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Expos Assignment 2 Final Draft

Expos Assignment 2 Final Draft - 1 Francis Arcede...

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Francis Arcede: Assignment 2 (Final Draft 10/4/07) The Value of Surface and Substance in Open and Oppressive Societies Surface and substance are two seemingly opposite yet complementing elements. Consumer and commercial society calls for a focus on aesthetics, meanwhile many anecdotes and moral stories urge people to look beyond the surface for meaning in life. A free society like the United States fosters an atmosphere where such a divide can even be possible. What happens to surface and substance when an oppressive government of a foreign country dictates all types of external expression of its citizens? Can the aforementioned division persist to exist when free choice is absent? Azar Nafisi in her work “Selections from Reading Lolita in Tehran ” provides insight into a country where the government limits its citizens in several ways, from style of dress to what is being taught in class. Elements of “Surface and Substance” by Virginia Postrel and her views relayed in the work are not only noticeably applicable to “Selections from Reading Lolita in Tehran ” but also complicated by Nafisi’s views and her experiences living in the city of Tehran. Where in “Surface and Substance” the issue was choosing between the two, Nafisi’s work deliberately reveals that surface and substance must stand separately in her society. In a society where free expression is suppressed, surface becomes almost irrelevant and dismissible. As she hosts a weekly Thursday morning meeting in her home with select female students to discuss works of literature, Nafisi recalls taking two photographs: one with the government mandated black robes and head scarves covering females from head to toe, and another without the garb. Her reaction calls to mind the difference of surface and substance: “When my students came into that room, they took off more than their scarves and robes. Gradually, each one gained an outline and a shape, becoming [her] own inimitable self” (337). The women, instructed to wear the traditional garb to avoid public indecency and arousing men, 1
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become uniform in this regard. They cannot express themselves aesthetically in any way; the regime forbids it by religious and governmental law. The fact that Nafisi marvels at the new appearance of her students revealed after shedding their apparel hints at the irrelevance of surface in expressing oneself in Tehran; she previously made no extraordinary comment with regard to their appearance. The dominating surface suppressing society in which Nafisi lives deeply contrasts with the aesthetics-centered culture of Virginia Postrel, a fact she is aware of when she expresses: “…appearance must be worth either everything or nothing” (437). That
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