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Social Connections: Fantasy vs. Reality Essay

Throughout society’s development, individuals have grown to make connections based off of past experiences. Connections can have various meanings such as association with development, or a relationship between groups of people. In Azar Nafisi’s writing of, “Selection from Reading Lolita in Tehran,” she describes the creation of her reading group, and how it provides the type of education she desired to provide as an educator but was restricted based on the Iranian regime. Similarly, in Susan Faludi’s “The Naked Citadel,” Faludi examines the unique culture of a nonaffiliated military school, which highlights the clash between The Citadel’s historical cultures and its present conflicts. Lastly, in Sherry Turkle’s, “Selections from Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other”­ she comments on how children learn to make unrealistic personal connections with technology.

Evolution of society and tradition, seen within the readings allows for the changes seen within the environment. The environment in which one lives in either inhibits or creates the ability to experience new connections within society. Through the discussion of reality versus fantasy, the ability to make connections is inevitably controlled by one’s surroundings. The reality of an individual’s environment, can inhibit the ability to create connections. In “Selection from Reading Lolita in Tehran,” Azar Nafisi discusses prejudices her students face in Tehran because of unequal gender rights. Under a totalitarian type of government society is forced to conform to traditional societal rules and beliefs. This results in the loss of their individual identities and conform to their societies beliefs. Nafisi states while looking into a mirror that, “In its reflection, I could see the mountains capped with snow even in summer, and watch the trees change color. That censored view intensified my impression that the noise came … from some far-off place, a place whose persistent hum was our only link to the world we refused … to acknowledge” (Nafisi 283). Cultural norms created by the society, such as cultural traditions, has its own connections to those who follow it.

This can be related to the limited rights women have within Iranian society. Every person has their own identity, but they are all connected by the same problem. As people absorb their societies desired identity as their own identity; they act the same way as other people in their society. The totalitarian environment limits people’s behavior because they are forced to act very similarly to others in their society in order for them to find connections with others and avoid punishment. Similarly in Susan Faludi’s writing of, “The Naked Citadel” Faludi speaks of the culture of a nonaffiliated military school and its strict historical cultures. Under strict policy, The Citadel enforces the conformity of students to an isolated sexist environment. The only connections that are able to be made are between the school board and the students, in which they lose their sense of identity. Students are also constantly reinforced with the ideals of masculinity, sexism, and become isolated from the outside world.

While observing The Citadel, Faludi states the males are placed into a nine-month “fourth class system which strips each young recruit of his original identity and remolds him into the Whole Man” (Faludi 75). The loss of identity results in the loss of the ability to perceive the difference between right and wrong. Cadets view upperclassmen inflicting harm on others which results in a reoccurring cycle of violence. Both Nafisi and Faludi’s use the concepts of harsh rules and tradition. As a result of isolationism, as seen in the women in Nafisi’s writing, the students of The Citadel are forced to conform their identities to the “more desired ones” of The Citadel. The reality of society refers to the noise heard similarly by Faludi. Tradition leads­­­ inhibition of experience as a product of isolation from the outside world.

As a result, the connections made by individuals lead to conformity, which limits the creation of connections with other cultures and ideas. Therefore the lack of connections creates isolation, furthering the lack of connections to the outside world. Accepting environments on the other hand, allow for the creation of imagination and personal connections. Nafisi in her “Selections from Reading Lolita in Tehran” speaks about the creation of her reading group, and provides the type of education she desired to provide as an educator but was restricted to provide based on the Iranian regime. The Iranian society oppresses against women, forcing them to conform to societal norms. On the other hand, Nafisi introduces her students to a fantasy like environment during their literature class. This allows for the connection amongst the girls and Nafisi to be personal. The idea of connection can be done while making a comparison between the women in Iran and characters within a novel Nafisi discussed with her students. Nafisi states: We formed a special bond with Nabokov despite the difficulty of his prose.

This went deeper than out identification with his themes. His novels are shaped around invisible trapdoors, sudden gaps that constantly pull the carpet from under the reader’s feet. They are filled with mistrust of what we call everyday reality, an acute sense of that reality’s fickleness and frailty (293). Through reading, the girls are expanding their experiences to incorporate outside worldly influences, despite the dangerous harsh reality of a totalitarian government. They are able to escape their real environment and create a form of fantasy land where they are allowed to speak out against their oppressions without actually getting in trouble for it. Similarly in Turkle’s writing of “Selections from Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,” children learn to make unrealistic personal connections with machines.

