MHS AP Lit. 2012-2013 discussion

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
This topic is about Reading Lolita in Tehran
150 views
Reading Lolita in Tehran > Reading Lolita in Tehran, Part 3: James

Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Ryan Gallagher (ryangallagher) | 24 comments Mod
Reading Lolita in Tehran, Part 3: James


message 2: by Rumana (new)

Rumana Papia | 8 comments The ambiguity of fiction often causes students such as Mr. Nyazi and Mr. Ghomi, who are often referred to as “students of the revolution,” to feel frustrated and out of their comfort zone, leading to an inevitable hatred towards its works. Similar to the protagonist Humbert of the novel Lolita and Jay Gatsby of Great Gatsby, these young men are cursed with the “blindness” causing them to find the pains of the ones around them as nonexistent. The only things these men are willing to see and hear are the rules preached by the regime of the Republic of Tehran. The rules of the regime are based around the holy Qur’an which gives the highest importance to morality. The regime is only able to see the holy book in black and white and it also teaches its followers to see things as that.
What irks Mr. Nyazi, Mr. Ghomi, and a variety of other revolutionaries is that the characters of fiction and their morality cannot be judged by “fixed formulas about good and evil.” These characters have depth, their situations are bombarded with complexities that prevent the reader from only being able to see in black and white. These two men are known for their extreme devotion to the regime and its views on morality which is why they are quick to judge when it comes to right and wrong.
The revolution is what they live for, without it they feel completely lost. With the revolution, these men feel as if they have a duty to fulfill which becomes their reason to live. Making sure others respect as well as follow the words and teachings of Ayatollah Khomeini becomes a sort of rule they live by. There is no ambiguity in his rules nor in the Qur’ans which makes a clear path for the revolutionaries to structure their lives around. When they face the depths of fiction and its characters such as Jay Gatsby, Daisy Miller, and Catherine Sloper. The blurriness in the paths of the characters and their nontraditional decisions gets too overwhelming for students like Mr. Nyazi and Mr. Ghomi to understand which in the end leads to their enmity towards the subjects.
Daisy Miller challenges “traditional attitudes” towards an individual's relationship with society including their “duties” goes directly against the strict paths laid out by Ayatollah, his followers, and the Qur’an. Mr. Ghomi can’t help but come to the conclusion that she is “evil and deserves to die,” and all who believe otherwise should first check their own morals.
Both the female protagonists from the novellas Daisy Miller and Washington Square “refuse to be dictated to,” whether it be by society, their parents, or even their lovers. This confuses young adults like Mr. Nyazi and Mr. Ghomi since all their lives being dictated to had been the norm. Tehran’s regime, the morality police, and societal norms take the words of the Qur’an and lay them out in black and white and expect the individuals of the nation to follow it from word to word. They choose to or are accustomed to overlooking emotions and the depths that make up an individual, meanwhile fiction forces one to realize one’s “sensitivity to the complexities of life.” The self righteousness of these young men who have immersed themselves into the war and the regime becomes a barrier that prevents them from obtaining the ability to acknowledge others and their pains thus forcing them to look down upon any work of literature that promotes nontraditional values.


