Superimposing real life against the literary lives of characters in the famous works of Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Jane Austen, Nafisi demonstrated how literature acts more as a reflection than artistic expression of social realities that these authors experienced during their times.
Nafisi addressed numerous social issues and injustices that occurred among Iranians, in general, and women, in particular, in the society she lives in. Despite this multitude of issues, she centered her discussion more on four major themes that corresponded with each part of the book. These four major themes are: (1) the creation of a "new and different world" by the oppressed Muslim women in Tehran; (2) analysis of Western culture and ideals vis--vis Iranian culture and ideals; (3) courage and defiance from a stubbornly defiant traditional society; and (4) integration of the three preceding themes-the enactment of women's revolution, summoning their courage to pursue their own 'new worlds' and defy and protest the oppressive nature of their society.
The central argument presented in Nafisi's memoir, in effect, is the integration of these themes: the concept of Upsilamba, of creating a new and different world, and having the courage to do this, is what Nafisi and other Iranian women like her had aspired and succeeded in achieving-whether this causes them death or persecution in their own society. In the texts that follow, an elucidation of these themes and of the central argument in the memoir are discussed and analyzed in the context of cultural revolution-a shift to totalitarianism-Iran was experiencing in the late 1970s.
The first theme answers Nafisi's reason for including Nabokov's novel "Lolita" as the primary text from which she felt motivated to pursue her dream of creating her own alternative class. "Lolita" is more than a novel; Lolita as the main character represented the women of Iran during the tumultuous time of totalitarianism and revolution in the country. Like Lolita, the women were and are continually robbed of the innocence and freedom that they should be experiencing in their own country, in the same manner that men enjoy greater freedom and privilege in this same country. Innocence and freedom are often associated with injustices committed against women, such as physical, psychological, and emotional abuse; however, in Nafisi's terms, the deprivation of innocence and freedom among women by the totalitarian regime they lived in was not just these kinds of abuse, but the total erasure of the individuality and sense of self that women had before the revolution began.
The conversation that ensued among the women in Nafisi's alternative class reflected so much about the kind of mentality that developed as a result of the usurpation of people's individualities and rights by the republic. For the women, "Lolita" is not a novel that questions human morality, nor does its author, Nabokov, prescribe what morality and humanity should be. More than anything else, the novel attempts to illustrate humanity in its purest nature, wherein the individual aspires to do and act the way she wanted to,