New technologies have changed the way we think about life. Under the theory of Aristotle, “…definition of man as a rational animal…children considered them special because only they could ‘feel’ (Turkle 464). Since the development of technology in the mid-1980s, such as the Tamagotchi, computers now require constant care because it can get sad, sick, and even “die.” This gives children the false sense that the technology is living and since it has feelings, they want to befriend it like they would do with a pet or another human being. The words “alive” and “living” have evolved to having different meaning, as a result of environmental evolution.

The idea of technology having “feelings” is a slight loss of reality because biologically the computer will never be living technically, it’s just a façade of a game trying to act as if it has direct needs and emotions. Both Nafisi and Turkle experiment with the idea of fantasy in terms of differing types of environments. Within Nafisi’s environment the idea of fantasy is used in order to escape form a government that isolates it from other cultures. On the other hand the environment within Turkle’s story is left up to the children’s imagination, allowing for fantasy to never experience the reality of society. Although the environments differ drastically in terms of tradition, the overall idea of escaping reality allows for the creation of personal connections.

The addition or retraction of human characteristics lead to an unrealistic connection to one’s identity. In Faludi’s “The Naked Citadel,” she describes the transformation of young men into skeletons of their past selves. The Citadel strips the men of their preexisting identity, as they strive to assume the identity The Citadel expects them to have; masculinity. Ironically, as a result of the cadet’s insecurity of their own masculinity, they begin labeling women as nothing more than “pigs and sluts.” By doing this the cadets are blocking out their fears of women threatening their masculinity, and instead are seeing them as nothing more than sex objects. The consequence of this egotistical idea is that, the cadets begin to experience gender-role confusion. To world outside of the isolated Citadel community, homosexuality is severely discouraged nor tolerated. Ironically, the cadets within the citadel, fall guilty to participating in homosexual acts, making them hypocrites of their own beliefs.

Faludi, when visiting a gay bar, interviewed a cross-dresser from a bar down the street from The Citadel, they stated, “I love how they wear their caps slung low so you can’t quite see their eyes. It’s like all of us are female illusionists and they are male illusionists” (Faludi 102). These men are in denial of having a lust towards other men, and cope with this denial by forcing themselves to have sexual relations with a feminine-like individual. Though the cadets’ transformation may conform to the wants of The Citadel, the identity confusion leaves the cadets in a false sense of reality. Similarly, in Turkle’s writing of, “Selections from Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,” Children have lost the sense of reality during which they make humanistic connections with technology. Their minds are so open to new ideas and change that interacting with technology as if it has actual living emotions and needs has become normal to them. Turkle describes the effects of “emotional” technology on children. Children in this case are creating their own environments, thus allowing them to live in a fantasy world and experience technology in a way that equivalents it to human beings.

They get abstract sense of reality. They feel emotions for something that they believe is alive, but in reality is just a machine. The concepts of both Faludi and Turkle show that the introduction or retraction of human characteristics to a human being or technology, distort the individuals’ ability to make connections with themselves as well as with reality. Furthermore, the long term effects of this distortion can affect their social skills, development, and maturity of the individual. The environment in which one lives in, either inhibits or creates the ability to experience new connections within society. Through the discussion of reality versus fantasy, the ability to make connections is inevitably controlled by one’s surroundings. Through Nafisi and Faludi’s writing, the concept of harsh rules and traditions limit connections between individuals, as well as conformity forces the decrease of connections with the outside world.

Also, both Nafisi and Turkle discuss the connections that a fantasy can have on individuals. Fantasy encourages personal connections amongst people as well as technology. The evolution of time leads to transformation within environments. Turkle realizes this within her experiences with her daughter that many people are becoming more attached to their technological devices and programs. However, technology dependency decreases the ability of individuals to solve problems on their own and losing control over their own lives. Similarly the loss of control over their own lives is seen within Nafisi’s writing when the Iranian Regime takes over Iran.

The change in environment restricts women’s rights and result in illegal activities in order to express their thoughts and expand their knowledge of Western cultures. Lastly, Faludi’s examination of the society within The Citadel, shows that over time transformations lead to change in the environment, especially in terms of the ruling power. The evolution of time shows digression in peace and the rise of hatred and cruelty towards one another. The power of the environment influences individual’s ability to create or inhibit connections based on the experiences, societal traditions, and their connection to reality.

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