Natalie Fallano | 8 comments In James, part 3 of Reading Lolita in Tehran, the focus changes to Nafisi's life during the eight year long Iran-Iraqi war. In the previous sections her literary connections served as central to the theme, but this time, accounts of bombing and characterizations outshine James. The reader learns that Nassrin and Mahtab spent years in jail and Razeih's execution. This all occurred when Nafisi was not teaching but rather questioning her relevance. She expressed "People like me seemed as irrelevant as Fitzgerald was to Mike Gold, or Nabokov to Stalin's Soviet Union" (166)." In result these people did their work in private with "the essential part of their life [going] underground" (169). The most extreme example we see is the magician who "has withdrawn not just from the Islamic Republic but from life as such" (181). The magician disappeared in result of the dead culture. Nafisi contemplates whether she has a duty to teach this war generation and what people will think if she does. Some will believe she is just caving in. But f intellectuals, especially professors do not return, they will be replaced. And this leads to the replacement of literature and art and culture as well. So hiding from society is contributing to the dead culture just as much as the government. But returning and reinstituting culture can be dangerous. Nafisi is reminded of this when a she finds the note reading "The adulterous Nafisi should be expelled" under her door. "Adulterous" had lost its definition just like tolerance. The new tolerance, as Nafisi explains, is to not take action against such a note. This is similar to when she expresses "my students had developed a strange concept of fortunate" (219) She does not beelive fortunate is the right ord, but in this situation and country, Nassrin and Mahteb were extremely fortunate,
Similar to Nafisi's fear of irrelevance is the students fear of ambiguity. In part 3 Mr. Nyazi is replaced by Mr. Ghohmi. Nafisi does not feel threatened because she has discovered his weakness. Ghomi distastes literature because he is "afraid of what [he doesn't] understand" (198). In the classroom he remains true to the Islamic Republic. Uncertainty is an evil word to him because he is law abiding and sees everything only one way. The different interpretations of literature to him is like admitting there are different interpretations of Islamic law. Mr. Ghomi could be called narrow minded or brainwashed, but can we blame him? He is behaving as a loyal citizen, even though we see him as a villain just like Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. There are many inn Nafisi's class who disagree with Mr. Ghomi but they will not say so, due to fear. Fear is the worst way to plead for obedience but is also the fastest and most effective way. Even after Khomeini's death, he is feared. Negar is befuddled when she looks out the window and tells her mother "Mommy, mommy, he is not dead! Women are still wearing their scarves" (242). His successors may seem more "laid back" but the fear has not disappeared. Women p[luck up enough courage to let a few more strands show, but not enough to walk out of the house without their veils because the Islamic Republic still are feared and therefore have all the power they need. This is why it takes so long for defiance to make a difference. The reason for this is the


message 4: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Galvez | 8 comments This section really just starts to reflect the hopeless cookie-cutter persona that the regime wants the citizens to be like. There is no personal decision that stays as that, a personal decision. When the war begins The Professor sees how the regime now affects every small gesture more than ever. Everything is viewed as either with them or against them, there is no middle ground. There was an overabundance of symbolism in every action and this is now leading to quite a few strain moments in the university. Another thing that is becoming quite common is the martyrs. The regime is actually encouraging young boys to join in the fight because they would automatically be sent to heaven if they died in the battlefield. The amount of brainwashing that is occurring right now in the section really showed how much the regime really was affecting the young generation who never knew of anything else.
One section that really reflects this brainwashing is the student who set himself on fire and died from his injuries. The sad thing is that there are plenty more broken men in the university like him; the only part of his life that sparked any interest was his death. The Professor couldn’t even remember how he was or his name; there was nothing to separate him from the many other broken people who traveled the hallways of the university.
The incident makes the Professor think a lot about the student, almost to the point of obsession and the many other people that are like him. The ones who wander around aimlessly, confused as to how to deal with all the “comrades” who participate in the illegal satellite dishes and don’t care for the war anymore, who assimilated to a more normal civilian life than them. Who rather ironically have so much power yet have no idea what to do with it other than smuggle in their own objects for a fiery suicide into an establishment to which they do not belong to anymore than their own home.
What little the Professor found out about the young nameless martyr was that he had volunteered to go to the front because he had to provide for his old mother. He just never recovered from being shell-shock and returning early to see his fellow comrades just made him go over the edge. It seems that in death they are more valuable than alive.
With James being the author of focus it can be seen that everyone’s view of the war and such are different. This is paralleled as when the class is having the discussion about the word courage and how it differs between people and contexts. This was a perfect situation to deal with the young man setting himself on fire and yelling that the war was a blessing for the people. There were people who disagreed with the regime and regardless of the consequences still tried to make a difference. But with the threat of being sent to the front lines because their views was too much of a fear for many people.


Mary | 8 comments I'm finding myself at times annoyed with Nafisi's sense of self-importance, but aside from mild annoyance, I still feel as if the topic of the memoir is quite interesting, especially her internal debate about whether or not to return to her job as a teacher and the actual substance of classroom learning. I was amazed at the dialect between Razieh and Nafisi. When Nafisi had an outburst over her students simply copying her lectures. Being so interested in women's rights and equality for all, I found it unfathomable that no interest or praise is given to women in an academic setting so they simply learn to regurgitate what is given to them.

