In Azar Nafisi’s “Selections from Reading Lolita in Tehran”, Nafisi and her students, rather than denying the reality that they live in, created a world alternate from their reality. In their physical world the government has stripped them of their individualism. They were unable to act or do as individuals would, thus they went to the book club as a way to escape reality. It gave them insight into a world they could not experience. Literature becomes their color in their bleak world of black and white restrictions.
They came to the realization, through their readings, that they had given their government the power to take away from them their individuality. They created a fictional world to let them be individuals and escape the restrictions that their physical environment placed upon them. With this fictional world, they rebelled against their government and used it as a way to escape their harsh reality. Possessing their fictional world allowed them to remain unique individuals. Fiction can express truth as effectively as reality.
The way someone views reality can be their own fiction. Nafisi and her students did not use fiction as a way to deny their reality but instead it opened up a window of many minds other than their own. They learn from fiction just as much if not more than they do with reality. Fiction brought them realities they never would have been able to be aware of in their physical world “She fashions her universe not through physical force, as does the king, but through imagination and reflection” (Nafisi 259).
They learn through fiction that they have one thing that the Revolution did not and could not take away from them, their imagination They learn that with their imagination it makes them each their own unique person. Fiction helped them realize more about themselves and more about reality. Their situation is similar to the character of that book, although they cannot do anything to chance their lives through force, they have their imagination and that itself is enough to make a differences for themselves.
Furthermore, Nafisi and her students enabled themselves to experience new worlds by exposing themselves to different realities from the books they read. Instead of denying they are now aware of other worlds beyond their own. “do not, under any circumstances, belittle a work of fiction by trying to turn it into a carbon copy of real life: what we search for in fiction is not so much reality but the epiphany of truth” (Nafisi 248). They did not try to hide reality with their created world, only to better their state of mind by allowing themselves the freedom to think as individuals.
Nafisi did not want the purpose of this book club to make her students try to live the realities of the books, she wanted to make them aware of realities that they are unable to experience physically. Their government has suppressed them and they are not allowed any individuality so the purpose of the book club enabled them “to experience how the ordinary pebble of ordinary life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction. ” (Nafisi 252). The only way they can get away from their dull lives is through this book club. By reading, it brightens their lives in way they could never be able to do on their own.
Their fictional creation allows them to be individuals and escape restrictions that their physical environment has on them. In the book club, Nafisi and her students are given “the possibility of a boundless freedom when all options are taken away” (Nafisi 262). They find a way to be stay their real unique selves through their learning. “Reality has become so intolerable, she said, so bleak, that all I can paint now are the colors of my dreams” (Nafisi 253). The book club is the only way they can get a break from their reality. It helps the girls keep their distinct selves.
Dreams are something the government cannot take away from someone, just like their created world they still have something personal left of them. “acts of writing are his means of escape. He is a hero because he refuses to become like all the rest. ” (Nafisi 262). Their fictional world is some place for the girls to flee to. Reading the writing helps them see things from a different perspective they are unable to encounter, the story they create is their fantasy and thats what keeps them individuals. The Revolution is trying to mold them into people they want them to be, while they are creating themselves.
The government is trying to control their reality and their fiction. Nafisi and her students are rebelling against their government not only by attending this book club but with the creation of their fictional world. Their fictional world opens up their minds and empowers them to exercise their right to be able to think how they wish to. That is something the government tried but could not take away from them. Nafisi and her students are not denying their reality by creating this world of theirs, they have accepted it in order to build a barrier around themselves from that reality.
“An absurd fictionality ruled our lives. We tried to live in the open spaces, in the chinks created between that room, which had become our protective cocoon and the censor’s world of witches and goblins outside” (Nafisi 264). The veil they are forced to wear, is a symbol of fictionality because the Revolution is forcing everyone to pretend to be someone who they are not. The book club is a safe haven for their individuality. It protects their different characteristics from the government. With their fictional world, they are going against the government and not letting their authorities oppress them.
“These girls, my girls, had both a real history and a fabricated one” (Nafisi 265). Keeping both worlds is an act of rebellion against government who tried to make them conform to the real standards of their society. “Is she aware, Sanaz, of her own power? Does she realize how dangerous she can be when her every stray gesture is a disturbance to public safety? ” (Nafisi 265). They are the only ones who have control over how and what they think. By creating this fictional world they are making changes against the government. “where we simultaneously invented ourselves and were figments of someone else’s imagination” (Nafisi 263).
Nafisi and her students are living through the stories they read, like being the characters that they created, it makes them stronger, inspires them. Fiction has become a coping mechanism for them, giving them stronger will to deal with reality. “to experience how the ordinary pebble of ordinary life could be transformed into a jewel through the magic eye of fiction. ”(Nafisi 252). They are able to view things with different eyes, in the books they read there is a much more optimistic view than their reality. Seeing things through someone else’s perspective lightens the burden of their reality.
They can escape real life momentarily and see things from an unrestricted point of view. Their created world is something that gives them strength to carry on with their daily lives. Denying reality does not help, therefore when they create the fictional world of theirs they realize that the government is trying to take away from who they are. In reality they are the ones who have power over their own minds if not anything else. “ imagine us the way we sometimes didn’t dare to imagine ourselves in our most private and secret moments, in the most extraordinarily ordinary instances of life, listening to music… or reading Lolita in Tehran.
” (Nafisi 250). In their real world they always have to be careful of letting themselves show their true selves, but with fiction they are not afraid to be themselves. In fiction, they compare their own situations with the characters in the books they read. Those books teach them things such as totalitarianism to being happy a goal. “the most central of which was how these great works of imagination could help us in our present trapped situation as women. We were not looking for blueprints…we did hope to find a link between the open spaces the novels provided and the closed ones we were confined to” (Nafisi 259).
These novels become the girls source of freedom. With these books they are allowed to freely interpret and believe whatever they with in contrast to their reality where they are not allowed to have their own opinions. With their imagination they are not denying themselves, but rather filling in the spaces that they are missing. They cannot experience many things in real life so to fill the void, they do so with fiction. By finding a link between fiction and reality they found a way to keep their individualism.
And accepting and creating, fiction allows for them to have a stronger will in order to keep who they are even in the world they are in. “Perhaps one way of finding out the truth was to do what we did: to try to imaginatively articulate these two worlds and, through that process, give shape to our vision and identity” (Nafisi 264). They are not denying reality, rather it helps them to accept it, they use this world to get through reality, their world reality or imagination motivates them to continue having a strong will and continue moving forward.
Not only does it give them the strength to carry on but it keeps their identities in their minds by accepting and personalizing their fantasies motivating them to be individuals. In conclusion, Nafisi and her students have found a way to escape their restrictions and can let themselves be who they want to be through fiction. With the use of literature, Nafisi and her students are trying to reshape and create their own reality. Although their freedoms are temporary, Nafisi’s home is safe from the censor the Revolution put on them that limits their thoughts and actions.
They now have power over their minds, something they must rebel against the government to be able to keep for themselves. To be able to keep that power over their minds they are keeping their individualism. Because the girls comply with the government and also participate in the book club, they are not denying reality instead they are learning ways to accept and cope with it. Through fiction Nafisi and her students learned more about themselves and the powers of imagination.