Persepolis The Story of a Childhood
Past And Presence in Persepolis By Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is a memoir written by Marjane Satrapi and is told through the perspective of Marji, the persona of Satrapi as a young girl. With increasing age, comes more with an increased amount of understanding of the actions of others. Marji was taught aspects of her society that is inconsistent with the present status of her society, however, as she goes through the Islamic Revolution in Iran, her thoughts about her country change. Marjane Satrapi’s novel, Persepolis, describes that one’s past encounters will shape how they become critical of the present status of their society by indicating the change of thought Marji demonstrates about her society throughout her experiences in the Islamic Revolution.
Becoming Supportive of the Revolution
At first, Marji has conflicting thoughts about the status of the Shah, but as she gains more insight as to how her family’s backstory affected Iranian history, she becomes supportive of the Revolution. When Marji’s teacher tells her class to “tear out all the photos of the Shah from [their] books (Satrapi 44),” Satrapi makes Marji’s facial expression different from her peers since she is the only one who holds her mouth wide open. Marji was taught “that Shah was s chosen by God (44),” but she becomes confused as to why the Shah is being treated in such an “ungodly” fashion. After Marji tells her dad about what happens to her at school that day, he tells Marji the story of her family. When Marji’s father tells her that, “the Emperor that was overthrown was Grandpa’s father (22),” the reader can see that Satrapi shades in Marji’s father’s face halfway using the colors of white and black. The shading on that panel represents the conflict that the Shah had with Marji’s family, as it was the Shah’s father that “confiscated everything [Marji’s grandfather] owned (23).” Moreover, after Marji realizes that her family was put down the Shah, Satrapi shades in Marji’s face half white and black as well on page 25. The shading on the panel demonstrates that Marji understands the conflicts that the Shah’s family has put over Marji’s family, demonstrating that she understands Shah might not be so “godly,” after all. Previously, Marji thought that the Shah was “chosen by God (44),” however after she learns that the Shah’s family had caused her family to “[live] in poverty (26),” in the past, she realizes that the Shah is not a “godly” figure and learns to support the current Revolution that is being shown in the novel. Therefore, Satrapi utilizes Marji’s change of thought about the Shah to demonstrate how she becomes critical the present status of her society as she learns to support the current Revolution that is being demonstrated in the novel.
Change of Thought about Iran’s Social Structure
Furthermore, Marji’s past encounters caused her to think that all Iranians had access to the same depositions, however, that changes after Marji comes to the shocking realization of an evident lower social class. Mehri, the family maid falls in love with Hossein, the neighbor, by passing letters. However, their relationship falls apart after Hossein discovers Mehri is not part of the same social class as he is. In Marji’s young mind, she thinks that their relationship is possible. That realization is changed when Marji’s father describes that “their love was impossible (37)” as they are part of distinct social classes. On page 37, Satrapi chooses to position Marji’s hand on her face and uses jagged lines when Marji asks her father “are you for or against social classes (37)?” The fact that Marji’s hands were raised describes the shock she receives after she realizes that not all Iranians could have access to the same predispositions in the present. Moreover, the usage of jagged lines is also used to describe the fact that Marji becomes unraveled at the thought of a lower social class. In Marji’s young mind, she has always thought that Iran’s past social structure treated everyone equally, nonetheless, that changes as Marji realizes that not everyone is treated the same in her society. However, since Marji realizes there is a lower social class, she also becomes critical of her society as she “finally [understands] the reasons for the Revolution (38).” Once Marji realizes there is a lower social class, she proceeds to attend a protest with Mehri in which Satrapi draws them using the similar facial expressions and hand gestures as the rest of the other protestors on page 38. The fact that Satrapi chooses to represent Marji’s facial expression similar to those of the rest of the protestors represents that she has become part of the unified faction that represents the current Revolution that is being demonstrated in Persepolis. Additionally, that panel is also the largest panel on that page, which symbolizes the importance of Marji’s realization of a lower class, as it causes her support the current Revolution that is being demonstrated in the novel. Marji’s change of thought about the social structure of her country causes her to become critical of the current situation in her country as she comes to the realization that not everyone in her society is treated equally.
