arguing, "not over the hostages or the recent demonstrations or Ravaji and Khomeinu, but over Gatsby and his alloyed dream" (136). Literature brings out human emotion, despite that its fiction because it is the way people are able to connect with one another. These students disagree about secularity and politics, but are able to take one of two sides in regards to Gatsby. It is the connection made when all other efforts of reasoning fail. Zarrin wonders "why people bothered to claim to be literature majors" and this is her answer. Just like we learn from science and history, about the past and the future, literature allows people to understand their reality by analyzing a world that is not their own. This is a main theme in the book and is how Nafisi chooses to tell the story of revolutionary Iran. She divides the story according to books. No matter her colorful descriptions and stories, we will not ever understand Iran the way her students and her do. We can only connect with it because we connect and understand these novels. The connection these novels provide, proves that similarities exist between people in different times, places, and their realities.


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Janice Yiu | 6 comments In this section, Nafisi describes her return to Iran in 1979 after years in the United States. She is happy to be going home, yet there are certain things that have changed. Nafisi notices the mood of the airport instantly. She was so ecstatic to be going home, yet the “giant posters of an ayatollah stare down reproachfully.” (81) These black and bloodred darken the vibe of the airport. Without stepping out the airport, Nafisi already senses that Iran has changed. It was not welcoming but instead the mood was “somber and slightly menacing.” (82) Nafisi compared this change to a witch casting a dark spell over the airport. The colorful Iran was replaced with a dark and serious curse. Nafisi’s assumptions are confirmed when she sees anxiety in the eyes of her mother and friends. As she leaves the customs area, a guard checks her carry on bags with a smile that was “complicit, reconciling, and cynical.” (82) This foreshadows the rest of the section because it is a look that Nafisi becomes very familiar with and the airport is the first place she sees it. I liked how Nafisi noticed the changes immediately. Without stepping out of the airport, she senses that the Iran she once knew is gone. The small quirks that she found unusual in the airport are exposed in a much larger scale when Nafisi starts teaching at the university.
I found the trial of “The Great Gatsby” very interesting. I wouldn’t say it was surprising so many students found the book immoral because the characters were “adulterous.” What was surprising, however, was the hate towards western literature, claiming the west as “Great Satan” and “a rape of culture.” (126) Nyazi then claims that it is not just Gatsby who deserves death, but rather the whole American society. The trial not only displayed how Nafisi’s students interpreted the book, but how they view western culture. Nyazi’s arguments primarily derive from the events rather than the theme which he completely misses. To me, it kind of shows how narrow minded Nyazi is. When Nassrin asks Nyazi if Christian women who don’t believe in wearing veils are prostitutes, Nyazi shouts back that in Iran, it is simply the law. A trial that was initially based on a book turned into a heated debate on Iran, morals, and society. It is clear that the classroom has been divided to radicals and revolutionaries. Nafisi wanted her students to stray from the characters immorality and have them focus on the theme. It is not Gatsby’s American dream that Iranians can relate to, but rather the destruction of the revolutionary dreams that Iranians had.


Mary | 8 comments This chapter seemed to take a different direction than the first, which focused mainly on Nafisi's Thursday morning class with her girls. However, Gatsby focuses on Nafisi herself - her younger "rebellious" years at her Oklahoma University, the process of beginning teaching in the University of Tehran, and the personal struggles she faces as a teacher and a woman uninterested in choosing sides on campus protests.

I know very little about the Great Gatsby (I've never read it and have only read the wikipedia synopsis) so I feel like some of the parallels between life in Tehran and the book flew over my head. However, since Nafisi went less into detail about the content of the book and more about the reception of it among her students, I feel as if the use of the book in her story was to show the political and moral climate of Iran at the time more than how her and Jay Gatsby (or any other character for that matter) were similar. I found the trial a very interesting aspect of the chapter, especially the way Nafisi portrayed both the defense, Zarrin, and the prosecutor, Nyazi. She tended to focus more on Zarrin's point of view as opposed to Nyazi. At this point, it is clear to the reader (if it wasn't already by the first chapter) what end of the political spectrum Nafisi is in regards to Iran. It also shows the reader how Nafisi feels literature is to be treated.

