“Reading Lolita in Tehran”by Azar Nafasi and “The Naked Citadel”by Susan Faludi in a well thought-out analysis. Azar Nafasi describes the life in the Islamic Republic after the revolution and the newfound laws which arose as a result of it. She explains how the totalitarian regime has oppressed women and limited them in their everyday lives and activities driving them to hide their true identities under the required black scarves and dresses. Susan Faludi describes the Citadel as a “living museum”, whose main attempt is to preserve the same ideals and traditions as when the school was first founded and shape the boys that attend the school into men. Consider the following quote:“Our world in that living room with its window framing my beloved Elburz Mountains became our sanctuary, our self-contained universe, mocking the reality of black-scarved, timid faces in the city that sprawled below” (Nafasi 419). Both Nafasi and Faludi are exploring group behavior and identity in their works, but how does the Citadel boys’ and Tehran women’s behavior change depending on who they are around and where they are at the moment? Are their true identities suppressed at any given time and how? What does the word sanctuary mean for both the Citadel and the women in Iran? The Citadel and Nafisi’s living room seem to offer different ideas of the word sanctuary. How does Faludi understand the way the Citadel presents itself as a ‘sanctuary’ from a libertine and effeminized world? Similarly, how do the weekly meetings in the author’s living room serve as a sanctuary for the women in the literature group and why do they find the need to expose their true selves and all their colors in this sacred space? Could the Citadel be considered functioning as a totalitarian regime? If so, how are the Citadel’s “laws” similar to the laws of the Islamic Republic after the revolution regarding their behavior towards women? You can also consider more broadly how space- open space, isolated space, can be a tool of both oppression as well as resistance. Provide a well thought-out analysis of BOTH texts and include quotes to support your argument. Consider whether the two authors would agree with each others’ writing and main idea, if not, what would they disagree on? 7 Kat The Illusions of Individual Identity and Choice Individuals, especially in America, have become increasingly more adept at convincing themselves they are special. Americans are now told from birth that they are special, that they have something unique to offer the world, that they should “be themselves because everybody else is already taken.” This trope, however, assumes that as individuals, our identities are entirely separate from those of the humans that came before us. Susan Faludi discusses the passing of violent behaviors and roles from upperclassmen to lowerclassmen at the pseudo-military school, The Citadel in her essay, “The Naked Citadel.” Andrew Solomon’s “Son” explores how Americans receive identity from both their families, and the peer groups that offer identities and ideas that their families do not share. In “An Army of One: Me,” Jean Twenge elucidates her idea that focusing on oneself is detrimental to an individual’s ability to function as a member of American society. Together, these essays provide a sense of just how important social groups can be in the formation of an identity, and that individualism is in fact not a state that can develop in isolation. Individuals cannot and do not exist alone, or form identities alone. An individual human has no control over his or her own identity, is shaped by the people he or she encounters, and is given the illusion of choice to pacify the individual’s need to feel special. While each human being is indeed a unique combination of physical traits and human identities passed from generation to generation, no human being is entirely different from every other human being that has existed or currently exists, because the sharing of an identity is crucial to its existence. For the purpose of this paper, an individual will refer simply to a singular human being, as “individual” itself suggests some significant difference between singular human beings, though this is not so. As Solomon examines the origin of identity, he concludes that “because of the transmission of identity from one generation to the next, most children share at least some traits with their parents” (Solomon 369). The “transmission” of “share[d]” traits reveals that children hold a copy of the identities that their parents hold. The communal possession of these traits insists that total originality in the formation of an individual’s identity is impossible. Even if an individual were to grow up in the absence of traditional parents, there are no known cases of human babies being born and growing into adulthood without the influence of any other human that already possesses an existing set of identities. The individual cannot exist without established identities, such as ethnicity derived from parental heritage or social identities adopted from peer groups. Psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott claims that “there is no such thing as a baby- meaning that if you [try] to describe a baby, you will find you are describing a baby and someone. A baby cannot exist alone but is essentially part of a relationship” (Solomon 369). This assertion that a baby “cannot exist alone” suggests that human identities exist only in the presence of other humans. The idea that a “relationship” is “essential” means that human interactions are absolutely necessary for the development of identities, and