The “Other America”

Standard

When one is taught about World War II, the genocide of six million Jewish people and other minority groups is usually first to come up. We have all heard dreadful stories about the Holocaust, which came about though the mind of Adolph Hitler. The “final solution” was the German dictator’s plot to rid the world of human life that did not quite meet his outrageous expectations. This might lead one to inquire as to the untold story of the Polish troops and their struggles in their portion of the world. How come we almost never hear about what they went through for the safety of their county? Even though they didn’t win, they put up a fight- like a knife in the dark that you don’t know about. Just like the Polish general had to clash with the Nazis, Pharaoh and Lafayette were forced to encounter dangerous gangs, only on a much different level. The “Other America” is like the stories that are never told, those whose fears are never recognized until it is too late.
Alex Kotlowitz alludes to brushing off violence and its consequences quite often. Almost always it seems our protagonists are off on the railroad tracks or buying fast food so that they can avoid thinking about their father or their neighborhood. Paul survived through a drug overdose because of LaJoe, who pulled the syringe out of his arm and called an ambulance. This incident didn’t change Paul’s actions, and he soon survived another overdose. This particular neighborhood does not help. It is definitely not one that you might see advertised on t. v. or read about in the newspaper. Henry Horner is a place located in the deep South of Chicago, where violence was portrayed as a harsh reality that even the smallest child was bound to face. Pharaoh was never a child for he was never permitted a normal lifestyle. Often he dealt with inescapable shootings correlated with the Vice Lords, a gang that resided in Henry Horner. Even if Jimmie Lee would be some how killed, the violence won’t cease. If anything it would intensify.
In Pharaoh’s America, he had to dodge bullets from gangsters whom he knew or might have even encountered on the streets. Lafayette never helped either, for although he defended Pharaoh, the younger brother always appeared to want to break free of Lafayette’s pressures and demands. Absorbed in school work, it never appeared that he would be drawn into their world and he never was. He realized that to kill innocence people and then act like everything was fine is just ridiculous. The society of the “Other America” is shaken by poverty, poverty on a significant level. LaJoe thankfully had food stamps and other ways of supporting the family, but compared to myself and other parts of the U. S. of A. they were in desperate conditions.
Lafie, as his mother called him, was found guilty of committing a crime, and although never drawn into the black hearts of the gangsters, he came close to following in his older brother’s footsteps, steps which were much like the boy himself- certain but watchful. Lafeyette had in fact, packed his bags and waited to be sentenced to prison for a long time. Although he didn’t go to jail, one may never be certain of what curve balls the streets of Henry Horner may throw mercilessly at the two boys. One thing is for sure, Lafayette and Pharaoh will never take things for granted in the “Other America.”

Advertisements

Pondering on Hamlet

Standard

In Act One, I thought it was foolish for the watchmen to get Horatio for the ghost to talk to. It is interesting because before reading this play, I assumed that only Hamlet saw the ghost, and to find out others could see him too makes things very interesting yet very dangerous for Hamlet. But back to my point, the watchmen, simpletons, must call Horatio, a scholar to talk to a ghost. Give me a break! I don’t think that there is a very high intelligence requirement and that a simpleton may be better because the ghost may confide better in a common person, then a learned person who stands to gain from the information the ghost may have to bestow. Horatio, being intelligent, could manipulate the information somehow. Furthermore, I do not find it plausible that a ghost needs a well educated person to talk to. It is stupid, and makes me think of my parents who have not finished college, yet they know much more than me who is on the journey. There is world experience that they chose to ignore and focus on education. While I think education is vital to the existence of a better world, I also stand by the belief of we are learning all the time and some life lessons are taught outside the classroom.
They are desperately trying to pull out a meaning for why the ghost is here and what it wants to say. Again, for the time frame the symbol of a ghost meant trouble. I am glad I learned that because I was thinking, why are they spending all this time? Another thing that bothers me is this soap opera. Claudius marries Gertrude. Yuck. Why you ask? Because Claudius was old Hamlet’s brother who is dead. So he married his brother’s wife. They all wonder, why Hamlet is so upset? Hello, red flag! Then, Hamlet suddenly has something else on his mind because Horatio tells him of the ghost in full armor is his father! I think Shakespeare invented the Sophisticated Soap Opera. In this Soap Opera, Hamlet finds out from his father, the ghost, that he did not die but was murdered! By Claudius. Hamlet’s world keeps getting worse. I really feel badly for him.

