Monday, March 19, 2012

Oppression in Ava Homas’ “Wind through my hair”

Stuck Behind the Glass Window:
Oppression in Ava Homas’ “Wind through my hair”
                                                             By Melissa Teixeira
 A very strongly opinionated narrator Azar, fights the daily pressures a single woman faces in Iran. Yet, the only person she can talk to, can only see her late at night when others are not around. “Wind through my hair,” by Ava Homa allows readers to bounce around in Azar’s mind as her need to escape becomes so strong that she strains her current relationships with her good friend, Reza. This plot, although relatively straightforward, leads the reader to experience her life over the course of a few days as a divorced single woman in Iran desperately trying to escape her current situation yet, fighting personal internal struggles. Homa’s limited omniscient narration shows her protagonist’s self-inflicted oppression in relation to the confinement of political regulations, society expectations and family ideologies.
Homa first introduces the character of Azar in her car headed home. She has loosened her headscarf to allow the wind through her hair and switches the radio from political information to listen to the stereo, humming along with the song “take me away.” By using the imagery of her hair blowing in the air humming to this song, it allows the reader to connect with the main character on a personal level and allows us to believe that she too deserves the sense of freedom. At this point the author has set ground for the reader to begin to understand the characters need to escape and the significance of the title of the short story. The society in which the context of “Wind through my hair” is set, introduces the elements of political tension in the protagonist’s life and the dreams of escape she longs for. Azar shows her further frustration with the political society when she says, “… you shouldn’t expect otherwise in a country ruled by the ‘Representative of God’ on earth (18)”.  Homa continues this story by allowing us into the mind of the character where she debates calling her friend Reza while looking for money to pay Liar, her lawyer, help her get out of this “Islamic Pigsty (20)”.  The context of the story tells us that there is political strife happening in Iran through different regimes and Azar says, “ If ‘they’ didn’t arrest people for committing the crime of hanging out with people of the opposite sex, or because our clothes, hair, or eyebrows don’t look the way they want them to, we could go instead of staying in (22)”. The reader quickly understands that if it weren’t for these political restrictions or “they” the government, the protagonist could do so much more to live in her life.  She tries to “Just get rid of the polluted air!  [She] push [es] aside the curtain and stick[s] [her] cheek to the corner of the windowpane and look[s] at the city lights, the skyscrapers, until [her] breath makes [her] vision of the outside blurry (17-18)” The polluted air becomes a reference to the corruption of the societal and political aspects of the country. As the character then pushes the curtains away to look out the glass window at the “city lights” and “skyscrapers” we understand that she longs for what is beyond the restrictions of the city.
By trying to meet the demands of everyone and the expectations of society Homa’s protagonist shows us how these demands create both internal and external conflict. At one point she says to Reza, “ I was done school and … the mentality of the town pushes you. How long can a single young woman keep saying no? How on earth can a female at that age who is done school too, remain single? Being single has one and only meaning: no one wants her- therefore, there is something wrong with her (25).” Through this we understand how large an impact society plays on woman, especially single woman. The fact that she had finished school, and was single can pressure a woman to make quick decisions. The ‘mentality of the town’ or society expectations can push someone in a direction they may not necessarily want. But, her interpretation of being single shows that she believes in order to be perceived as someone, she needs to have a partner or there is something ‘wrong’ with her. Yet, she explains to readers that she “pay[s] two-thirds of [her] income to rent this cramped bachelors where [she] expect[s] people don’t have their noses in each others lives (24).” That although she tries to escape the ridicules and judgments of society she will always be watched by someone to make sure she is not breaking societal expectations. That she “lives like a refugee (28)” and “[doesn’t] know what [she] is escaping from anymore (28).” Her self-inflicted oppression leads her to believe that “[she is] so irrelevant in this country. [She has] no home…[She is] homeless like the wind (28).” When in reality the readers understand her frustrations yet, she inflicts this internal battle with herself allowing herself to believe she is alone. However, in the context of the story her good friend Reza and Sheida are trying to support and help her. Yet, the author’s play on words ‘homeless like the wind’ allow readers to visualize what the main character believes about her place in society. Therefore, her place in society is ‘irrelevant’ and the perceived notion that she had no home, or family support justifies her current situation. 
            Finally, ones need for familial support can affect and impact decisions one makes on their life. The author shows us that the character does live alone but under what pre-text? The idea of her loneliness is what leads her to believe that escape is necessary.  She talks about her life and where is comes from saying, “What is a root, for God’s sake, why don’t I have any? (28).” She does not feel grounded to the country; she cannot begin to live in such a place if she herself has nothing to start from. Yet, she denies what her good friend Reza believes about her value when she’s says, “he never understands me. He’s a man, he’s from Tehran and he has a protective family. My father doesn’t want to see me. He’d rather see me die then make him bi aberoo, ashamed (30).” That because of Reza’s sexual orientation and his birthplace he simply cannot understand what challenges she faces. She makes the judgment that her father would not accept her, and that he would rather she be dead than be ‘ashamed’ of her. The writer’s technique of adding the word in Persian first and literal translations afterwards allows the reader to understand the impact this word has on the characters life. Yet, she knows that “ [her] father’s sick and [her] Mom wants [her] to visit him (30)” and she then “claw[s] at [her] hair (30).” Thus, the authors’ descriptive language of her “clawing at her hair” allows the reader to understand the great impact of her family issues. This descriptive style enriches the readers’ attention because we understand the main characters distress and the reader can then envision the character doing this action, connecting the reader on a more emotional level.
Azar’s internal battles with politics, societal beliefs and family expectations lead her to believe that she is alone in the world and that only she can save herself from her current situation. That her beliefs in the politics of the country will never be considered. Regardless, what she does in life she will always be judged and finally, can no longer rely on her family ties, as they are not her main source of support. That in order for her happiness to be fulfilled she must take control and turn her back on the city.