This idea can even be expanded to men. The government of Iran encourages uniformity and likeness in thought. The morals of their extremists such as Mr. Ghomi who see things, including fiction, as one way. These ideals are what the Iranian government are built off of. Essentially, Nafisi breaks it down as: Think one way, or suffer. Either agree with the veil or miserably submit to it. Risk your life, such as the young man who lit himself on fire who was formerly in the war, and receive special privileges like learning at Universities who's teachings you disagree with.

Another idea stressed in this section was the power of an individual. At this point in time, the individual in the country of Iran is being undermined. There seems to only be strength in numbers. Characters, such as those found in the books of James' are not heard from. They fear persecution. From Nafisi's descriptions, characters such as Nassrin, Razieh, Mahtab all are capable of being well rounded, outspoken individuals but fear the times they live in. They all, to me, resemble Catherine Sloper (who at the moment, between all the titles, I can not figure out which book she's the protagonist of) - who are controlled in so many areas of their life, by their government and the men in their lives and are overlooked as inferior. However, they all have hidden strengths within them. They are just unseen from at this point in time.

As for the comparative analysis between books and this memoir, I felt lost. Although I don't feel as if Nafisi is focusing on this idea as much as she did during the first chapter "Lolita", but if she is, I'm not seeing it. Perhaps it is because I don't know anything about this author or the books Nafisi refers to. However, Nafisi does an excellent job at getting her message across to the reader regardless of their knowledge of these literary classics. It does make me feel a bit inferior in regards to my intellect - like I should have read these books, but I feel as if that simply ties into my previous comment of feeling as if Nafisi finds herself overly important, like she is among an elite group of intellectuals that are unmatched. I'm almost certain this is not her aim, but it is how it seems to come across.


James Malzone | 8 comments A very important quote appears in Part Three, Chapter 18 of Reading Lolita in Tehran: in discussing her friend Mina, Azar Nafisi describes her as a "perfectly-equipped failure." She then talks about the trope of "perfectly equipped failures" in literature: they all have high standards, and they all "consciously choose failure in order to preserve their own sense of integrity." Nafisi labels her friend Mina as a perfectly equipped failure (or PEF, if you will) as she hoards herself up in her mansion with her family, grieving the death of her brother at the hands of the revolutionary regime. Continuing off of that, Nafisi goes on to label her "magician" friend, a beloved and legendary former colleague at the university, a PEF; when the new regime came through the school and told him he could no longer teach Jean Racine and William Shakespeare, he left out of stubbornness.

We can't help but romanticize the plight of those like Mr. R, who are so willing to embrace failure for their cause or beliefs; Nafisi does it herself. But she also explores the other side of the spectrum of PEFs, where perhaps not everyone is so honorable in going down with their faith. 'Martyr' is a word that is included frequently in Part Three, simply because during the time period Nafisi writes of, the Iraq-Iran War, it was used to describe anyone who died for the revolutionary regime. Throughout Part Three are many possible examples of PEFs. Nafisi remembers with contempt a student of hers who would rather not read the curriculum-selected books in favor of voicing his opinion of how they are "Western" and "decadent" and should be banned entirely. She also remembers a young man who, after the war's end, lights himself on fire and runs through the halls of the university shouting revolutionary slogans. These two make up only a tiny fraction of Iranian youth willing to die in the name of their country - and just that. Mr. Ghomi is so set in his inability to fully comprehend the books that he'd rather accept the failing of the class and the contempt from his teacher than see why the book could be good. The nameless man doused in flames could not accept the country's peace treaty - effectively a surrender - and the meaningless life his life would lose that would come with and chose to continue fighting instead.