In the Second Act, there is an unbelievable amount of manipulation I cannot stand or wrap my head around. Claudius is such a jerk and a terrible stepfather. I don’t understand why it is not okay for Hamlet to have feelings and just be human. I get it, he is the prince. He must be normal at all times. Everyone is pushing Hamlet and I feel like no one is on his side. They want him to behave normally to save face and not because they actually care about his well being and that makes me furious because I can completely relate. I have a medical condition that physically manifests itself and my mom hurries me inside. But this is not to help me or calm me down I discovered. I think it is wrong to hide pain and emotions, but in this play and in my real life hiding emotions is a big part of life. Everyone does it, pretending things are fine when they are not. It is a dangerous game that everyone plays, everyone except Hamlet. I admire him for being a male and not being this annoying macho guy who hides everything.

In the Third Act things get really interesting when Hamlet has a play put on to extract guilt from Claudius. He needs the proof. The ghost wasn’t enough for him. In some ways this is clever. But I think, why the proof? However, I was delighted when Claudius left very upset and Hamlet knew he was guilty. There is one part of Act 3 that I disagree with. Hamlet has a chance to kill Claudius, but because Claudius is praying Hamlet does not kill him, because if he kills him and he is absolve of his sin Claudius will go to heaven and Hamlet wants him to burn in hell for what he has done. Since I have not come across such circumstances, I do not know what I would do. Truly, I do not think I have the ability to harm another individual let alone commit murder. I worship peace and the value that violence solves another. Isn’t it sick then how suddenly I am cheering Hamlet to get this revenge that is eating away at him? How I am suddenly morphing into this monster that approves of murder? I just discovered that it is easy to tell someone else to go ahead and do awful things. When it comes to it, it is just a play, isn’t it? However, maybe this behavior of immediately saying Claudius should die begs the question; do two wrongs may a right? Does Hamlet killing his uncle repair the fact that Hamlet’s father was killed? There are moral dilemmas that are very deep here that Hamlet probably ponders as well.

Acts Four and Five
So I was just pondering the many facets of murder in my previous journal. How it is something I could never do. I hope it would never come to a point where I would have to decide between killing someone and them killing me. It is the ultimate cold act, to take a human life. And mostly importantly, how Hamlet ponders and pours over not only whether to kill Claudius, but how to kill him and when he is praying was not the time because he would not burn in Hell. Then suddenly, a monkey wrench is thrown in all my thoughts when the castle is in turmoil because Hamlet has killed Polonius because he was hiding behind a curtain and Hamlet just stabs him. What happened to contemplation and carefully planning out your steps, Hamlet? You just stab someone who is hiding and then drag them out of the castle? This is madness. Hamlet in pretending to be crazy seems to really have lost all his marbles. Maybe since it was the queen’s chambers he assumed it was the king listening in on his conversation. Well, it was not, and Hamlet has killed someone. He has committed that act that I wondered about myself, and I was even cheering for him to do. Now, Hamlet is to be sent to England? What if he just kills more people? His behavior is irrational and this is a tragedy after all. Maybe he has really snapped.
Now, the Final Act is occurring. I have been waiting so long to see what happens. I don’t believe Gertrude deserved to die. She did not know about the plot. Throughout the play, while she does not speak out for Hamlet, she does act like a loving mother. So, she married Claudius her late husband’s brother. People do crazy things in grief. Maybe she had a motivation I do not yet understand but I do not believe she should have died. She should not have been around for the fight period. I don’t understand what she was doing there. It seems being a woman would have played to her favor. Maybe one would say, “Oh, this is no place for a woman!” She didn’t need to be there. This just speaks of Claudius and his character and if he wanted his wife out of danger he would have made sure she was.