Relationship with God
Lastly, Marji used to have daily meetings with God when she was a child, however, that changes as the Revolution grows stronger in Iran. As a young child, Marji used to have nightly encounters with God. Marji’s nightly encounters with God can be seen as comforting since the reader can see that on page eight, Satrapi chooses to draw Marji being cradled in God’s arms. Marji also had a desire to be “the last prophet (6).” When her parents confront her decision about what she wants to be when she grows up, she simply tells her parents “I want to be a doctor (9).” However, Satrapi uses direct narration on page 9 in which she describes that “I felt guilty towards God,” which demonstrates her growing apart from God. Furthermore, Marji’s relationship with God and religion is exemplified through Satrapi’s juxtaposition of drawing Marji’s face in which half of her is wearing a headscarf and the other half is not. The juxtaposition of the two sides contributes to the fact that Marji’s relationship with God is becoming conflicted. Additionally, on page 14, God comes to visit Marji, however, Satrapi draws Marji with her index finger to her mouth, indicating that she wants God to be quiet and is not interested in what he has to say; Marji is more interested in what her parents have to say as a movie theater was burned down that night and “there were 400 victims (15).” The fact that Marji’s interest lies to listen the incident rather than listening to what God has to say represents that Marji’s interests are shifting from God and religion. Moreover, Marji’s interests are revealed to lay elsewhere as she talks to God about attending the demonstration, instead of her willingness to be a prophet. On page 16, Satrapi includes God includes in two of the nine panels as God seems to visually disappear from Marji’s life. The fact that God can be seen nowhere to be found demonstrates that God is no longer apart of Marji’s life. Marji used to find talking to God as a source of comfort in her younger past, however, she as the Revolution grows stronger in Iran, Marji would much rather be politically active and attend the demonstration. Marji’s willingness to become politically active rather than conversing with God demonstrates that she has truly become critical of the present status of her society.
Persepolis, a novel written Marjane Satrapi, argues that the encounters that one goes about in their past will help describe how one becomes condemnatory of the current status of their society by analyzing Marji’s change of thought about her society throughout her experiences in the Islamic Revolution. One typically obtains understandings about the world around them through experiences they encounter throughout their lifetime. Marji encountered a numerous amount of experiences that taught her about the implications of how the past shapes one’s present. One’s past is a vital part that shapes as who they are in the moment. The actions of one’s past also can dictate what others think about them and hence, it is important that one always participates in positive actions in the present because the present is an essential aspect that can describe what one will become in the future.
Islamic Revolution Described in Persepolis
Do you want to hear about Persepolis? Let’s start with the fact that the religious wars that have been going on in the Middle East have brought problems. There has been ongoing controversy regarding how the many Middle Eastern countries are governed and how government corruption has caused rebellions to show up. This corruption has led to wars because inevitably, citizens will rise up because of oppressive governments when the government starts taking advantage of their own people and working against them. These civilians are fighting for what they believe in, but this passion can lead to extremism. Extremism and corrupt governments together in a region about violence and led to civilians protesting, which will result in wars that are costly and also can bring cause a society to fall into chaos.
Extremism is when an organized group of people hold extreme political or religious beliefs. Extremism creates terrorists, both domestic and international variants, who attack civilians in the Middle East to draw attention to their radical beliefs. The terrorists have committed acts of destruction throughout the region and across the world. Why is extremism bad? Extremists have no tolerance for people disagreeing with their beliefs. Everyone has their own opinion, but a world of extremism allows no one to be different. Extremists work to take away everyone’s right to believe in what they want to believe in. So the extremists would form a militant group that is powerful enough to terrorize the government and the people. For those who do not side with the extremists in a world with extremism, they will get attacked. Extremism generates violence and destruction that leads to the killing of innocent civilians. My advice to foreigners about the Middle East is stay out of there currently as it is sadly too dangerous right now. There are so many dangerous situations going on resulting in casualties in the Middle East due to the presence of extremism over there. It just goes to show how corrupt society can become when extremists gain power.
Persepolis takes place around the same time when movements were rising in the late 1970s to early 1980s in the Middle East. The protagonist is the author herself Marjane Satrapi, who tells about her experience in the Islamic Revolution time period. She saw the Shah of Iran being overthrown and the Iranian monarchy came to an end. So, then a religious supreme leader with extreme views took over and ruled Iran. The country’s government then became a dictatorship due to the monarchy being overthrown. She had a terrible life experience growing up in Iran as she observed violence including her own peers being killed. Nobody wants to be in a situation like hers because the things she saw can only be described as horrifying and will scar a person for life. It is in watching and witnessing the suffering and death that is most horrifying. All of the tragedies happening involving the casualties of civilians and the ones who served the government is destructive to their society. So what Marjane Satrapi learned she had to do about her situation was to stay calm and be resilient. Eventually as things got worse, her family had to move out when Iran got to be the point where there was too much danger. The protests become violent to the point where everyone is involved and got worse day by day. To this day, there are governments that are being overthrown by the terrorists and they are risking danger to their society.