that validation of an identity’s existence hinges upon outside recognition. Without the existence of other humans, the individual’s existence is nothing. Even for people who were said to be on a journey of self-growth, “almost everything [members of the Baby Boomer generation] did happened in groups […] No one seemed to catch the irony that it might be difficult to find your own unique direction in a group of other people” (Twenge 490). Participation in a “group” implies a built-in sharing of experiences, which stands in direct opposition to the pursuit of a “unique” identity. “Groups” of people are, by definition, collections of people that share something in common. On the contrary, being “unique” implies a dissent from the majority. Difference, therefore, can only be marked by virtue of comparison. The Boomers, as Jean Twenge describes them, failed to see that there is a disconnect between the communal sharing of “group” actions and this pursuit of a “unique” self. It never occurred to them that finding a “unique” direction would truly require deviation from group work. However, these groups allowed them to validate their own existences through the recognition of other individuals; their own identities as self-discoverers could be verified and amplified only by people of the same identity. As for the young men and military hopefuls who seek to grow from their experiences at the military-school mimicry called The Citadel, their identities are refabricated by the “fourth-class system” designed “to ‘strip’ each young recruit of his original identity and remold him” into a carbon copy of the cadets that came before him (Faludi 75). Though “original” identity suggests some degree of independence from influence, all of these cadets were raised by someone somewhere, not entirely free from varying influences. The “strip[ping]” and “remold[ing]” of cadets merely wipes them of their former given identities, composed of the traits they share with their parents and the members of the groups they belong to, and replaces “original” traits with the qualities of The Citadel’s ideal man. Creativity and opposition is silenced, and the cadet now exists as part of the system that upholds The Citadel. The remolded cadet’s existence within a group of “individuals” just like him, validates his identity as The Citadel’s ideal man, largely because each remolded cadet shares the same new identity. Individuals cannot exist separately from all pre-existing established identities, and are merely collections of the identities that they have acquired by the influence of parents and peer groups. The passing of traits and identities from individual to individual seems to establish that choice is an illusion, as the identities that inform the actions we perceive as choices stem from the behaviors, and especially the language, that Americans have each been taught by their parents and peers. Of the language that younger generations have inherited from the Baby Boomer Generation, Jean Twenge writes, “The matter-of-fact attitude of [Generation Me] appears in everyday language as well- a language that still includes the abstract concept of self, but uses it in a very simple way, perhaps because we learned the language [of the Boomers] as children” (Twenge 491). The language of older generations has taught younger generations how to think, even if specific phrases in popular use today, such as “Be Yourself,” are different from those that were popular before or during Generation Me’s youth. The sentiment remains the same- the language focuses on the importance of the “self”. Even if younger generations were to suddenly move against the “abstract concept of self,” this thinking is so ingrained into our language that it would be nearly impossible to entirely change our language to suit a new identity other than the one of self-focus we embrace now. Language acquisition is much easier for children than it is for adults, so while the Boomers may have been on a journey to acquire self-focusing language, their children had no problem adopting the language their parents worked so hard to obtain. This is by no means our choice- we naturally acquire the language our parents speak. This default language constitutes the idea that the very language we use is not our choice, yet the language we use has a direct influence over the actions we take and seem to believe are our choices. When the identities or language that parents give children is changed by the identities or language of peers give, parents are apt to get mad. At The Citadel, “an infuriated father [wanted] to know what had happened to his son,” a cadet at the military school-esque institution, “‘to change him from a levelheaded, optimistic, aggressive individual to a fatigued, irrational, confused and bitter one’” (Faludi 84). The father of this cadet very obviously views his son’s original state of “levelheaded” optimism as much better than his altered state of “fatigue” and “bitter[ness],” as evidenced in his usage of opposing positive and negative adjectives. However, this father’s son likely never had a real choice of how to change himself. The father’s language and “infuriated” state suggest that he originally thought that The Citadel would be a good choice for his son, and this sentiment likely influenced his son’s “choice” of The Citadel. Then, in becoming a part of the student body, the son had no choice but to conform to the will of the institution and his upperclassmen and forfeit any existing identity he had in order to seek belonging in his new community. The need for acceptance and self-worth, taught to Americans by their