Thoughts on Snow Falling on Cedars

Standard

Winter winds may be enclosing me on either side, but I will not acknowledge the ice or the cold. The tiny princess in the pale blue gown has transported me back to the distant lands of my childhood. Although she is just on the other side of the window pane, I feel like she is dancing right beside me. The harsh cold only intensifies my stare despite the gentle tug of my friend, who is pleading with me to enter the nearest store. I finally flutter back to reality and accept his jacket, as we meander on Chicago’s streets. For a brief moment the Christmas tree nearby sets off recollections of past winters, but I recognize that the cold is pushing my body too far. As we hug for warmth I know that it was something worth waiting for. This magnetism with winter is what compelled me to select this book. Snow Falling on Cedars sounds like an image snatched from the mind’s eye and recreated on paper. This beauty is immensely difficult to capture, and the local theater can exemplify such disenchantment often.
The artificial world of Holly Weird depicts many summertime beaches in movies, and mostly neglects winter. This novel was made into a movie, which I haven’t viewed but assume that some winter scenes are present. Winter in itself may be an element that will affect the mood of the book, and change my emotions constantly. Like many actions in the book that are simple, putting on gloves is something so simple, but it can trigger such excitement of things to come. The snow that covers the world is just a big comfortable blanket that warms my heart, as opposed to warming my numb fingers. I assumed that Snow Falling on Cedars would have some nice images too. The shop windows and the falling snow keep calling back to me, causing me to fall in love with winter more and more every snowfall. My friend is there too, holding my waist gently, but firmly. We can glance forever at the delightful world around us and watch the stars dance to music that we can’t quite hear.
From the moment I picked up this book, I thought about thumping through wet snow while snowballs are being hurled at me. Guterson surprised me because winter was not there at the very beginning of the novel like I had anticipated. Instead I learned of the main character, who is a man that is between a rock and hard place inside a courtroom. The word choice Guterson selects in the first chapter is careful not to worry me but rather entice me to read on about this strange fellow. Also, there is a great deal of Japanese culture which stems from his character, which can show me a new world.
Nature is eventually brought into play and that adds an exotic feeling of ecstasy; another guarantee that I will enjoy this book. “The branches of the Cedars were hung with it and beyond them the sky lay immaculate and decembral, the starts chilled points of light.” On page 443, David Guterson sketches this portrait of a winter night and the mystery of what is to come, and it thrills my senses. I know one thing for certain; the cover will stay with me forever. It brings to mind a quote that paints a similar image of being cast under the gleam of a moon, despite humans being world-losers and world-forsakers. Being a “music maker and dreamer of dreams” myself, snowflakes will be falling frequently into the locks of my hair, even if my eyes see the April sun. My heart will allow this deception, for the flakes of snow are not easy to brush away and they can make me blissful when everything else fails to.

Memory

Standard

When you really think about it, this book is not about going out there and fighting, the whole big deal, it’s not. Memory in time is what this novel is truly about. How far you dream it and think anything is what you will get out of it. The things that stay with us long after the fact, such as that red hat, become a part of us locked inside waiting for a time to let loose. The thing about life is you can live it, and be rest assured that you will not be forgotten. “The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you.” (O’Brien 230). Emotion and desire to comprehend are so simple, yet so difficult to understand.
The memories are life’s journey, which can vary so much. Norman Bowker, for instance, decided that he could not handle the “memories” so he ended his life. Tim O’Brien like most of the others lived on, but differently. Although they ended their journey in that jungle, they continued it some where else. You just know that what sticks in the mind’s eye will not and cannot be forgotten.
The star shaped hole for instance or Kiowa’s boot are symbols. Although they can represent death, they are actually symbolizing the moving on of the world. Even in death we leave others with our former existence, and this is central to the entire novel. The knowledge of friendship, that brief yet everlasting interaction we leave with one another evokes an image that stuns a person. We cannot help remembering those things we attempt to push aside. It is those things whether they are battles, people, or a particular event that live on. Tim O’Brien’s recollections of endeavors in his life are what the book is. In essence however, it is that fact that everything in life we do counts, because it lives on in the persistence of memory.