Similar to the Islamic Revolution, there is still a lot of governments being overthrown in the Middle East. Territories are being divided due to their governments losing against the terrorists. Many of the countries that have been involved in wars against terrorism has been dealing with the threat since at least 9-11. For example, the War of Afghanistan began when the Taliban overthrew the Afghan government. Violence has been high in the country since 2001. This war and other wars related to terrorism have been ongoing because there is not any solution that the government and allies can do effectively against the terrorists. If nothing is done effectively against terrorism, the extremists will prevail. Afghanistan has been overthrown, not only that country, but Pakistan too because the governments of both countries have failed to resist the terrorist efforts. Therefore, now some territories in the land are occupied by the terrorist faction. In addition, the countries wouldn’t be able to fight off the terrorists without allies around the world, but yet they still get outnumbered. The terrorists would also go to different places to invade and cause destruction by using weapons of mass destruction. The fact is the terrorists, unlike the protesters I was mentioning in Persepolis are trained and skilled in combat, in addition due to their extremism they have no apparent desire to tolerate those whose beliefs differ from themselves.
I would recommend reading this comic because it is a fascinating biography about a girl who grew up in Iran and survived the Islamic Revolution. Extremists often feel disadvantaged and they form movements that cause chaos. It sure was not easy for Marjane Satrapi to witness and to put up with the tragic events happening during the Islamic Revolution. After conducting research, if it weren’t for extremism, I have concluded that there would be no conflict going on in the Middle East. Persepolis illustrated an example of a tragedy that showed how had corruption and extremism can be.
- Satrapi, Marjane. “The Veil”, The Complete Persepolis, Pantheon Books, New York, 2007. pp. 3-9.
The Importance Of Visual Image in Persepolis
Why don’t some people like to read? That is because they don’t like looking at a wall of texts on each page. Having a book with hundred pages of text and words can cause some readers to not like reading. That is why many readers prefer reading graphic books or novels.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novel about a young girl growing up in Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Satrapi choose to tell her story in graphic novel form instead of normal prose-based novel because she want to have the ability to control what image the audiences see on the page, and with the use simplistic style of drawing with black and white color, makes the readers feels more connected and understand more of the story. With Persepolis written in graphic novel form, Marjane Satrapi have the power to control the images that the audiences see. In a prose-based novel, the author still is able to describe a scene to the audience in some details, but not everyone will visualize the same image because everyone brains work differently. Some will visualize the image differently than other, even if the image is only slightly different by a small detail. But in Persepolis, the author has more power over what appears on the page and what the readers will visualize because it’s in a graphic novel form.
For instance, when Marjane is talking to her image of God, which lends a kind of veracity to her statement: we can at least see that Marji believes she is truly talking to God. But God is drawn as a large and sizeable figure with long, flowing white hair and beard, which is very familiar to the figure of God in the Western world (8). Satrapi is doing this on purpose because it’s an image that many people could recognize as an image of God, and in some ways connect the eastern and western readers together because they are able to visualize the same image of God. With this image, we, as the readers can feel connected with what Marjane is doing. She’s asking for God’s advice on what she should do. And as readers, we can connect with that because many, not all, of us usually pray and ask God for what we should do. Having an image of God that everyone can recognize helped everyone whose read the novel to take the same image that’s on the page and put it in their head. The readers can see what the author is trying to tell the readers to visualize, therefore helped the readers makes more connections and understand more about the story.
That is what Marjane is doing throughout her graphic novel, using her arts to control what we, as readers see. In the western world, we often get bombarded and overwhelmed with images of the Islamic World and Muslim as something else. Those images are culturally biased and meant to portray that world as ‘other’ and ‘inhumane’. And the author is trying to recover that image and restore it through the control she has over the images in her novel.
Colour in Persepolis
The choice of color in Persepolis is interesting because it’s all illustrated in black and white portraits. The simplistic style of drawing is also another aspect that influences what the readers see and feel. Many of the graphic novels that kids usually grow up reading are all illustrated in black and white. And with the author choosing to use black and white, it reminds some readers of their childhood and the reason why they loved reading graphic novels. She manipulates the use of black and white to create a sense of depression and sadness that surround the real meaning of Persepolis.
For instance, when Marji’s dad asked his friend about Ahmadi, his friend replied that he suffered tortures like burning him with iron, whipping, and later, cut him into pieces (51). In this situation, the readers can see the brutal images that showed the types of tortures and punishment imposed on people, and the black and white make it seem sad and miserable with a gloomy mood. In the last panel, Marjane’s emotion is clearly showed on her face. And since there is no color, it helped emphasize the expression and mood at that moment. The black and white color mixed with her simplistic style of drawing is a way that the author influences what the readers see. Satrapi does this to take her images away from any political, racial, national, or cultural bias. If her style would have been very realistic, it could have created a sense of disconnect for western readers, and she wants to everyone over the world to feels the same way reading her novel.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novel about a young girl growing in Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. The author chooses to tell her story in graphic novel form to control the images that the audiences see. With the choice of black and white color with the simplistic style of drawing helped the readers feel more connected to the story and take away any political, racial, national, or cultural bias.
