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In this comparative paper, Bradbury’s book, Fahrenheit 451 is discussed vis-à-vis Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran. The general aim of this essay is to establish what place of Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran would have had in the bygone days of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Judging from the fact that the fundamental thought in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is about the burning of books because of the perceived ideology that they did not meet censorship standards, the provoking question being investigated is whether Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran meets censorship standards and whether the book is appropriate for our days. Then again, the question is posed, if all the readers were to live in the days of Bradbury, whether people would have hailed the Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran and its concepts, or whether they would have just brushed it aside. To help have a coherent discussion and comparative study, certain themes have been developed to carry the essay through.
Themes of Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran
General, Nafisi presents Reading Lolita in Tehran as a memoir. This notwithstanding book presents very provoking and interesting themes. According to the Random House Incorporated ((2011), the themes of the book are numerous, and include “social obligations, personal freedom, love and commitment, tyranny and democracy, ethics and moral courage.” As a memoir, several areas of her life were selected. Several areas of the lives of other people, who were close to her, were also sampled. It is for this reason that the book could carry several themes, and yet have all of them well-presented. Among all the themes discussed, however, the one that may best fit into the comparison with Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. It is the theme of personal freedom. Complaining so much on the kind of restriction that the people in Iran are perceived to be going through, the writer strongly advocates the need for personal freedom for the ordinary Iranian. She admits that a lot of people living in Iran themselves do not recognize the fact that their freedoms are being hindered (p. 22). This is because the cost of freedom has been made so expensive that all that the people can afford is the tag of restriction. Though, the people have been indoctrinated to accept the situation they find themselves in, the writer is still firm with her advocacy, as she states:
“And then imagine us again with all this confiscated, driven underground, taken away from us” (6).
Appropriateness of the Theme for Contemporary Days
In the contemporary literature, very little could be said in condemnation of the theme of personal freedom trumpeted by the writer. This is because the need for personal freedom and the promotion of human rights is something that is being championed by several globally accepted institutions and organizations, including the United Nations. Very little can therefore, be said in condemnation of any writer of our time, who writes about that theme. It can be argued, therefore, that as far as censorship is concerned, the theme of personal freedom has not infringed on any laws. It is also important to recognize the fact that writers always play their roles in addressing the global issues through their medium of presentation, which is writing. It is not surprisingly that Nafisi wrote;
“A novel is not an allegory…. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don’t enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won’t be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel.” (109)
The indication and implication from the quote above is that the writer admonishes all readers to understand and appreciate the role she is playing through her work to address the sensitive issues of global importance, such as personal freedom.
How Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran Would Have Felt in Bradbury’s Era
Having made all the beautiful comments about Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, it is just the right time now to bring the book up for a closer diagnosis with Bradbury’s era. Bradbury’s era, as referred to in this context is referring to the concept of burning of books in the Fahrenheit 451 book. Though, the writer Bradbury denied writing on censorship, it is glaring to find from the theme of the books that the writer was laying emphasis on censorship of books. The book depicts in every sense possible that books that carry the subject of violence, sex, aggression, defiance and drug use did not have to be entertained for publication and consumption. It is not surprising therefore, that Bradbury expresses surprise that people keep asking for pleasure and fun when they find it all around them. To this end, he writes that:
People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? (59)
The implication here is that the writer does not deem it appropriate for people to demand for any more fun, because they have it already around them. The question then become posed as, “In the context of Bradbury, was Nafisi not looking for more fun?” Indeed, Bradbury would have envisioned Nafisi as looking for more fun and pleasant – the reason why she is advocating for the personal freedom.
In Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, we read of her making bitter complains of the lifestyle of the Iranian community. She actually personally resisted a lot of them, such as the wearing of veil. Clearly, such an idea, if compared to what existed in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, could have been equated to the search for too much freedom, and thus, an abominable theme. Therefore, there is the tendency that the book, Reading Lolita in Tehran would have been burnt under the circumstances.
Reception Received by Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran
There is no denying the fact that Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran received very good reception upon its publication in 2003, and that the book continues to receive very good reception in most parts of the world, especially the United States. According to the official website of the writer, the book spent up to 117 weeks on the New York bestseller list. This is indeed an incredible performance that represents nothing but positive reception of the book. It is said in some quarters that there is nothing like negative publicity. So, even if the book had gained popularity because of some contrary associated with it, the end result is that the book has been well-received, because it has been a bestseller. As far as the New York, and by extension the American reading population is concerned, it could be argued that the books had very good taste with them, because they presented a subject or theme that was dear to the heart of the American community. For years, America has been championing the course for personal freedom for all people and states around the world. If a writer addresses this issue, therefore, it is going to be easier to predict that such a book will have popularity among the American audience.