Nafisi does an acceptable job with seeing from their point of view, something they would not even begin to do in their stubborn hope for change. She knows the importance of seeing from both sides, no matter how ridiculous and radical the opposing side. With this, she makes a great deal of exploring the idea of the perfectly equipped failure, through the examples of Mr. Ghomi, Mr. R, Mina, the Iranian government, and, for a portion of Part Three, herself. The importance of a perfectly equipped failure is that the subject, no matter how snobby they are or no matter how honorable the cause they fall for, is still a failure. To romanticize the failures of the world, Nafisi argues, is perhaps missing the point. Its romanticizing the failures that caused the revolutionary regime to come into power in the first place.


message 7: by Ashly (new)

Ashly | 8 comments Part three, “James” takes place when the Iran–Iraq War begins and Nafisi is expelled from the University of Tehran. The veil becomes obligatory and the government wants to control the liberal-minded professors. The state of Iran becomes an Islamic theocracy crushing all dissent through terrorizing citizens (murdering them, depriving them of any civil rights). Nafisi periodically updates readers on the progress of the war with Iraq, by doing so Nafisi reminds readers that the war is a continuous part of her life. At this point section 3 became the most complicated, I weaved back and forth between narratives of what was happening politically at large, to Nafisi personally as a teacher and an individual.

Nafisi goes through a period of deep withdrawal from the world. She wallows in her newfound irrelevance and subconsciously considers her options to accept the veil and return to teaching, leave the country, pretend to comply but undermine the regime secretly, or simply withdraw into silence. The government didn’t take long to pass new regulations restricting women’s clothing in public , It is in the context of information like this, that we, as readers, are exposed to aspects of Nafisi’s character, such as her feelings of irrelevance. The concept of her irrelevance is shared repeatedly, “Now that I could not consider myself a teacher, a writer […] I felt light and fictional” (Nafisi, 167). Nafisi becomes more ensconced in the world of literature by relating her real-life struggles to James's characters in his novels, like Daisy Miller. The vast similarities between both Nafisi and James were apparent .James was someone who wrote novels defending living lives of integrity despite the cost. He was “a perfectly equipped failure” (Nafisi 201), like Nafisi the characters presented in James’ novels refuse to follow conventions and seek success as it is defined the world. These traits are the sins that most irritate the Islamic Revolution.

Daisy Miller is portrayed as a rebellious lady who died from the Roman fever despite Winterbourne's warning because she discovered Winterbourne's indifference towards her. Her death proved her devotion towards Winterbourne despite his betrayal. This fact establishes her heroine quality. Some of Nafisi's students thought that Daisy Miller was immoral and deserved her death in the end. Contrary to her students' beliefs however, Nafisi concentrates more on Daisy Miller's courage and the devotion she had in order to retain her sense of integrity. Like Daisy Miller, Nafisi possesses the courage and resistance towards her corrupt government that she is forced to live in. This idea is most striking when Nafisi encounters revolutionary students like Mr. Nyazi and Mr. Ghomi, Here ambiguity and nuance become signs of decadence and characters' behaviors are consistently confused with moral values.


message 8: by Haley (new)

Haley Dowdie | 8 comments I personally did not enjoy this section as much as the others. I found it to be unnecessarily long, almost to the point of dragging. It was also a bit depressing, which is completely understandable concerning the fact it takes place during the war between Iran and Iraq. Nevertheless, I think the author successfully created/set the mood for Part three while reading the works of James during the war period (a darker time in the author’s life and the lives of all the students, teachers, women, and men).

Since I knew very little about this author (James), I did have to do some research on him, and the books. I learned that Henry James uses different time periods in his work to portray the challenges faced by the characters. For example in Daisy Miller the time late 1800’s- a time when women had stricter social and moral conducts (much like the Iranian women). I also learned that in James’ novels, the protagonist often learns or gains something by the end of the story such as “self respect” (225) (and the story does not always have a typical happy ending). I have never read the books but from reading Reading Lolita in Tehran and what I researched, I feel as though James’ characters remind me a great deal of Azar.

In Daisy Miller the reader learns that Daisy is not a typical women of that time, following the social norms, but instead pursuing men and ultimately getting a poor reputation. Like Daisy, Azar struggles to follow the laws instituted by the revolution. She is suspended from her university from not wearing the veil and insisits on conducting her class in her manner. She is a proud, head strong women who “means not to be afraid of conventions and traditions” (248) like Daisy.

While reading Part three, I found it interesting that the author incorporated both wars Iran was involved in- the war with Iraq and the domestic war. Throughout part three, the audience better understands the issues occurring domestically. Women continue to struggle with the new established laws. Students continue to be murdered and disappear for shallow crimes. The revolution has really taken a negative turn on the youth now becoming very radial in their actions (the boy setting himself on fire) and their opinions/beliefs (Mr. Ghomi saying “daisy is evil and deserves to die” (195)).