Gender Power Dymanics Traced in Two Novels

Standard

Throughout The Rise of Silas Lapham and The Great Gatsby we have strong themes regarding gender both the way the male and female is depicted in these two novels. Woman morph drastically while men continue in this hunt for success, greatness, and status. The curious thing to remember is that these novels are brought to us at different times so the way women are portrayed is drastically different in the two novels. In The Rise of Silas Lapham, the ideal woman is what is desirable at the current times. To stay and tend the house and the child, to not really have a thought of your own, these are traits of the “Ideal Woman”. Irene Lapham has mastered the traits and even cleans up the house when stressed, solidifying her role as “ideal” along with her behavior and most important the way her mind appears to work through interactions with Tom Corey and the nonchalant way she acts but really she is in this dreamy fairy tale in her mind over silly things such a a newspaper that was not actually sent to her. She behaves irrationally and this shows the woman of the 19th century quite clearly.
However, we have an exception in Penelope Lapham who gives a glimpse of the New Woman, found to be better traced later in The Great Gatsby. She is not understood nor accepted at this time in literature by other characters or the world as we know it. She is strongly the opposite of her sister because she displays her views clearly. She reads and articulates her position on things in a witty manner that is found quite charming similar to or even better in some instances than the ladies of The Great Gatsby. She is strong and sticks to her guns, something I value and appreciate. I see a lot of Pen in myself and it makes me smile knowing that a character has the ability to drastically change the course of a novel, without drastically changing who she is. Penelope is ahead of her time, a trailblazer. So this New Woman, who is she and what does she do compared to the Ideal woman of the 19th century?
Well, Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker are two new women. They have opinions about everything under the sun. They do not have to stay in the house and raise children, as women in Silas Lapham were expected to do. In fact, a nurse takes care of Daisy’s daughter, and the women are free to come and go as they please. Scandalous! Jordan is not married and it is not made a big deal in the book at all. It is almost surreal the amount of power they have over their own destiny compared with those woman in Silas Lapham who seem doomed to a fate worse than death- a life without freedom. One curious similarity is that in the upper crust for example the Lapham sisters and Jordan and Daisy sit around doing nothing. They still aren’t accepted to be productive and have a job and contribute which is ironic. The men still hold much of the power although that changes a bit in The Great Gatsby.
It is found that one cannot discuss gender especially the male gender without comparing class as well. Silas Lapham and Jay Gatsby both curiously come from new money. Silas works very hard to build his paint company up from nothing but does not hide his past. Silas is not an actor or performer because he has no desire to hide things and wants to be someone just become a man of status. Although he has the money, more in fact then the Coreys do, he does not have that status nor does he know how to behave in order to reach that status. Old clothes and gaudy paintings are among the items purchased by Silas and his family. Gatsby however, has it figured out down to the tiniest detail. The irony is that Silas has a wife and two children to help him but since they do not know how to act or perform in this upper crust it all eventually collapses. It collapses for Mr. Gatsby as well but for different reasons…
Gatsby is a master of the act or performance of a man of status. Sure, people have all sorts of opinions of him but that is true of the Laphams as well. The Coreys have a questionable opinion of them as well. Back on Gatsby, there is this magnificent house he owns where lavish parties are thrown and people who do not even get a invitation come to bask in the glory that is these parties, experiences where you yourself can put on a performance. His library is real, although never used it is created in such a way that everybody notices, this Gatsby is a man of class. He wears pink suits and drives extremely flashy cars. He pulls it off in a way that Silas Lapham never could. The secret, he has been performing since he was a child, almost preparing for this moment. He has been preparing for being everyone except his real self for so long that it is felt that his real self is lost in translation somehow. Silas was a poor country boy who with a little luck and a lot of elbow grease became rich. He does not act, but rules through shady business practices and a rival paint company that destroy him. So, what can be said about the male race? Well, they are in a constant hunt to be ahead to attain status. The goal is to be somebody but more important to have others believe that you are somebody of value to society. Gatsby achieves that, but the goal behind his performance never comes into fruition. As a man in either novel, you must present a good example for those around and provide for your family. Perhaps Gatsby’s ultimate performance was not one single person really knew him 100%, not even his own father. If he had stopped this delusion he could have lived a happier life and attained a wife and children. He just had to want what he couldn’t have. That was his downfall. In terms of gender, the men in these two novels are extremely opinionated and headstrong. It is the downfall of Silas and Gatsby to be so stubborn. The man must however, protect his nestegg. That is what they tried in vain to do.

