Ronak Karami


Under Iran’s growing contact with the West from 1925 until 1979, which caused cultural changes, modern writers were stuck between two realities: the vanishing culture of the past with its unified view of women and the modern Western-oriented culture of the present with its doubting, ironic, and fast-changing view of women. Both labels, the ‘ethereal’ (or inaccessible paragon) and the ‘whore’ (or accessible temptress) for female characters emerged in a major literary work of the 20th century in Iran, The Blind Owl (1937), by Hedayat due to these cultural changes. Furthermore, the labels appeared within some later modern Persian fictional works such as Prince Ehtejab (1969) by Golshiri, The Night of Terror (1978) by Shahdadi, and Her Eyes (1952) by Alavi. This essay aims to discuss why and how the two aspects of the ethereal and the whore appear in these four, modern works of Persian fiction. To do so, the paper displays the similarities that these female characters share with one another, the way they appear to share similarities with the male narrator’s mother, and their relevance both to fine arts and with nature. Analyzing these four modern Persian fictional works in this essay is something more than just an effort to show how women were underestimated in literature even after Iran’s modernization, but also to offer insights into persistent cultural assumptions, including relationships between women and men.

Author Biography

Ronak Karami is an Iranian researcher who is interested in women and gender studies. She received her B.A in English Literature from the University of Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran. Although she began her postgraduate study right after completion of her B.A., she subsequently withdrew due to Iran's deficient educational system in that field.