I may not be a supporter of the veil nor the drastic measures these women must take in order to avoid be reprimanded, but, I noticed one thing about their beliefs that I found rather admirable. For one the slogan “a woman in a veil is protected like a pearl in an oyster shell” (200) came off as beautiful and respective. In this light, women are like delicate, priceless, beautiful gems/pearls that are to be protected by the sometimes ugly surfaces of rocks or shells- or in a women’s case, their veil.

One of the most intriguing parts of James was of the chair being rotated. I love the mind expanding approach Azar took to make her students understand the complexity of characters and individuals because like she explains from her class everyone looks at something from their own perspective. And because we all have a different perspective we have no right to pass judgment on any other individual. Its sort of like the idea of beauty lies in the eye of the beholder or simply just the context or circumstance of every situation or person.


message 9: by Prince (new)

Prince Mukala | 4 comments In this section of the novel, Nafisi’s magician posits a rather interesting quote about the decision-making process in regards to whether or not she should return to teaching at the university--but also, about decision-making in general. He postulates that “the lady who constantly boasts about her love for Nabokov and Hammett is now telling me we should not do what we love!That is what I call immoral. So now you too have joined the crowd...what you’ve absorbed from this culture is that anything that gives pleasure is bad, and is immoral”(182). The magician’s words highlight the fact that not returning to university and not wearing the head covering would be a victory, but mainly a loss. It would constitute mainly a loss due to the fact that Nafisi truly loves her work teaching and discussing important authors in literature. And even if she maintained her ideals of rebelling against wearing her head covering she would still be conforming to the ideals of the established regime. The ideal that states quite frankly about how hedonism constitutes sin, and that to maximize pleasure in any sort of way represents the wrong way of thinking.

This portion peaks my interest due to its strange nature in relation to the rest of the book. Normally, Nafisi views the world through her own perspective and reflects back on the actions that her students have had and the wisdom hidden within her novels. However, the advice she receives from her magician takes center stage and rather than consult her books, which she does quite a bit of, she actually allows the man’s words to coalesce in her mind and to truly impact her life. In fact, she concedes that after months of not speaking she illogically and randomly decided “out of the blue[to pick] up the phone and [call her]magician”(173). To me, the action represents Nafisi’s lack of clarity and certainty on the subject of returning to the university, and ultimately, her desperation. In order to gain understanding and direction she felt the inclination to call the man.

I think the book also further highlights Nafisi’s subversion to authority and the unjust regime in power. She continues to see a magician one-on-one despite the fact that a woman being alone with a man who is not a sibling or family member could be interpreted as adultery or infidelity by other men and women in Iran. Especially with her marriage to another man at the same time.

Anyways, I believe that James highlights the author’s disregard to authority but also her lack of counsel and wisdom in her own personal life outside of fiction. The power of fiction allows one to realize the best possible move due to the similarities in human experience put forth in human novels. Authors write about the human condition and human conditions that we’re all likely to experience at one time or another in our life, but oftentimes literature remains unfulfilling and other methods must be sought out.


message 10: by Janice (new)