Is it a coincidence perhaps that their happiness is achieved in the fairy world?

Standard

Despite its length, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream proves to be able to carry its weight in whimsy and wisdom on a plethora of topics. There are different settings or worlds in this play, such as that of the mechanicals (the lower class workers), the mortal lovers (the upper class Athenians), but perhaps most notably the land of the fairies. All the problems of the entire land are brought front and center into an earth scattering level of events deep in the land of the fairies. It is a world that we can nor explain or understand in terms of how in the woods this land just exists. For the sake of the play, the fairy world is where the main events occur and magic is vital to the comprehension of the story. The juxtaposition of the unbelievable so close to reality helps greatly in considering and bringing the real actions of the characters into the limelight although some are sparkled with magical elements. The fairy world in A Midsummer Night’s Dream serves as a place where the most reality actually happens despite the magical qualities of the fairy world. Through the magic that exists in this world, many realities about the characters’ true intentions (good or bad) are revealed causing balance to be restored in the most unlikely of places. Through the four lovers as well as Oberon, Puck and several other key characters the plot is able to burst out in ways we would not be able to see in the other two worlds.
Oberon’s intentions are able to be made true, as only in the fairy world they could be. He wants the changeling from Titania, plain and simple. She refuses because she was meant to take care of the child. (II,i,86) But what Oberon wants he shall get. Here in the land of fairies, Oberon can get what he wants through magic, instead of directly breaking the law. Puck, or Robin Goodfellow from the fairy world does Oberon’s bidding where Titania falls in love with Bottom (a mechanical) who has been changed into a half-ass, half-man. This is actually perfect to Oberon’s master plan that while she is distracted, she will not been able to protect the changeling while under a deep love spell that he is only too happy to devise.
The imperative element to grasp from this is Puck is someone else, a fairy this time, whose intentions come out rather early although they can be blurred at times. He had the free will to say no, or create a nicer creature for her to fall in love with in the least. Puck wants to have these bad intentions masked with oh, Oberon made me do it. Although extremely subtle, Puck has the ability to say no. He is nobody’s minion and Shakespeare tries to have the reader fooled that he is indeed such. Also, Oberon’s intentions end up being perfect and working very well into the sequence of events in the play. The funny, whimsical ending where Titania is no longer in love for the potion is countered off of her through magic, could only be pulled off in the land of the fairies where disbelief does not exist and the spice of life is to simply go along joyously in your life.
Oberon’s intentions although cruel for he does successful kidnap the changeling can be seen mischievous like that of Puck’s. When he causes Lysander to love Helena and Demetruis to also love Helena through the love potion, Hermia does not understand what is happening and she is terrified and close to despondent. For previously she and Lysander were running away together to escape her father, and Helena did love Demetruis. Now, she wakes up and he loves her back somehow. It is such a complex feat to have someone you love to love you back that while it first seems awful that Demetruis is now permanently in love with someone not by choice. This is something the audience profoundly struggles with. It feels like a curse no human or fairy would want or deserves. The conclusion one may come to is that yes, it is better to have that love. Maybe he wakes up and truly loves her. There are so many variables. Perhaps it should be looked as a better life for Helena. However, while Oberon seems like this menacing, cruel character he actually for better or worse strongly influences the plot in many ways. Ultimately, he creates joy despite being cruel; again it seems this level of vast change can occur in the already wacky world of the fairies.
The women in this play are made to be simple and perhaps not the most intelligent and being in the land of fairies causes us to see a potent version. This is Shakespeare’s not so subtle way of displaying gender differences. We have Titania who doesn’t even care when her changeling is stolen. We have Helena chasing around Demetruis (II,i,202 -210) Helena is completely okay with Demetruis treating her like a dog as long as she loves him and he loves her back. So the women’s intentions are not that complicated to analyze and interpret for the women themselves are created by Shakespeare to not be that intelligent thus have no depth of character. Titania had such a great chance to be the exception; however she puts up no fight and it appears she does not even care about the child in the end. This makes her seem like a complete airhead for lack of a better term, again discovered deep in the fairy world.
Lysander and Demetruis’s intentions are clear but distorted by the powerful love potion inflicted upon them. Lysander wants to do much more than sleep next to Hermia at first. Hermia insists that he sleep on that rock over there, way over there. This is comical but it shows that Lysander will be patient to win Hermia’s trust so that they can consummate their love once they are married. Demetruis, however, wants nothing to do with Helena who is chasing and begging him to love her. Shakespeare makes the women look pathetic and devout compared to the men who have the power in this play. It is something about the time period where the men and women are clearly parallel to one another. Compared to the mortal world, things are too normal and calm. We get a background which is important, but the real action happens in the land of fairies.
In conclusion, there are so many factors that go into this play, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The three areas in which the play takes place all shape different elements of the play, but none more powerful than the land of the fairies. In this land, through love potions and complicated plots and a large cast of characters one can discover the true intentions of all the characters because they are in the fairy world and it seems so many things change and become clear once one is in this magical world. Oberon and Puck, our cruel man and our lovable prankster show their true colors. The analysis of how women are dealt with and treated like second class citizens can be seen through not only their treatment by males but by how they themselves behave. Finally, there is that juxtaposition to consider. The fairy world is so close to the mortal world. Does this perhaps cause the world to be more believable, because while being so different on the surface maybe it is not? It is a world where people want to be happy. That is what the four lovers wanted by coming there unintentionally. It is what Oberon wanted. It is what Titania wanted. Is it a coincidence perhaps that their happiness is achieved in the fairy world? No, it is clearly intentional that the fairy world represents closure and resolution. It does this flawlessly; one simply needs a bit of the magic for themselves to see it clearly.

