An Analysis of Several Important Quotes from the Memoir 


"What Nabokov captured was the texture of life in a totalitarian society where you are completely alone in an illusory world full of false promises where you no longer differentiate between your savior and executioner" (Nafisi 23).

            Nafisi discusses the theme of an oppressive society as compared to the situation in Invitation to a Beheading in this passage. She discusses how the literature specifically relates to reality and the totalitarian society's abuse of power. Everything in the society becomes false, and there is insight into the relationship between an individual and the reality of tyranny and repression.

"Curiously, the novels we escaped into led us finally to question and prod our own realities, about which we felt so helplessly speechless" (Nafisi 38-39).

In this first introductory section, Nafisi develops the students' ability to become insightful readers and relate the novels they read to their realities. It is evident that the themes throughout the novels have a connection that leads the students back to their own realities. The novels provided the link for the students to realize their situations and view what they were living through as a painful memory.  

"The worst crime committed by totalitarian mind-sets is that they force their citizens, including their victims to become complicit of their crimes" (Nafisi 76).

               Nafisi relates her analysis of Invitation to a Beheading, where Cincinnatus is circling in a dance as he waits for his execution, to the "crimes committed" by the government heading the people of Iran. The government easily set rules and restrictions on its people and the students actually witnessed this brutality every time they set foot out onto the street. The requiring of wearing the veil had been like an "execution" to their lives and identities as a woman.




 "This new man, Dr.A, was different. His smile was friendly but not intimate; it was more appraising. He invited me to a party at his house, that very night, yet his manner was distant. We talked about literature and not relatives" (Nafisi 87).

                   In this passage, Nafisi recently returned to Iran and notices the distant relationship Dr. A has towards her, but at the time she only thought that Dr.A was exceptional from the other Iranian men since he used to live in America. In her explanation of their encounter, it shows that Dr.A is constantly maintaining a professional space between them even though they're acquainted enough to invite her to his house. Nafisi's tone in her description of Dr. A suggests the awkward and irrelevant tension in every Iranian man's attitude in keeping a distance towards the women in the new regime.

"When in the States we had shouted Death to this or that, those deaths seemed to be more symbolic, more abstract, as if we were encouraged by the impossibility of our slogans to insist upon them even more. But in Tehran in 1979, these slogans were turning into reality with macabre precision. I felt helpless: all the dreams and slogans were coming true, and there was no escaping them" (Nafisi 97).

                  After residing in the United States for quite a long time, Nafisi revisits her home country, Iran, again. This passage demonstrates the change she felt in the cultures because when she was in the United States, people fought for rights without being radicals and tyrants. On the other hand, the slogan's on the banners in Iran that said "Death to America!" actually meant it literally. Iran thought of America as the evil and poison to their minds and culture. Universities were closed and students and faculty were killed in their act against this. In the end, the revolution had changed the Iranian Republic and destroyed it.

"He wanted to fulfill his dream by repeating the past, and in the end he discovered that the past was dead, the present a sham, and there was no future. Was this not similar to our revolution, which had come in the name of our collective past and had wrecked our lives in the name of a dream?"(Nafisi 144).

                 This passage clearly shows the connection Nafisi makes between the revolution and literature. Instead of coming out straight and explaining her opinions on the Revolution, she compares it to Gatsby's dream in The Great Gatsby. The extreme words she utilizes such as "dead", "sham", "wrecked" and "no future" reveal her lack of hope for her country to bring her happiness and a bright future. It proves her reality during the revolution transformed her to become narrow-minded.



"I had not realized how far the routines of one's life create the illusion of stability. Now that I could not wear what I would normally wear, walk in the street to the beat of my own body, shout if I wanted to or pat a male colleague on the back on the spur of the moment, now that all this was illegal, I felt light and fictional, as if I were walking on air, as if I had been written into being and then erased in on quick swipe" (Nafisi 167).

                 In this passage, Nafisi mentions many examples and privileges she had lost during the war. It establishes the importance of one's daily routines because one could feel invisible without them, as Nafisi had experienced. Her specific examples reflect a much larger picture on the restrictions set by the regime and its effect on women in Iran. It shows that all women in Iran are now controlled by the strict regime that prevents them from reasonable rights and rapidly erases them from being. This passage conveys the main reason why most of Nafisi's students and women in Iran desire escape to another place where they can live and search for freedom.