parents, also creates the illusion of choice. While members of the Deaf community are enthusiastically encouraged to struggle to operate in the hearing world, “many stumble into Deaf identity in adolescence, and it comes as a great liberation. They move into a world that validates Sign as a language and discover themselves” (Solomon 370). At first, this “move[ment] into a world” different from the hearing world, which does not account for or fully accommodate Deaf people, seems to be the independent choice of a Deaf person, or at least the result of their independent “stumbl[ing].” The “liberation” felt by a Deaf person likely lies in the newfound celebration of a language that had never been accepted by his or her parents, but is now validated for him or her by those that share Deaf identity and understand the same difficulties faced by Deaf individuals in a hearing world. “Discover” then means that deaf individuals are coming into a language-associated identity that they had not held before. However, though the medium is different from spoken languages, American Sign Language is still rooted in English- signs correlate directly to words that exist in English, and this means that the language of self-focus continues to exist in ASL. Furthermore, hearing parents who learn ASL for their deaf children instantly set an example that supports their child’s identity and sense of self-importance. Hearing parents who do their best to push adaption to the hearing world for their Deaf child inadvertently force their children to look for acceptance and importance in the Deaf community, triggering the “move[ment]” towards the Deaf community and identity. The parents’ attempt to force a hearing identity on their Deaf child leaves the child devoid of a world that actually accepts him, and in turn he or she devotes himself to the Deaf community, not by choice, but by necessity. Choice is an illusion- the language that parents teach their children heavily influences the actions of the child, rendering totally independent choices impossible. Americans need to feel special to be satisfied with the identities that have been forced upon them. If an individual realized that nothing about their collection of identities was unique, why would one even continue to carry on the identities of those that influenced them? Parents, according to Solomon, “depend on the guarantee in [their] children’s faces that [they] will not die” (369). A “guarantee” implies an undeniable promise that, in this case, a parent achieves eternal life and the pain of death is escaped in knowing that some part of their identity continues to persist in their absence. This “depend[ence]” indicates that the need to pass on identity is important to the preservation of the self, to the continuation of an identity. However, a parent’s sense of self-importance may undermine their child’s sense of self-importance. For a child, the idea that a parent selfishly seeks to preserve their own legacy can be detrimental to his or her self-esteem. Generation Me’s ability to “focus on the needs of the individual [as a way of] moving through the world beholden to few social rules and the unshakable belief that you’re important” allows Generation Me to see themselves as individuals rather than walking replicas of those generations that came before them (Twenge 491). Living as GenMe does, focusing on self-importance rather than how their parents taught them to live, allows them this “unshakable belief” that each individual is important. GenMe’s focus on the individual allows them to look at only their own collection of identities as something unique to each individual. This offers the argument that realizing and accepting the fact that one has no total control over his or her own identities and choices enables one to be happy. The assertion that we are special combinations of copied identities is what drives Americans to live happily when we realize that we do not hold unique identities. Americans have become very attuned to self-importance and discovery, and often seek confirmation that they are each special. This becomes difficult, though, when it is revealed that unique identities do not exist, and are instead shared from generation to generation and peer group to peer group. These copied identities translate into the behavior, namely language, which dictates the ways we think and act because it is embedded in our beings, and render true choice an illusion. Even in facing the truth about the individual’s lack of actual individuality and choice, Americans are able to focus on the self and the special collection of shared identities that each human being holds. Though identities are shared, there is no possible way that identities have remained or will remain stagnant throughout time. It cannot be said that the identities held by the first human beings, regardless of whether the concept of identities was even understood, stand to this day, nor can we say that every identity that can be accounted for today can be traced back to the origin of humanity. There is obviously some variation and creation happening, but such a small time frame and geographic area only illustrates that, in this context, individuals have no control over their own identities, and must embrace the illusion of choice to become content. Works Cited Faludi, Susan. "The Naked Citadel." Miller and Spellmeyer, pp. 73-103. Miller, Richard E., and Kurt Spellmeyer, editors. The New Humanities Reader. 5th ed., Cengage Learning, 2015. Solomon, Andrew. “Son.” Miller and Spellmeyer, pp. 369-87. Twenge, Jean. “An Army of One: Me.” Miller and Spellmeyer, pp. 487-505.