The Departure Of Marjane Satrapi in Persepolis
In today’s day-and-age, the world has developed into a society of economic strife, governmental issues, and conflicting communities. More often than not, these changes can impact many children across the globe. As children grow up, they begin to lose their innocence as they are exposed to all the insanity of the world. Murder, destruction, and violence are just some of the unfortunate experiences that are extremely prevalent in the lives of some children. These experiences can often cause a detriment to their youth, forcing them to grow up faster and act in a more adult manner. These factors fall into the story of Persepolis. Marjane’s parents’ decision to have her leave Iran stemmed from the political, religious, and social conflict.
Persepolis follows the life of Marjane Satrapi and takes place in Iran from 1979 to 1984 during and after the Islamic Revolution. The revolution had taken Iran by storm. Many new reforms and laws were put into place. This prompted the uprising of political, religious, and social conflict. The Shah, the leader of Iran, had set these new laws in order to keep the Islamic religion alive. As a result, bilingual schools were shut down, boys and girls were segregated, and universities were temporarily closed to revise the books. The Shah also ruled that women must wear veils. In a stance against it, Taji, the mother of Marjane, protested. While attending a local demonstration, a photograph of her protesting was taken. This prompted her to disguise herself in order to avoid persecution. Taji also forced Marji to lie, telling her to say that she prayed everyday. This was to keep Marji from getting into serious trouble.
Throughout the beginning of the book, Marji is depicted to be a very religious young girl. God is her close friend and provides her with comfort and friendship. This very sacred relationship is later destroyed following the death of a beloved family member. Marji’s uncle Anoosh had come to visit after being released from prison. They get along and are very close up until one day when she comes home from school and cannot find him. She is told that Uncle Anoosh had been arrested. Having only been allowed one visitor, he chose Marji. Upon their unexpected final visit, he gives her another bread swan and they part from each other. This was their last goodbye as Marji later finds out in a newspaper that Uncle Anoosh had been executed. Marji had now lost faith her in God. She believed that He was supposed to be protecting her, yet so much violence had been happening in her country and to her family.
The Iraqi invasion of Iran had prompted a war between the two nations. As fighter jets raced across the sky, a series of bombs and missiles fell from the sky. Many innocent people had been killed. In another attack, Marji’s neighbors, the Baba-Levys, had their home bombed and were killed. This led to Marji becoming rebelliously. She no longer fears death because of the simple fact that she could’ve been killed herself. Thus, she is later kicked out of school. In the book’s finale, Marjane’s parents decided that it would be best if she had moved to Austria. This idea stems from all the conflict that occurred in Iran upto that point. It wasn’t an easy decision, but moving to Austria would be safer for Marji: she would have a better life, receive a better education, and have freedom there.
Ebi and Taji’s decision to move their daughter out of Iran and to Austria was a resultant of the religious, political, and social conflicts that occurred. Over the past few years, her family had been subject to a destructive society. One where they had to evade incarceration, had bombs falling from the sky, police brutality, no religious freedom, and death happening all around them. These factors ultimately decided Marji’s fate in Iran. Though she will be later reunited with her parents, it is still not easy for Marji to leave them. Her innocence in this world had died and now must grow up at the tender age of 13. Marjane, who now must possess an adult mentality, has to withstand reality on her own.
- Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis 1: the Story of a Childhood. Pantheon, 2003.
Persepolis: Book vs Movie Comparison
Persepolis the Movie vs. Persepolis the Book
I, like many people my age these days, did not read enough when I was little. As a result, though my reading comprehension is good, my reading speed is below college-level standards. That’s why I enjoy comic books and graphic novels; because the descriptive words of a traditional book are replaced with pictures, and though comics take some of the imagination away from traditional books, what they gain instead is the opportunity for an artist to step in and show the true image the writer wants to convey. Some of these comic books, like Persepolis, are later remade into movies. With this adaptation come both benefits and drawbacks, and this essay examines the benefits and drawbacks of the Persepolis movie versus the Persepolis books. Taking both into consideration, it is difficult to come up with a preferable way to experience the Persepolis story, but because the movie takes away several important details that the book keeps, I must side with the book.
