Criticism

Most literary critics praise Farrokhzaad for her bravery in writing, in a very personal and often painful way, about her emotions, frustrations, and fears. Hers was a singular voice heard in the midst of a very dark silence. Although her life’s work encompasses only a relatively small collection of poems, she was able to catalog the major challenges she had to face as a woman living in a society that for the most part did not want her voice to be heard. She was strong enough to stand up for her rights when she became distraught over her marriage. Although she was ridiculed and socially exiled as a divorced woman, she was not afraid to explore her sexuality in a series of love affairs. But even if one acknowledges Farrokhzaad’s courage and declares her as one of the first persons in Iran to cry out for women’s rights, one has to question, when reading her poem “A Rebirth,” to what kind of transformations does her poem refer?

If one were to focus only on the simplest definition of feminist theory, it might be to evaluate a piece of literature in terms of equal rights and a lack of male dominance. The premise behind feminism might be referred to as encouraging the self-actualization of women—fostering women to independently define themselves. This is a difficult challenge for women who live in a male-dominated society. Farrokhzaad fought against this dominance in her life and against the traditional laws of her society. But did she also fight against her own personal limitations in dealing with men in a one-onone situation? Were her relationships with men on an equal standing? And if they were, how does her poem “A Rebirth” express this? What are her victories? How did she change?

Farrokhzaad dedicated the collection of poems in which “A Rebirth” is contained to her lover, Ibrahim Golestan. Her dedication to him includes the first stanza of “A Rebirth,” making it very clear that this poem in particular was written for him. And it is in this first stanza that the poet’s voice exhibits its most strength. This strength, however, comes from a point of weakness. The speaker begins by declaring that all her “existence is a dark sign.” And this negativity will affect anyone who becomes involved with her. In their coming together, both he and she will be cursed. So in some ways, she is exerting strength, like a wizard who places a spell. But where is the real power if both she and he are affected by the “dark sign?” She may be strong in that she is at least warning him of her effects, but from where are these effects coming? Surely they are not really coming from her. Who would wish negativity upon herself? In stating “all my existence is a dark sign” is she not implying that she is a victim of her circumstances? There is no empowerment in that sentiment. Victimization is antithetical to feminism. To fight for one’s rights, one has to act. Victims, on the other hand, are passive.

In the second section of “A Rebirth,” the speaker turns to the task of defining life. One way she does this is to recall moments when she has gazed into her lover’s eyes. When she does this, she is stopped and her “gaze lays waste to itself.” She has tried to see into her lover’s soul, but the door is slammed in her face by the “no-no” of his eyes. Her gaze then “self-destructs.” She has tried to visually crawl into her lover, trying to find a definition of her life in him. When he does not allow this, is it just her gaze or is it her “self” that falls apart? The reason this question arises is because of the way she words this phrase. It is not her lover who makes her gaze disintegrate. Rather her gaze “self-destructs.” She has diminished her own gaze. Should the reader then assume that she can create an image of herself only through the man? Does she feel incomplete without him? Can she not create a complete self on her...

(The entire section is 1588 words.)