While the traditional Muslim view is that writers are to preach morals that are featured in the Qur'an, Nafisi clearly disagrees with this. I personally found this idea to be quite strange - when writers have to write for one uniform purpose, it takes away the art of it. It keeps it from being a form of expression. Even without explaining this in depth, it is clear to see that by explaining the Muslim ideal that writers are the upholders of moral, the reader can see how even in the most creative professions the revolutionaries want uniformity that fits with their vision of a perfect world. Their vision truly spans all walks of life.

The trial of Gatsby reveals that Nafisi sees literature as something to be enjoyed and not taken in a literal sense. It is her escape, and she wants to show others how to use literature as a tool. To allow ones self to be able to identify with a character and feel the same passion the character does. Not necessarily pick it apart and analyze all that makes up the book, but to be able to empathize with the characters and form feelings and reactions to it's content. Nafisi sees literature as an important concept to life that allows one to live within another world during the span of one book. Perhaps this is why she felt compelled to hold her Thursday classes? Not only because she felt that some students could grasp the material more than others, but because she felt as if some students needed the escape?


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Prince Mukala | 4 comments Reading through this portion of the novel, I find it interesting how regardless of her location, Azar Nafisi is intrinsically connected to Iran and, more specifically, the culture and atmosphere of Iran. For example, she points out in one point of the novel of how in America she'd often like to remind anyone willing to listen of how American landscapes mirrored those in Iran. She stated, as an example of how a "little stream surrounded by trees, meandering its way through a parched land, is just like Iran. Just like Iran, just like home"(Nafisi 82). Regardless of her escape from home, the author cannot help but draw parallels to the areas she has lived in, and her native love, Iran.

Another similar event occurs when she suffers through a painful marriage with her ex-husband, whom she describes as "insanely jealous" and a critic of divorce, openly stating that,"A woman enters her husband's home in her wedding gown and leaves it in her shroud"(Nafisi 83). In essence, even living in the "land of the free,home of the brave"(U.S.)Azar Nafisi still cannot escape the tight, and cagey nature that follows many Iranian women.

Also, I thought the part in the book where the author characterizes people and the environment in Tehran by the political views of the people rather than cultural or social distinctions markedly distinguishes her from most writers that I’ve read. Most often we think of individuals and situations in terms of what a person wears and where a person hails from, especially in America, the great melting pot. In the case of Nafisi’s classroom she “matched names to faces, and learned to read them, to know who was with whom against whom and who belonged to what group. It is almost frightening how these images appear out of the void, like the faces of the dead come back to life to execute some unfulfilled task”(Nafisi 94). The passage highlights how the ousting of the Shah implemented by the U.S. for Ayatollah Khomeini has heightened the political tension within all aspects of Iranian life, and also underscores how people have ended and severed friendships with close comrades over political loyalties. In a time of political instability and change, the author’s persistent description of characters based on their political leanings helps me gain a fuller image of life in Iran, and the turmoil of the time period she is describing.

So far, this book has done a great job of tackling the difficult concept of the separation of church and state, or in this case theology and the government. The author argues of her grandmother(page 103) who was a devout Muslim--more devout than most of the students and teachers--that hated politics. Because to her, the veil represented her close relationship to God, but through the whim of revolutionaries and the people in power, it had been mutated to a tool for political repression of women. I think the veil to most women is repressive but some women adorn it willingly as a symbol of their respect and relationship with God.


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Ashly | 8 comments The second section of this book highlights more on Nafisi’s teaching style and her approach to direct her students further into western literature. Nafisi’s introduction of the Great Gatsby to her students was less appreciated, her students seemed to be confused and some took the initiative to challenge the very significance of the novel. Mr. Nyazi challenges the novel placing it on trial. Nyazi claims that it condones adultery.In this trial, while the debate may center on 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 why we reading fiction. There are two different answers presented by both the prosecutor of The Great Gatsby, Mr. Nyazi and the defendant, Zarrin. 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 can be in reality.

