Reading Lolita in Tehran
by Azar Nafisi
The Government's Treatment of Women
Nafisi's Use of Literature
A major theme of the novel is the effort by Nafisi to force her audience, westerners, to recognize the conditions of civilian life, specifically women, during this time of revolution. Through her inclusion of literature familiar to many westerners, Nafisi is able to connect and make more relevant her own experience. For example, the novel Lolita describes a young woman who lives her life in helplessness and desperation because of an abusive and oppressive stepfather. The girls are able to personify with Lolita because of the similarities between the stepfather and the Iranian government. In addition, Nafisi is able to include analysis and connections with The Great Gatsby and James' novels and the Iranian mindset under the guise of her class's curriculum. Lastly Austen's novels, specifically Pride and Prejudice, provide the backdrop for conversations with her book group about gender relations and the female social sphere. Nafisi states that it is because of the Islamic Republic that she is able to rediscover and appreciate all things she once took for granted, including books.
"She resented the fact that her veil, which to her was a symbol of her sacred relationship to God, had now become an instrument of power, turning the women who wore them into political signs and symbols."