Janice Yiu | 6 comments When Nafisi is asked to teach again, she is torn between what she believes and what she loves. “Is it better to help young people who might otherwise not have a chance to learn or to refuse categorically comply with this regime?” (180) Nafisi’s friends pointed out that the veil and robe affected all women. Nafisi herself, wore the veil whenever she walked the streets. Mrs. Rezvan asks her what difference does it make? Nafisi argues the regime’s confiscation of the veil is a symbol for its fight against “Western Cultural Imperialism.” Even though others advise Nafisi to teach once more, she is fearful that she is endangering her moral position and being a hypocrite. However, by teaching, she helps spread the idea of resistance against the oppressive policies. The magician often compared Nafisi to Alice from Alice in Wonderland. Nafisi is a lot like Alice because she has fallen into an unfamiliar world, filled with dangers. Things that were once familiar no longer exist. Nafisi, without a job, feels lost and irrelevant to the world mainly because she is stripped of individuality. After a bit of an internal struggle, Nafisi takes the job at Allameh Tabatabai University and begins teaching Henry James. I found that this section of the book was a bit similar to the other sections. Nafisi has two main novels and a couple of key students like Nassrin, Mahshid, and Mr. Ghomi who share their views on those texts. Like in Gatsby, many students view Daisy Miller as immoral and deserve death. I thought this section was a bit harder to connect to because I am very unfamiliar with Henry James. Even so, I could tell that Nafisi uses the power of literature so that the students could grasp onto what they believe. By analyzing literature, Nafisi could also analyze her students by observing them.
Something I noticed about this section was the involvement of James’s personal life like his family’s involvement in a civil war. Nafisi does not include this in the other sections. For example, in a letter he wrote to Lucy Clifford, James says that deaths are so horrific that “we must make our own counter realities.” (216) This gives students something else to connect with. A theme in this book is probably empathy. Nafisi carefully selects books that her students can empathize with. The characters in the books challenge her students and in return, they reflect on their own lives and the oppression they face. On the other hand, there are students like Mr. Ghomi who do not empathize with the characters. Rather than relating to the books, he views them as an outsider and does not attempt to understand the actions taken by them. Mr. Ghomi blatantly stated that Daisy is evil and “deserves to die.” (195) Mr. Ghomi reminds me of Mr. Nyazi just because they both analyze literature this way. Unlike Nassrin or Mahshid, they are quick to judge the actions of the characters and lack empathy. I really like Nafisi’s demonstration of the chair because it showed her students a visual meaning of perspective, something I feel like her students were missing.


message 11: by Lyvia (new)

Lyvia Couseillant | 8 comments Part 3: James

In this section the Iran-Iraq war has broke out by the attack of Iraq on Iran. One thing i would like to know is what triggered Iraq to do that ?. Nafisi discusses how the war somehow shaped the lives of her and her students. I think everybody kind of goes through that in their lifetime, an event that somewhat changes not only them but their surroundings. In this section Nafisi also battles with decisions that could and will affect her life. Whether she should accept the veil and return to teaching, leave the country, pretend to comply but undermine the regime secretly, or simply withdraw into silence. Later on this section Nafisi decides to write articles on literary topics, but writing felt dry in comparison to teaching classes.Nafisi is later engulfed by siren sounds and air raids and phone calls of relatives and friends giving each other reassurance and letting them know they're safe. i believe James plays somewhat of a huge role in this secton of the book because of strongly he believed in staying in touch with humanity no matter what, unlike Iran which has become a place of growing inhumanity and insensitivity. At the end of the section the war has finally ended and just as the war had changed Nafisi in the beginning at the end of it it changed her classes and her students as well, it has also brought more students to her classes. The change of Nafisi's classes are described by her as being more fictional than fiction.


message 12: by Iris (new)

Iris (iris_feng) | 6 comments In the James chapter, Nafisi focuses on women in revolutionary Iran. Many Iranian women once feel “impotent and paralyzed” (107). Some, like Nafisi, invent the survival games-making one’s body invisible. After the female guard inspects every part of Nafisi’s body, she “had become as light as the wind, a fleshless, boneless being” (168). They are less of a human; and this is what Iranian Republic hopes to achieve – the idea of home is no longer relevant to its people. As I mentioned in Lolita section, one of the greatest fear of human being is the loss of one’s identity. The revolution hopes to standardize everyone in order to mold its subjects into the shape of its dream. Justice does not exist. In 1979, Iranian regime wages war against women. However this very act demonstrates the fear of the new regime against the power of women’s voice and action which urged Iranian regime to pass restrictive regulations. In a way, I think this marks the beginning of women’s challenge against opposition.

This chapter revolves around James’s work which focuses on the struggle for power through character’s resistance to socially acceptable norms (213). For all his life, James had been in struggle for “the power of culture” and according to him, a man’s greatest freedom is the “independence of thought” (216). I feel James, to a certain degree, is a comparison to Nafisi. James’s affinity towards England motivates him to use his power through words and action to protect this culture. Nafisi, on the other hand, possesses an affinity towards Iran that comes from her childhood memory. It may be implied that she, along with others who share her aspiration, would stand up and save her country as she witnesses the destruction of Iranian civilization.