The “Jewels” of Judgment: Reading Lolita in Tehran

Standard

In the midst of daily talks about terror threats in our everyday lives, comes a story about an Iranian woman, Dr. Azar Nafisi, who is the heart of the story Reading Lolita in Tehran. Through an informal, sarcastic tone maintained throughout this book, a series of accounts from her troubled life in the Islamic republic frequently boil to the surface. Although politics is something that Dr. Azar Nafisi herself acknowledged as corrupt, she never seemed prepared for the utter and immediate toll it took upon her friends and people she knew such as her father, who was persecuted under the vindictive regime. Despite refusing to wear the veil that caused her to lose her job, she came in greater contact with her emotions. Using these new unexpected passions Dr. Azar Nafisi formed a secret group of students who were bound together through their vigorous studies of fiction.
In the exuberance of the novel, two types of characters emerge. The characters are those within the book and those fictional characters within the novels. The personalities are as diverse as the four seasons. Nima, Nassrin, Manna, Mahsid, Yassi, Azin, Mitra, and Sanaz are to me like the members of a secret “breakfast club”. They do not meet for breakfast per say but their explosive personalities and comments and well as their beliefs about the regime forever change their teacher (Dr. Azar Nafisi) and themselves. Sanaz has a need for approval. Nima, the sole male, wanting very much to get into the club displays a new way of male behavior. Yassi confesses that an uncle molested her, however Nima seems to be of a different generation; one which respects women. Mahsid does not make it to the end. Each girl had something to bring to their meetings. An experience, a comment, a vision that the others used to get through these hard times.
However it is not their individual personalities but common struggles that unite them as one. Some were jailed for bogus charges like make-up on, running, and some talked of being reprimanded for “eating their apples too seductively”. This novel is another demonstration of the way in which women are oppressed through out history even in the 1980’s and 90’s. Using Lolita, The Great Gatsby, and Jane Austen novels Nafisi teaches the students of Western heroines and how their oppression relates to that of Islamic women. For example the antagonist Humbert brainwashes, kidnaps, and manipulates Lolita to satiate his sick fantasies. This is something that makes the book particularly amazing; that she makes these meetings with her students and the degree that she can relate literature of the Western world to her own world. Gatsby is someone in love with a girl he will always love, but one he can never have. Myrtle the adulterous one is a character questioned in the book. In Pride and Prejudice discussions, it would seem some girls dream to fall in love. For exposing these truths Nafisi should be praised. She is an amazing, eclectic individual who should be celebrated for her stubborn resolve to not allow the government who she is.
Nafisi also has the awful facts that surround her daily life. Daily reminders like bombs in the night. She recalls things, like her mother always being disappointed with her behavior, for Azin recognizes that she never lived up to her mother’s plans. Also, her father was the mayor and he was assassinated. Through her frightening experiences relating to the law (the bombings and constant raids in her daily life), she shares not only a knowledge of facts from being an honored professor, but a solid character of what fiction can be identified with. Her strong beliefs she instilled within her and her comrades evoked this idea of neglecting the grave side of society and focusing on the magnificent parts of life: “… life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction” (Nafisi 3). People in Iran were taught to resent Western culture yet she did not. Nafisi is actually like many of her heroines, courageous beyond belief. Gatsby and Lolita are two quite different perspectives which Nafisi presents in a light of hope. Although in fiction both Gatsby and Lolita suffer unimaginable sorrow, in reality Azar evolves a candle of hope that does not vanish because of obstacles; in fact she becomes more resolute.
