Reading Lolita in Tehran Essay

Reading Lolita in Tehran Essay

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Azar Nafisi, the narrator of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (2003), is a self-centered, self- righteousness character who, according to her claim, has very little contact with other Iranian people in general. (p. 11, 74, 186, 169) Being “very American” (p. 175), in several incidents she finds herself in a great distance of what others acknowledge as custom, ordinary or natural. (p. 32, 98, ..) Bear that in mind, she also admits that “events in [her] mind have become confused” (p. 89) Yet, do these shortcomings mean that Nafisi is an unreliable narrator? Should the fact that there is a lot she does not know about events or can only relate from hearsay, put one on guard against her judgments?

In the first pages of the text, the narrator functions primarily to establish a representational frame within. At first, like a camera she presents an overall perspective, which is elucidating life in the Islamic Republic of Iran. An attitude that will always hover above the scenes to come that invites the reader to see the entire scenes and outlines under its shadow. Afterwards, the camera’s perspective changes as it introduces the close up image through two photographs. In these photographs, the reader is made acquainted with seven young woman who, in accompany with their teacher; Nafisi, form a literary group to discuss literature. These photographs, however, perform another significant task; they are complementary in the narrative discourse. While the narrator addresses the reader repeatedly and directly; she almost desperately asks them to be a part of the scene. The two photographs, being effectively graphic, almost instinctively engage the reader with the text. In this manner, taking the reader, the narrator esta...


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...ngs [are] leaning against the wall”, “the vases [are] on the floor”, “the fireplace [is] in the corner”, “the love seat [is] against one wall” and “the peach couch [is facing] the window”. Therefore, at the end of the description, one, inevitably, feels a sense of familiarity with the living room as well as the narrator. As the narrator changes perspective, the audience respectively adopts the narrator’s point of view and sees and experiences events as she sees and experiences them. The same attitude, repeats in introducing the girls via the photos, as the narrator does not find it adequate to merely name the girls, she points out to their specific place within the photo. As if the reader is holding the photo, she indicate “the one to the far right is Manna”, Yassi is “the one in yellow, bending forward and bursting with laughter”, “I am the one in brown”. (p. 4)

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