Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Gary  Shteyngart

Siobhan  Burke 

Oil and the Cold War: Influential Factors in the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988

The Stagnating Effects of Overbearing Parents in Shteyngart’s Novels

“I guess parents can be really disappointing, but they’re the only parents we have.” The theme of flawed parent-child relationships is prevalent in Gary Shteyngart’s novels as expressed by this quote from Super Sad True Love Story (45). While the flaws of the parents differ in each novel, the children all experience a similarly detrimental effect from them. Even as adults, the protagonists struggle with feelings of insecurity and parental dependence. Despite disappointment in their parents and themselves, the children remain faithful to their parents because, as immigrants trying to assimilate themselves in a new culture and location, family is of utmost importance. Through his novels, Shteyngart demonstrates his belief that family is an integral part of one’s identity, and overbearing and controlling parents impede the child’s personal development, causing them to become insecure and unable to find happiness or success. Unfortunately for the three protagonists, their dependence on their parents precludes them from developing personal beliefs and goals, resulting in emotional paralysis and stagnation.

Just as the relationships between parents and children in Shteyngart’s novels led to personal devastation for the children, the economic and Cold War relationships between countries during the 1980s caused great turmoil in the Iran-Iraq War. This conflict was a “hot war” fought in the broader context of the Cold War. As oil production and shipping came under attack, international powers took action to protect their allies and oil supplies. America and its allies in the Gulf, namely Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, supported Iraq by providing financial aid and protection for oil tankers and facilities. The Soviet Union financially backed both sides in its attempts to prevent U.S. dominance in the region while its allies, especially Syria, sided with Iran because of incentives for inexpensive oil. Other countries, including France and Japan, made decisions based on economic needs, prioritizing oil prices above Cold War loyalties. Tense relations during the Cold War and a threat to oil supplies proved a deadly combination, as demonstrated by the international involvement in the Iran-Iraq War.

Major Works Consulted:

Hiro, Dilip. The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict. Routledge, New York: Routledge Chapman & Hall 1991.
Navias, Martin S. and E.R. Hooton. Tanker Wars: The Assault on Merchant Shipping During the Iran-Iraq Crisis, 1980-1988. London: I.B. Tauris, 1996.
Shteyngart, Gary. Absurdistan. New York: Random, 2006.
---. Super Sad True Love Story. New York: Random, 2011.
Photo Credit: Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story. New York: Random, 2011.