"You remember those days the regime went crazy attacking the MujahideenI was really very lucky. They executed so many of my friends, but initially gave me only ten years. Ten year was lucky?" (191).

                Nafisi briefly summarizes her conversation with Nassrin in this passage. It is extremely precise but at the same time reveals a lot about a woman's hardship in Iran. She describes Nassrin's tone to be carefree and "lucky", but it is obvious that even for Nafisi, it is surprising to believe that a young girl would think ten years in jail was considered lucky. Nafisi interchanged Nassrin's words and her thoughts without using any punctuation which gives the casual expression Nassrin gave to her to the reader.  


"Nothing was said about him-no commemoration, no flowers or speeches, in a country where funerals and mourning were more magnificently produced than any other national art form. I, who prided myself on speaking out against the veil or other forms of harassment, also kept quiet. Apart from the murmurs, the only thing out of the ordinary about that day was that the loudspeakers for some reason kept announcing in the hall that classes would be held as usual that afternoon. We did have a class that afternoon. It did not go on as usual" (Nafisi 253).

                In this passage, Nafisi has a compassionate tone in her description of this young martyr's tragic ending where no funeral was held to honor him after he had sacrificed so much for his country. The school's repeating announcements reflect the treatment citizens receive in Iran in that everything would go on as usual and one's death was forced to be ignored. In comparison to Khomeini's magnificent funeral Nafisi had described earlier, with all the people paying tribute and days of mourning taken place; this little boy deserves at least something, but instead he would soon be forgotten by the country he had so much faith in. This cruel treatment to the boy even shocked Nafisi.



"I could not find a better way of explaining the overall structure of Pride and Prejudice to my classes than to compare it to the eighteenth-century dance...which is both a public and private act. The atmosphere of Pride and Prejudice does carry the festive air of a ball"  (Nafisi 267). 

                 Nafisi compares Pride and Prejudice to a dance. Dancing illustrates the fragile balance between the public and the private mind. A dance has the potential to be both a public show, and entertainment for one's own private soul. When this balance between outside influences and one's own free choice becomes disturbed, the dance falls apart, and confusion ensues. This imbalance is reflected in the lives of the Iranian citizens because the Islamic regime imposes so many restrictions upon its people.


"They put at the center of our attention what Austen's novels formulate: not the importance of marriage but the importance of heart and understanding in marriage; not the primacy of conventions but the breaking of conventions. These women, genteel and beautiful, are the rebels who say no to the choices made by silly mothers, incompetent fathers (there are seldom any wise fathers in Austen's novels) and the rigidly orthodox society. They risk ostracism and poverty to gain love and companionship, and to embrace that elusive goal at the heart of democracy: the right to choose" (Nafisi 307).

                This quote asserts that by overcoming the public influences placed upon oneself, one can create their own free will to choose. Austen challenges the idea of marriage by convention, and by the same token, Nafisi challenges her students and readers to question the authority of the Iranian Republic. If one never takes up the initiative to challenge such ideas, it only allows these public influences to gain even more control over one's life. If Elizabeth Bennet never opposed the beliefs of her aristocratic community, she would never have been happy with Darcy. Similarly, if the women in Iran never question the concept of veiling, the veil has the potential to become mandatory for the rest of their lives. 

"Well, it's like this: if you're forced into having sex with someone you dislike, you make your mind blank--you pretend to be somewhere else, you tend to forget your body, you hate your body. That's what we do over here. We are constantly pretending to be somewhere else--we either plan it or dream it" (Nafisi 329).

                 Nafisi and her girls are suppressed by the regime's constant demands. The quote relates living in Iran to having sex with a man they hate. The quote illustrates a rape of one's own identity. Women are forcefully removed from their social positions. They must wear a veil, they cannot speak loudly in public, and they cannot communicate freely with other Muslim men. The female students are unable to find solace within their surroundings so instead, they withdraw into the fantasies that they read and the fantasies they create with their minds. The literature class allows the women a few hours of relief from the stresses of the regime each day. It is a place for the women to pour out their worries to each other and to relate their lives with their books. Not only does Nafisi's quote reflect the effects of the Islamic regime on her own students, it is an indication of the effects of the regime on other Iranian women as well.

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