First I want to go over the benefits that the movie brings to the table. Being a movie, everything is set in motion. The viewer simply relaxes and watches the events unfold in front of his or her eyes, and the shorter format as opposed to a book makes viewing the story in just one sitting a possibility. Perhaps the biggest addition to the movie version is audio. All the characters have voices, the sounds have meaning, and one does not have to imagine the voices and sounds as they happen while reading the book. Another addition with audio comes the benefit of music. Music can help set the mood, and can create a much more robust experience if done correctly.
But with the movie format also comes one major drawback: the exemption of several different parts of the book, some of which can be very important. For instance, if the chapter “The Horse” (Marjane Satrapi p. 198) had been fully included in the movie, Satrapi’s life would seem much less lonely, because in that chapter her mother comes to visit her in Austria. In the second to last chapter of the book, “The Satellite,” (Satrapi p. 320) things in Iran start to look up a little more when satellite television is brought to the nation, though it is quickly banned. Sadly, this and many other chapters are exempt from the movie title, and because of that, the movie portrays Marjane Satrapi as having been much lonelier in Austria, and too much of her childhood from the book is lost in making the movie.
Also with the movie come English actors. The movie’s vocals were originally recorded in French with English dubbing made for the United States. Both languages are available on the disc, but those that don’t want to follow along by reading the subtitles will have to settle with an acting job that doesn’t quite set right. Finally, with any movie comes the lack of imagination that books require the reader to use. It remains to be seen whether or not this is a drawback; some prefer to have the voices and sounds given to them through the movie, while others prefer to make up the audio in their head as they read.
There are also benefits and drawbacks to having made the story into a book. Because it is a book, it’s portable and can be taken and read anywhere. Books also benefit from not being limited to certain unwritten laws that the movie industry tend to put into place, like limiting length to around two hours, or allowing for much more artistic opportunity rather than making something that will rake in lots of cash and profit for the people involved in its making. Books, because they are not limited by length, can be as large as the writer’s imagination or as small as reader’s likely amount of time to read them.
Which brings me to one of the drawbacks of the book format. Because the average person either has work, school, or both, they don’t have much time to read a whole book, comic or otherwise. There can even be a long time between buying the book and actually starting to read it, which may lead to the consumer forgetting about it and not reading it at all. Because I read it for academic purposes, I was able to find time to read it in between my schedule, but not everyone is so fortunate.
Finally, there are the benefits and drawbacks of having written the book in the graphic novel format. There are some scenes in the book that would not have been possible without the book having been in the graphic format that it is; in “The Sheep,” (Satrapi p. 62) at the very end when Satrapi reject’s God’s attempts to comfort her, she is seen lying on her back, with nothing but space around her, and no words can describe emptiness the way this picture does. In “The Key,” (Satrapi p. 94) the children of Satrapi’s school are seen beating themselves. They have blank, almost distressed looks on their faces, and because of the veils it becomes impossible to tell Satrapi from the rest, if she is even in this picture. It depicts the mundane shallowness that the veil brings to the children, because everyone looks alike. Those are just a few of the many panels like these.
Another benefit is that because most of the descriptive words are taken away and replaced with pictures instead, the book is made easier to read and can be read much faster than a traditional book of similar length. One of the tradeoffs to this is that the reader doesn’t use as much imagination when reading, and though this doesn’t apply to Persepolis, if the art is bad it makes the book less fun to read.
Taking everything into consideration, it is difficult to come up with an answer to the question, “Which is better, the book or the movie?” but because the movie makes so many exemptions in the story, I must side with the book. Though because they are both excellent experiences, it really comes down to the consumers, how much time they have, and how they prefer to view their stories. I would advise them to read the book, but of course it’s all up to them.
Gender Identity Issues in Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis
Gender Identity in The Complete Persepolis
In Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis, she expresses her own segregated young life in Iran and Austria. Her family opposed the government’s fundamentalism, and Marji was raised to be opinionated and questionable. Her experiences show readers how restricted and unfair life is for an Iranian woman. Satrapi utilizes her upbringing, which consists of government restrictions, family opposition, peer separation, and European societal contrast to emphasize how women are expected to think and act.
The basis of Iranian women’s role is religious perception. The government claimed that their societal policies were based on what God wanted for the world, but Marji believed differently. She wanted to be a prophet, even though she was taught that they were all males. She had conversations with God, and believed her mother did as well. When the government killed Marji’s Uncle Anoosh, she realized that she did not want to talk with God. Perhaps her perception of him changed based on government indoctrinating.
