The Connection and Analyzation of Oppression

The Connection and Analyzation of Oppression
In the fall of 1995, Nafisi a university professor in Tehran, Iraq resigned from her
academic post and decided to fulfill a dream. Nafisi chose seven of her past most committed
female students to create a book club to discuss works of literature. Including male students to
the club would have been too much of a risk. The group riddled with oppression in their own
society, find power and a sense of truth through reading works of fiction. The group analyzes
Nabokov??™s novels Lolita and Invitation to a Beheading. In doing so, the ladies evaluate how
oppression germinates and how the group can relate to oppression in their lives. The group also
uses the characters of the novels as an escape of the oppression that each member of the group
experience living in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In both novels we see a continuity of the elements of oppression. The roles of the
oppressor and the oppressed can only be described as a vicious circle without a beginning or an
end in of themselves. One must have the other for the circle to gain life. This vicious circle
achieves conception with the oppressor and the oppressed each playing a significant role. The
oppressor dictates to the oppressed the identity they wish to place on the oppressed. The
oppressor removes the identity of the oppressed and dictates a new identity to the oppressed.
When the oppressed is forced to accept the new identity; the power taken from the oppressed
feeds the oppressor with more power. This is what fuels the vicious circle of oppression. ???The
only way to leave the circle is to find a way to preserve ones individuality, that unique quality
which evades description, but differentiates one human being from another??? (Nafisi 77). We see
this circle in the novel Invitation to a Beheading. Cincinnatus C. has been sentenced to death. He is
forced to lose his identity through the Jailer who dictates every aspect of his life, all of which is
a lie. In a perverse way, all Cincinnatus has is the Jailer and he looks forward in spending time
with him. Lolita, in the same way, Hubert dictates the aspects around Lolita??™s life by getting
involved with her mother just to be in contact with Lolita. He intern causes her mother??™s death
so that he could possess Lolita and entrap her as his mistress for two years. Hubert confiscated
her life, leaving Lolita, a twelve year old, without any other options but to be given a new
identity through oppression. Lolita and the Jailer??™s lives have no meaning except through
what is dictated to them.
While the group in Tehran analyze the relationship between oppression and identity there
was a sense of connection between the lives of each member of the group and the characters
in the novels. This gave the group a sense of understanding and power to break the cycle through
unconventional means. The power was not regained though violence, but through a simple act of
creating a book club; reading banned materials in the society in which they live. The women of
the book club lived in a society that told them who they can shake hands with, what they can
wear, how they can act in public and what they can watch on television to name a few.
Everything was controlled in every aspect of their lives. These women did not have any trouble
at all in relating to Lolita and Cincinnatus. A society, ???where the texture of life in a totalitarian
society where they are completely alone in an illusory world full of false promises. A society
???you can no longer differentiate between your savior and your executioner??? (Nafisi 23). ???The
Islamic Republic of Iran (where the group was from) grasped both the tragedy and absurdity of
the cruelty to which they were subjected. We had to poke fun at our own misery in order to
survive??? (Nafisi 23). These eight ladies fought the war of oppression through literature. ???The
outlet of art and literature became so essential to their lives; they were not a luxury but a
necessity??? (Nafisi 67).
In seeing how the characters in the novels and the book club group dug deep within
themselves to find unconventional ways to break the power in the vicious cycle of oppression;
they prove to be real heroes. They also prove the pen is mightier than the sword.