Mr. Nyazi and his extreme, obsessive, Muslim way of thinking, is not one which I am able to connect with or appreciate however, I am able to see his side of the argument. If newspapers and television can be used as propaganda then so can literature. Many totalitarian leaders throughout history have banned literature simply because it supported or included ideas, which were not compatible with their own. So it is understandable that Mr. Nyazi is worried about the people of Iran being swayed by the so called American Dream presented in The Great Gatsby. One reoccurring theme in the Great Gatsby was the “death of the American dream”; this is most evident in the so-called "valley of ashes." Fitzgerald describes a barren wasteland which probably has little to do with the New York landscape and instead serves to comment on the downfall of American society. It seems that throughout Fitzgerald’s revolution novel the American dream had been corrupted and reversed identical to the “Iranian dream” most people seemed to have during the revolution.

Going back to the original question brought up in Gatsby, why do we read fiction? 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. There should be an even balance in which a reader of any fiction can see both the negatives of a society and its superiorities making them question the foundation in which their society stands upon


James Malzone | 8 comments Part Two of Reading Lolita in Tehran begins with Nafisi returning to Iran after a long absence. Her excitement and enthusiasm are quickly diminished as the new reality of the country and its new government settle in; the Iran of her childhood which had marinated in her mind in her absence was long gone. So sets the theme of Part Two: how realities we create for ourselves can be the cause of our own destruction. Throughout Nafisi's recollection of the Iranian revolution and the new regime's subsequent imposition of severe laws and restrictions, she weaves commentary on The Great Gatsby and the titular character's story of unrequited love through. Jay Gatsby didn't fall in love with Daisy Fay, he fell in love with his image of her in his mind, just as Humbert fell in love with the Lolita he created, and his downfall was that he was too blind to see that she was faithless and careless.

Nafisi personifies the Iranian government with the same mannerisms of blind protagonists Humbert and Gatsby. As Rumana said, in their blindness the government ends up causing much more death and destruction to itself. Not so much the government, even, but the people it rules over, who are so utterly starved of change that they are convinced in their hunger that the radical right-wing changes occurring are for the greater good, in the name of God and country. They are blind to the countless innocent people jailed and executed because to them they are simply deterrents to a brighter future, when in reality they are the victims of a bleak present and hopeless future.

In my response to Part One I said that a word I would use to describe the chapter would be "escapism" (or some form of the word.) For this chapter, seeing as it takes place many years before the first of Nafisi's Thursday classes with her former students, the word I would use to describe it would be "helplessness". Nafisi throughout the chapter describes how her and everyone around her - her friends, her colleagues at the universities, the government - all lose control due to their own doings. What they did, however, was create a world where everything is black and white, right or wrong, left or right, revolutionary or anti-revolutionary. In doing this, they shut themselves off to rational thinking and act only to keep the radical change ongoing - even if it means killing a few (thousand) people.

This plot against common sense is showcased in the chapter's centerpiece, the trial of Iran v. Gatsby (the novel, not the character) that Nafisi stages in her class. Like Natalie, I found it to be the most engaging part of the book so far, and also the most telling of the world that she lived in and writes of in the book. To try to defend the book, Nafisi stages a trial, where the prosecutor relies not on hard facts or academic opinions of the book but rather fervent religious rhetoric, and the defense is too overwhelmed to make a stronger case.