A large aspect of the government’s religious principle was expressed through appearance. Men had a few clothing restrictions, but women were repressed through the veil. From the Muslim point of view, women should not “show off their adornment, except that which is apparent, and draw their veils over their bodies” (Stacey) because they enjoy dressing modestly to please God. This is separate from suppressing women who do not agree with this religious belief. Marji’s family was against the veil and the fundamentalist belief overall, but the women were still were forced to wear veils in public. The modern woman would express “opposition to the regime by letting a few strands of hair show “(Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood 75). Many fundamentalists and government workers were against modern women simply because of the way they wore their veil, since the Western ideology was associated with hair showing. Many women shifted their lifestyle radically with the new government system. Marji and her family witnessed a neighbor who “was wearing a miniskirt, showing off her beefy thighs to the whole neighborhood. And now Madame is wearing a chador.” (Satrapi, Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood 75). She, along with other women, would never oppose the government. They would rather completely change their way of life to suit the new society. To Marji, the veil was a terrible reminder of governmental control. When she moved to Europe, she had no need to wear a veil. She was in a dejected state when she put the veil on after years of European life. “So much for my individual and social liberties… I needed so badly to go home” (Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Return 91), she wrote. Her graphic included Marji looking at her veiled, unhappy self in a mirror. Her re-adjustment to Iranian society emphasized its hostility towards women’s freedom.
The government also separated genders in schools, workplaces, and personal relationships. When Marji was in grade school, she experienced what she called a “cultural revolution. We found ourselves veiled and separated from our friends” (Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood 4). Gender changed who she went to school with, which changed who her friends were. In the new Iranian society, ladies were expected to be married young and have less education. Marji’s European experience was of great contrast, since she was able to not only attend school with men, but date and live with them. She resided with eight homosexual men in a communal apartment in Vienna. Even though her mother considered herself a modern woman, she was shocked to learn about Marji’s roommates. With the men Marji dated, she did not have to pretend she was related to them in public, like in Iranian society. She encountered public displays of affection, along with sexual experiences. If a woman dared to do either in Iran, the government and citizens would be disgusted and turn against her.
Even when men were not present, many Iranian women still followed gender expectations. They had “guardians of the revolution, the women’s branch. This group had been added in 1982, to arrest women who were improperly veiled” (Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood 132). Marji fortunately evaded these women, but she encountered equality opposition in her own friend group as well. They liked dressing like Westerners, giving an aura of liberation; however, when Marji told them about sleeping with men, they insulted her. The government and society of Iran subconsciously influenced women who thought they were liberated. Marji decided to dress nicely, as they did. Even she was influenced to change based on society’s pressure.
Despite that societal influence, Marji was overall against the fundamentalist government. Her family taught her how the government could change, and how her womanhood was not less than manhood. From a young age, she delved into revolutionary books and ideas. Adults in her life told her true stories that revealed the governments true ugly colors, different from what Marji was taught in school. When her father told her that “God did not choose the king,” Marji opposed him, since “It’s written on the first page of our schoolbook” (Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood 19). She was told a lie, and her family constantly corrected the government’s assertions. Her parents, although they were revolutionists, were still hesitant to act confidently. They would not allow Marji to protest, and they acted secretively in their own home by installing curtains and hiding parties. Her parents wanted to protect her, but they also wanted her to get the most out of life. This was an impossible balance under the government’s oppression against women and modernists.
When Marji’s parents sent her to live in Europe, a new world developed that made Marji more liberated. She learned that women were having sex before marriage, and they were fine talking about it to others. Marji’s first party in Vienna changed her perception of life. The party had many public displays of affection and intoxicated teenagers, along with a few naked people. Marji felt uncomfortable, even though these ideas were liberating and equal despite gender. Her experience in Europe also made her realize that even the highly esteemed Western culture has societal flaws. She was working at a restaurant, and a customer pinched her butt. She felt it more effective to put spit in his food rather than report it to someone. She also had issues with racial status. Like being a woman in Iran, being Iranian in Europe brought feelings of insignificance. Nuns at her school believed Iranians were not civilized, and she was expelled based on that reason. Her boyfriend’s mother believed Marji was using her son to become a European citizen, and her landlady assumed that she was a prostitute for bringing home a man. When she moved back to Iran, she realized that she could not give public displays of affection anymore. She was not even supposed to be around men if they were not in her family! This contrast between European and Iranian lifestyle amplified Marji’s struggle in being a woman in her society.
Marji’s life experiences showed how Iranians are restricting women, along with simple freedoms that Westerners take for granted. Her knowledge came from life events such as revolutionary war, family opposition, and European lifestyle. Her diverse knowledge helps readers understand that her culture bound women. They were not free to wear what they wanted, be around who they wanted, or believe what they wanted.