In one of the passages Nafisi’s magician has marked, James writes “live all you can” (247). Nafisi conveys that all should not give in to authority but preserve that freedom of mind and hope. It doesn’t matter what happens in one’s life as long as one still lives. Although Iranian may be suffocated by the reality, but they need to hold on to the “illusion of freedom” (247). That illusion is the hope and motivation behind people’s suffering and strives for a change. Henry James once said “we work in the dark-we do what we can-we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art” (248). Most of the time, people doubt their passion due to lack of confidence and fear for failure because that dream is often out of reach or denounced by society. However, that passion is where our heart is at, therefore, it’s our task and duty to accomplish and fulfill it. Nafisi uses James’s story and his literature to inspire Iranian and reassure herself to hold on to that hope and fight for their voices.

Nafisi wraps up the chapter with the death of an active student in the Muslim Students’ Association. This is yet one of the most depressing moments in the book. This young revolutionary devotes his life to the “war”, a war that the majority of Iran is never part of. Now that he dies, all that’s left behind is humiliation from others criticizing revolutionaries’ deeds. People remember him as a revolutionary but not an individual. “No one wanted to hear his stories, only his moment of death could spark interest” (253). Maybe in others’ eyes, his blind pursuit makes him to deserve the fatal consequence. But who are we to judge his faith and pursuit that makes him a martyr? I appreciate that Nafisi gives space for opposing voices to express their opinion like any great work of literature. From a personal stance, I think the hundreds of death among young revolutionaries is the consequence of the revolution – turning generations against each other and fight for something meaningless till the moment before death.


message 13: by Taela (new) - added it

Taela | 7 comments Part 3: James

In the beginning of this story Nafisi states that “The war came one morning , suddenly and unexpectedly” (157). How can war come out of nowhere ,I feel as if that she didn't think that there was going to be a war , just a long revolution in Iran . The Iran- Iraq war started September 23, 1980- July 1988 it was long eight year war.

During the war life in Iran became harder and not safe . For Nafisi she got expelled from the University of Tehran . Stricter ruler for the Veil it was mandatory for every women to wear one. I feel that Nafisi felt more safe and comfortable when she was at home reading her literature. She talked about nights she had a book in hand while watching over her children sleep. .she states that city of Tehran becomes dangerous with the constant air raids and bombs happens all around that city. “ Usually , the fighting relaxed for a time after that, until the next bombing attack , which could sometimes last a long as a year.” (177). What I found so nice and beautiful azar being a good mother trying to keep her children busy to not focus on the dangerous happen outside their home. “Tehran had been hit by two rocket attacks earlier that morning ,and I was trying to divert my children”s attention by playing a favorite song” (177). I can not imagine myself in Nafisi position being a mother of young child and the place we live is dangerous ; I would have left Tehran for a better and safer life for my children.

In the middle of that story she Nafisi starts to teach again focusing on the writing of Henry James. I agree with Iris when she says “ Nafisi conveys that all should not give in to authority but preserve that freedom of mind and hope. It doesn’t matter what happens in one’s life as long as one still lives.” It is true that Nafisi is conveying that message throughout the book and it and shows in her actions.

And she talks more about the students in her thursday's morning class.


message 14: by Amalia (new)