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Haley Dowdie | 8 comments Part two on Gatsby, took an interesting turn. In the beginning I was a bit confused, until of course I realized the change in time. Returning to the beginning of the revolution, and the protagonist’s days as a teacher, provides great history for the reader. This also highlights the main features and issues occurring during the revolution. As a reader, especially an American reader, one might not understand the entire revolution or the experience for those living through it in Iran. The author effectively captures the fear, anger, and corruption through her writing. The reader is able to really grasp the hardships for the students and teachers.
Upon reading about the Gatsby trial, two major ideas came to mind: 1) separation of church and state (as I believe mentioned in other’s posts) and 2) dreams and reality.
A society held together by extremist beliefs, will only fall apart. In Tehran, the revolution seeks to combine Islamic beliefs with social codes and laws. Yet, these religious beliefs only bring harm and take away the individuals’ personal rights. In the trial Mr.Nyazi claims “Mr.Gatsby” and the book itself to be immoral. He condescends on the American culture and American dream claiming it preaches theft, adultery, sex, and other poor morals. Ironically, the radical beliefs the revolution seeks to instill within university and society, along with the methods they seek to do it with do not appear to be moral. Killing students over protest and forcing women to cover their bodies against their will- all harsh methods that go against many religious codes. The point Vida made about Nazi Germans and Jews wearing the star because it was the law are simple examples that demonstrate the corruption occurring (like the holocaust) because of the lack of separation between church and state.
If a society based on the Islamic dream, is in fact the dream of revolutionists, Mr. Nyazi completely misunderstood Gatsby and the American dream. As a reader one must ask the question of “how can you impose [a dream] on a constantly changing, imperfect, incomplete reality?” (144)- a reality that does not share the same dream, nor can be ruled by one dream. The author correlates Gatsby’s dreams to those of the revolutionists. She refers to how the revolutions dream is based on past ideas in an ever-changing present and future, thus being unrealistic. The author also explains how “the biggest sin is to be blind to other’s problems and pains” (132). If this is the case, the dream of the revolution is immoral as readers see in the jailing, murders, and protests by the Iranian people because of the Islamic moral based dream.
Mr.Nyazi along with other revolutionists fear that books like The Great Gatsby corrupt society with their western beliefs and culture. Zarrin made an interesting point about the purpose of novels and their impact. Zarrin argues that novels do not necessarily influence as much as the simply education. Perhaps, the reason those like Mr.Nyazi wish to terminate books like this is because they lack understanding of the impact of the books and readers. Perhaps they simply fear corruption. However, because of this do they have a blind spot for their own corruption?


I realize my writing is all over the place, I just had a lot of ideas flowing through my head that I had to get down. Hope it’s not too confusing.


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James Hickey | 4 comments The University as a Microcosm
While Nafisi doesn’t hesitate to retell her involvement in the various protests and demonstrations that occurred in and around the university, she uses the trial of The Great Gatsby to show the emotions of the revolution. Most importantly, she points out what can only be called ridiculousness in which the revolutionaries attack anything that contains anti-Islamic ideals claiming it weakens their political ambitions. Mr. Nyazi who was the prosecution against the book only sees the book at face value, denouncing it for merely mentioning dishonest actions such as adultery. His determination to prove the book immoral is equal to the brutality the demonstrators face at the hands of the vigilantes the government uses. Their argument is based not on the theme of the book but the fact that actions that the Islamic Republic condemns occurs in it. It appears that the only reason Mr. Nyazi persecutes the book is that he is afraid of being persecuted himself for being associated with a book that could be considered a threat the revolution. Zarrin presents a much more logical defense, stating that The Great Gatsby does not suggest to the reader to participate in these un-Islamic actions because he is using them to “disturb” the reader and make them “confront the absolutes we believe in.” The fact that Zarrin stands up and defends the book encourages others to admit that they do not agree with Mr. Nyazi but many, most likely still afraid of being persecuted, do not speak up. The fear of the government permeates the entire section as teachers are expelled and violent riots lead to the death of thousands of protesters. The Cultural Revolution as “they” call it is not so much a revolution where new styles are found but one where only a certain culture is allowed. What was particularly disturbing was the efficiency at which the government carried out their business. The quote from Khomeini about criminals being killed before trial because trials were not given to criminals because they were not human emphasizes that this forced “cultural revolution” had no legal basis and was to simply eliminate the competition.


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Lyvia Couseillant | 8 comments Part 2:Gatsby

In this section Nafisi is back home in Tehran after going to school in England and in Switzerland. She searches for a familiar and happy face something to lift her spirits after standing in this crowd that shares their hate of America with slogans that read, "DEATH TO AMERICA!DOWN WITH IMPERIALISM & ZIONISM!AMERICA IS OUR NUMBER-ONE ENEMY". Nafisi discusses her marriage to a man that was not like her before her eighteenth birthday. After six months of marriage she decided to divorce him, for he wanted her to be the type of wife that she knew from the beginning she was never going to be. One part of this section that stood out to me was when Nafisi was looking for The Great Gatsby for her students and someone told her that those books would soon be hard to find and later on the books were banned. As the class keeps reading "The Great Gatsby" there is a parallel between it to "Lolita", the parallel being possessing a dream often destroys it in the way that Humbert destroys Lolita.