Describing The Lighter Side of Iran in Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is the Greek name (from perses polis for ‘Persian City’) for the ancient city of Parsa, located seventy miles northeast of Shiraz in present-day Iran. Persepolis is a graphic novel about a childhood of Marjane Satarapi. The story of Marjane’s childhood is based on the Islamic Revolution that took place in 1979 in Iran. The author purpose of this book is to show that Iran is not a country of terrorists. And to remove the negative thinking about Iran from Western countries mind. In Persepolis, the author demonstrates her childhood through graphic novel; that how hard it is for a country to change its way of living and obey the law forcing individuals that force them to do so. There were many changes to people life that had a great impact on the military, women and educational institutes. Women were forced to wear veils beside of their unwillingness. Girls and boy’s schools were separated. Marjane explains how difficult it was for her to change her way of living, abandoning the things and hobbies she liked and getting into troubles for expressing herself with the hobbies she followed. It was not just Satarapi but the whole society had to face the changes and were forced to like the way that was imposed on them by the law bodies on them.
Marjane Satarapi is the novel’s main character. She wants to be a Prophet when she grows up, so that she can help people. Her teachers and classmates make fun of her. But her parents doesn’t make fun of her and ask her whether in real she wants to be a Prophet. She is having conservations with God. She says, “I wanted to be justice, love and the wrath of God all in one”. (1.45 Persepolis). Marjane shares a very strong bond with her family. Her mother actively take parts in protest Islamic Revolution. Her photo was published in local as well as in International newspapers. She was scared after seeing her picture in the newspaper because she was not supposed to protest revolution. She cut off her hair and dye them to look different. Marjane’s dad is a photographer, capturing political protest. He is always in a dangerous kind of situations. Marjane’s thought her father is not a hero, just because he never went to jail because of protest. She realizes later that “Her father loved his country as much as she did, he just has a different way of showing it.” Marjane’s grandma is an influential figure in her life. She tells Marjane about her ancestors. Her grandmother tells Marjane to keep her dignity and be true to herself. When Marjane was leaving for Vienna, she was very much upset for leaving her grandmother. Marjane’s grandfather was a prince and his kingdom was taken over by Reza Shah, after that her grandfather became the prime minister of Iran. Later, he was arrested for conspiring as communist and was put into cells full of water. Anoosh is Marjane’s uncle. He was imprisoned by the Shah for his communist view. After revolution, he was released. He went to Russia and married a Russian girl. But his marriage was not a happy one. Later Anoosh is executed by Islamic Regime for a false charge of being a Russian spy. Marjane fathers tell her that her uncle is on a trip. She assumes being on a trip means, he is dead. But later she found, he was in prison. He wanted to see Marjane’s before he dies. She visited him in prison because she was ‘Star of his life”. (9.55 Persepolis). Siamalic and Mohsen were heroes of the revolution. Mohsen was a friend of Marjane’s family. They both had been captured by Shah and her forces but were released after revolution. They both were first to be released from prison after revolution whom Marjane’s meet. Siamalic sister was killed by Islamic Regime but he escapes Iran; by disguising himself in a flock of sheep and crossed the border. Whereas Mohsen was murdered by drowning in a bathtub by Islamic Regime and presented his death to be a suicide. Mehri was a nanny of Marjane’s and was a maid of her family. She lives with them since she was eight. She was more than a maid to Marjane. She considered Marjane as her sister. She falls in love with her neighbor. But was rejected by the guy, as she was from low class. Mali was friend of Marjane’s mother. She comes to stay with them because her city was being bombarded by Iraqi’s. She was so wealthy but lost everything in bombarding. Tahir is Marjane’s uncle; who got heart attack and wanted to see his son, who is abroad before he dies. But his passport was refused by Hospital director and he dies without meeting his son. These all people had a deep influence on Marjane’s character. Without them she would have not be the author of this book and the person she is today.