Amalia Quesada | 8 comments In part three, “James” of Reading Lolita in Tehran, the Iran-Iraq War erupts violently and suddenly, and Nafisi is expelled from the University of Tehran. Personally I found this the most difficult section to read because I struggled balancing understanding the political issues at large and Nafisi’s issues personally as a teacher and woman. Nafisi states that there is often a “desire…to preserve a sense of personal integrity in the face of outside aggression.”throughout the entire book, there is an intense comparison between the traditional Islamic ideologue and that its people that wish to pursue individuality, and discover their identities. Balance becomes a major theme/motif in the book that is highlighted in this section. For example, Nafisi and her students come from different generations. The older generation feels that their past has been stolen from them, “making [them] exiles in [their] own country.” However, they do in fact have a past, that allows them to compare to their empty present. The students, however, represent a generation of Persians with no past: they cannot think of songs they have not heard, movies they have not seen, etc. Both generations are desperately searching for a balance in their lives, going against the regime’s view that it is dangerous and self-destructing, deflecting the believer from the contemplation of Allah.
Nafisi once again turns to literature in order to help her find this sense of balance, find a peace of mind. She relates her real-life struggles to those of Daisy Miller, a character in James’s novel. Daisy Miller is described as a rebellious woman who passed away from the Roman fever, despite Winterbourne's warning because she found out about Winterbourne's indifference towards her. Her death was prove of her devotion to Winterbourne, even though he betrayed her. This credits Miller as sort of a heroine almost. At some point, some of Nafisi's students thought that Miller deserved her death. However, Nafisi disagreed with her students, urging them to concentrate more on Miller’s courage and her journey to maintain her integrity right up until her death. Similar to Miller, Nafisi’s character possesses the same courage to rebel against her corrupt government that has her imprisoned, like so many other women, in customs and traditions she is forced to follow. Nafisi has very intense encounters with this idea when she speaks to students like Mr. Ghomi. The students, like Nafisi, are constantly confused with moral values and their desires.


message 15: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Poirier | 8 comments I agree with Mary that Nafisi’s self-importance was getting on my nerves in section 3: James of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I do not believe that her cause is any less worthy because she holds herself in such high regard for fighting against the tyrannical regime, in fact, I applaud her for it. Nafisi took an incredible risk denying wearing her veil and did suffer the consequences for it. However, the way she talks about her acts conveys that she is not humble in the least bit.
In past chapters Nafisi has compared the larger world conflicts and issues to the literature her classes are studying; in this section she compares the issue of women’s rights to literature. Although, I cannot help but feel like she continues to focus on comparing her struggles against the Islamic Republican Party, to the literature instead. First, she debates with the offer of returning to her job as a teacher. Returning to her work place would require succumbing to the regime, something Nafisi does not want to sacrifice her pride for. On the other hand, she does not want to deprive her students of their education taught by her – the way she addresses this make Nafisi sound so pretentious and full of herself, as if she owed it to the education system to lend her services, this line of thinking is reflected in a theme her class discovers in James’ writing (see below).
While Nafisi is never direct with this, she continues to draw similarities to herself from James’ work. A common theme discovered in his work is the sacrifice and courage of the protagonists in James’ novels. Nafisi had courage standing up to the regime, and like the protagonists they are unhappy in the end (because she gave in to the veil), but still was given an “aura of victory” (225).
To me, Nafisi seemed to draw these conclusions herself; however I could just be overthinking it and assuming that she is just a conceited author.
Throughout this section I could also not help but feel horribly for Iran. Every altercation or conflict brought upon the country in this memoir has not resulted in a positive way. Iran is now in even more poverty and ruin than it was before – physically and psychologically. The end of the missile attacks seemed to bring at least one drop of positivity into the otherwise disenfranchised country. According to Nafisi, “ the economy was in shambles and there were few jobs to be had,. Those who had gone to the front with no real skills had to depend on the compensations promised to them as war veterans. But even those were not handed out evenly” (239). Not even the most decorated soldiers of the Iran-Iraq war could receive the support they needed without corruption.


message 16: by James (new)

James Hickey | 4 comments Lyvia wrote: "Part 3: James

In this section the Iran-Iraq war has broke out by the attack of Iraq on Iran. One thing i would like to know is what triggered Iraq to do that ?. Nafisi discusses how the war someho..."


The Iran-Iraq war started when Iraq invaded Iran to try to take advantage of the chaos caused by the Iranian Revolution. there was a series of border disputes and religious conflicts between the two countries beforehand as well. I thought that not only was the war a major part of this section but her return to the University. The magician brings up an interesting point about the mixed victory of having to submit to rules she does not agree with in order to continue to do what she loves, teaching. I found it odd that she chose to go back to teaching during the war as it was a time of increased crackdowns on anti-revolutionary ideas and actions. I like that the pattern of through teaching about a book in her class that she reveals more about the conditions in Iran. with James morality is once again at the center of debate as Mr. Ghomi believes that Daisey should die simply for her adulterous acts and fails to see the greater meaning of the story.


back to top