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Iris (iris_feng) | 6 comments Through a smooth transition from Lolita to Gatsby, Nafisi continues to define her dream and that of Iranian society through Dr. A and Gatsby’s trial. The Gatsby chapter reflects the contrasting voices in the Islamic society that includes leftist, radicals, Muslim activists, and others, like Nafisi, who reminisce the Iran of her childhood.

The trial of Dr. A utilizes the power of literature to reflect the ignorance of the new regime whose world only consists of black and white. His student later expresses that “every individual has different dimensions to his personality…Those who judge must take all aspects of an individual’s personality into account” (118). The power of literature is its ability to portray every perspective and offer equal opportunity for each to voice its side. The concept of open-mindedness and acceptance for differences is universal in today’s world; however, the inability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes and understand the other’s different and contradictory sides still exists on a daily basis. It is tragic that outside of literature, most human beings are unable to see through differences and they only focus on one aspect of individuals. Not only does Nafisi convey the issue of the Iranian society but it also reflects a global phenomenon.

Nafisi comments during Gatsby’s trial that “a good novel is one that shows the complexity of individuals, and creates enough space for all these characters to have a voice; in this way a novel is called democratic-not that it advocates democracy but that by nature it is so” (132). What I enjoy the most about literature is the freedom the readers have for imagination, analysis, and sensitivity to experience the complexity of a character or an issue. If one reads a novel with judgmental eyes even before he/she starts the reading, the self-righteousness prevents one from analyzing the complexity of good and evil as one’s perspective is fixed on a biased level. This idea again ties back to the carelessness of the new regime and its indifference to the consequences.

Nafisi highlights the American dream. Oblivious of the reality, Gatsby comes back five years later with mansion and wealth trying to impress Daisy. The desire over his American dream and his imagination of Daisy lead to his fatal death. As Nafisi states, “What we in Iran had in common with Fitzgerald was this dream that became our obsession and took over our reality…impossible in its actualization” (144). The Revolution overthrows Shah’s brutal and corrupt regime. However, the Islamic Republic is nothing different except more corrupt and oppressive of human rights and freedom. Now that “the past was dead, the present a sham, and there was no future” like how Gatsby tries to capture his dream (144). It’s ironic that some Muslim activists who protect the Revolution and Islamic Republic die at the cause of the new regime. What are these people fighting for? Perhaps more violence, execution, and blood.

What is dream? So far the dream of Humbert (recreation of Lolita), the dream of Gatsby (to become who he wants to be and Daisy), and the dream of Iranian society (absolute censorship) all convey fatal consequences. Dream is as if something untouchable and it would destroy itself and its subject as one endeavors to pursue it. I hope to find this answer in the next two sections.


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Taela | 7 comments Part 2: Gatsby

In the beginning of the story this talks about Nafisi return to Iran after living in England and Switzerland for school. When she came back to Iran she realized the changes in the country. Nafisi understood that the beginning of the Iranian revolution and the new rules and restrictions, was making life in Iran harder to live in. And to dream of hope for your country was out of sight. I wonder how it would feel coming back to my homeland after years the feeling that you have .

The second book the class read was the Great Gatsby a classic story . There was a conflict that the book was banned and it was considered “immoral work”, that is what Mr. Nyazi thought that the book is about the American way and how it practices bad morals .Azar decided it would be a good idea to put book on trial in the class. Nafisi was a witness defending the book and why it should not be banned . The trial of Gatsby showed the different opinions of what was simply a book or a metaphor of how life should be, or how the book could be consider bad. The Iranian society is not the most perfect society it is consider on having extremist and radical beliefs that limit some members of their community.