If not hope, then an understanding of suffering and unspoken empathy is what Nafisi attempts to project out into the world. Although her “magician” hid in the world, she did not. Sure, she hid in her apartment flat with her students but they were open with one another and shared deep reflections about the troubles they, as women felt and addressed to the professor which bound them closer. By having this almost secret society she grasps the true meanings of fiction. Occasionally, Nafisi diverts many of the problems surrounding the regime into a question of identity; she preached at first unintentionally the more profound ideas that would not soon be forgotten by any of her fellow students. Soon, they all found that they shared the same thoughts about woman’s declining role in society and it sickened them. Setting the stage for many of them would be an event much later in the memoir that left a lasting impression – the author’s moving to America.
Nafisi talks of the enormous changes, of all the things she left in Iran: the danger, the men pursuing her and mostly importantly the veil, which once represented devotion, but now a represented entrapment. She was like the Rosa Lee Parks of Iran saying, No I will not wear the veil. It is what got her fired, but also into that secret class and discovering a life that she had to smuggle. She had to smuggle happiness and her move to the states was a decision that made it seem as though she were abandoning her students.
Betrayal and dismay are two key feelings that many of her students voiced, but mentally Nafisi could not force herself to stay in this unstable lifestyle. Her thorough studies of fiction have led her to discover how beautiful life can be if you only give it a chance. This “chance” simply could not be accomplished if she stayed in a place that did not free her spiritually. As someone who cherished and loved fiction as much as she does, the coming to America was a closure that she recognized would not erase the painful memories she had to bear. The fact that she would no longer allow herself to become immersed in them was something incredible to undertake, something many people today can take with them. Learning of her story can inspire a hope in even the most desperate situations to climb out of your hole of apprehension into exuberance!
This book is truly a gem that sparkles in the night. The brilliant combination of fiction overlapping reality and the compelling stories of the oppression of women really make one think. Our author, a brilliant wonderful teacher annexed from the University of Tehran for not agreeing to wear the veil was a landmark event. It withstands the sands of time and is truly a testimonial to someone who looks fear in the eyes and said, no I am not allowing myself to be the government’s puppet. So to sum it all up, Nafisi never quite lived up to her mother’s expectations; she towered over them. It is fantastic to say that she was brilliant. However it is the girls she taught in secret whose resilience left the reader in shock. For the Middle East and Iran are worlds foreign to us. We, the spoiled, they the suffering, something this book outlines quite well. This book encompasses detail and memories and draws them into a one of a kind story.