The connection of the two books Lolita and the Great Gatsby was the main characters falling in love but the women didn’t love them at all. But both men fell in love for the wrong reasons .The book was a good escape for the students, but it was a little differnt from Loltia , but still had important aspect of life in the book. The students could have had a connection about dreams of better Iran.


message 15: by Amalia (new)

Amalia Quesada | 8 comments In the Gatsby section of Reading Lolita in Tehran, Nafisi talks about peoples’ dreams of the future, the danger in their journey to fulfill these dreams, and the possibility of losing the dream as it comes to terms with reality. In chapter 18, Nafisi’s class is discussing the Gatsby trial. Zarrin is defends Gatsby and addresses the claims of the prosecutor, Mr. Nyazi. This section of the book is one of the climaxes of the plot, in terms of general plot. But it also mirrors major themes that appear in the Great Gatsby, which I found to be a remarkable and clever comparison.

The trial addressed themes like the American dream and the role of literature, particularly fiction. The prosecution continuously refers back to the American dream, claiming that a book like The Great Gatsby supports this “decadence” and exposes Iranians to American immorality. Zarrin explains that “the dream they embody is an alloyed dream that destroys whoever gets too close to it… this book is no less a condemnation of your wealthy upper classes than any of the revolutionary books we have read” (Nafisi, 131). She defies the prosecutors, accusing them of not taking the time to grasp a deeper understanding of the book, a message that exists within its text. Through this prosecution I was able to understand Nafisi’s message that literature can expose us to ideals we may not agree upon, but we must not look at it through one perspective; rather, take the time to consider the real meaning behind the text, and we may learn something.
There is an increase in tension throughout the chapter. At the end of the chapter, Nafisi writes, “they were all arguing as I left them outside the class …not over the hostages or the recent demonstrations…but over Gatsby and his alloyed dream” (Nafisi, 136). This description allowed me to understand and visualize how invested the students have become in the trial. It is about more than a book, because the lessons and topics the book touches upon awakens the opinions and ideals of the students as individuals. This connects with the theme of the importance of literature. I believe that Nafisi is trying to relay to her audience that fiction is a way for readers to come to terms with their emotions, discover a part of themselves that they never knew existed before. It gives readers the comfort of relating to something when all else fails, keeping touch with our dreams that we may not always see become a reality.


message 16: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Poirier | 8 comments Iris wrote: "What is dream? So far the dream of Humbert (recreation of Lolita), the dream of Gatsby (to become who he wants to be and Daisy), and the dream of Iranian society (absolute censorship) all convey fatal consequences. Dream is as if something untouchable and it would destroy itself and its subject as one endeavors to pursue it. I hope to find this answer in the next two sections. "

Iris, I was really inspired by what you wrote here about the dreams featured in part 2 of Reading Lolita in Tehran. One thing I wanted to elaborate on was the dream of the Iranian society, while I do not believe that society’s dream is absolute censorship, I do agree that it appears that way. The Iranian Republic after the revolution has tried to assimilate all of its citizens to an Islamic culture, with no religious freedom. Many involved and supportive of the revolution would not agree and say this was the dream of Iran, their dreams in fact, may have been broken by this. The revolution was won by the Islamic Republican Party, a group that forced strict Islamic rules, especially into the daily lives of women. And while the dream of Gatsby appeared to be immoral to those in Nafisi’s class, this was only because he wanted to be successful and achieve high society, the typical American dream.
One thing I noticed throughout this was that Nafisi once again brought in the theme of how literature and life connect or do not connect. Through the analysis of both trials, the students are given the chance to give the literature new meaning by digging deeper to connect it to real life. Nafisi challenged her students to look into the text and identify another theme besides the American dream. The parallel between Gatsby and the Iranian Revolutionary Dream seemed farfetched to me at first, but it makes sense. Gatsby is obsessed with material items and the idea of getting Daisy. And when the revolution began, the dream of a better life for Iran and its people was the cause, similar to Gatsby’s dream of a better life for himself.
This is another case where a question comes into my mind, is it fair to compare such a serious and devastating event to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby? Some part of me cannot help but feel like the direct comparison is unfitting and will only cause anger, as it resulted in high tensions for Nafisi’s class.


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