Some of the themes that are discussed in Persepolis are compelling teenage boys to join army, fear, freedom, come of age, gender discrimination. Women faced many changes during revolution. They were forced to wear veil on their heads. They were mentally not ready to wear veils but they had to do so as of the law which forced them to do so. Satarapi explains in his novel, “We didn’t like to wear the veil, especially since we didn’t understand why we had to” (3 Persepolis, Marjane Satarapi). With the start of the veils, women lost their freedom and rights. They were disrespected by men if seen without veil. They thought they were exposing themselves which was against the law. Teen age period is the same everywhere in the world. Marjane also starts to explore herself as well as her surrounding, following new trends in music and fashion. She was obsessed with punk music as well as trying different outfits like denim jackets and jeans etc. After revolution, she was not allowed to wear jeans jackets in public, as it was not allowed to follow western culture. She was once stopped by two guardian women and warned not to wear western clothes but before she was taken to headquarters, she managed to run away. She for the first time tried cigarette. When Marji has her first cigarette, she considers it a sign of growing up. She coughs and coughs and says, “with this first cigarette, I kissed childhood goodbye. Now I was a grown-up” (15.46, Persepolis, Marjane Satarapi). But in my opinion Marjane doesn’t need to smoke in order to feel like an adult, she is seeing death and destruction around her, which automatically makes her grown up. War was the main theme of Persepolis. Marjane’s live in Tehran, which was being attacked by Iraq and was a subject of bombing throughout her life. Many of her family members were prisoned too. Marjane’s demonstrates that war is nothing less than hell itself. Whether you are living in a country, open to war. You are living a miserable life whether you are harmed or not but mentally you are tortured day by day. The politics of Iran after revolution was not just to restrict freedom but to kill everyone, who oppose the regime. They either prisoned the protestor or killed them. Restriction/no freedom was one of the main reason of Islamic Revolution. No one had right of speech, right to follow his/her religion, right to wear. Protestor were executed if they opposed the laws. Women were forced to cover themselves from head to toe. If a person protest, he was shooted on the spot or executed by the law force. Morality is also seen in Persepolis as the main theme. Beside of natural death, people were killed and tortured by the police. There were many death, day by day. It was on news all the time. All the sheets are named by Martyrs. Marjane mention that being in Iran was like living in the Graveyard. Gender discrimination can also be seen in Persepolis. Students were separated in shoot based on their gender. Boys and girl’s classrooms were separated and were not allowed to talk to each other. They were not allowed to wear jewelry and had to beat their chests twice a day in honor of the martyrs. Freedom of religion is very important for any country or person. In Iran everyone was forced to follow Islam. Marjane was a devoted to religion but she never like the ideas of forcing someone to follow something with his/her will. They had to follow all Islamic customs and laws or face the water filled cells. Drugs and alcohol were forbidden in Islam. Marjane’s family used to drink. One day army stopped them and ask them to check there home. Marjane’s grandmother make an excuse of diabetes illness that she wants to take medicine and gets into home by the army and flush out all the alcohol and drugs in the toilet. Marjane’s maid fall in love with her neighbor. Marjane used to write love letter for her as she was not able to read and write. When Marjane’s father came to know, he went to his neighbor’s house and told them Mehri is her maid not her daughter. Therefore, it is not right to love someone lower than your cast. Mehri was therefore rejected by the neighbors as she was not of their class. Young boys of fourteen years of age were recruited to join army. They were told if they die fighting. They will get a Golden key to heaven, where they will have plenty of food, women, houses made of gold and diamonds. Their life style changed, they started to join army in age of discovering themselves. Migration from Iran can also be seen at end of the novel. Many boys and girls were sent to countries, to have a peaceful life. Many of her friends moved to US. Parents sent their children to other counties with a big heart. Marjane was also sent to France. Satarapi states, “What I had feared was true. Maybe the parents visit her but they would never live together again.” (152. Persepolis, Marjane Satarapi). She said good bye to her grandmother and saw her mother fainted at her departure to France. They were upset at her departure but it was for her better future.
Graphic novels have emerged as important part of modern literature used by libertarians and educators. I think graphic novels helps to understand the novels much easier. Graphic novels motivate student to read. They can be of any genre. They usually include texts, pictures, words balloon and sound effects. Persepolis is illustrated in a unique way of graphic designs. Scenes were presented by different pictures and dialogues were shown in words balloons. The images were not to loud as the novel was based on. No graphic violations were shown, as bombing, blood, alcohol usage etc.
There are many aspects that changed the lives of many which had a lot of bad influence on their lives. Young boys were recruited into army. Right to speech, follow religion and live life per one’s choice was taken away. Women lost their rights and freedom. Education become strict and boys and girls were separated. Many changes were unfair to all individuals. One should stay strong and strive for the best with a positive mind. Persepolis is a same case of staying strong and stand up for one’s right and beliefs.
Nationalism in the Questionable Legitimization of Conflict in Satrapi’s Persepolis
In Satrapi’s graphic memoir Persepolis: A Story of a Childhood, there is a constant theme of exploitation of heroic concepts to legitimize political movements. The dissenters of the Shah used martyrdom, even exploiting a man who had died of cancer, claiming he was a political killing by the government (Satrapi 31-32). The Islamic regime mobilized religious fundamentalism to legitimize closing schools and purging western culture and thought (Satrapi 73). However, while fundamentalism and martyrdom were used often to achieve domestic political goals, it is nationalism which was used in a way that shaped the relations between Iran and foreign states, mobilized first in the novel by the British-installed Shah, and then later by the Islamic regime in its war effort against Iraq. Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation defines nationalism as “A celebration or assertion of national identity that commonly finds political expression in the claim of a right of self-determination or self-government.” Throughout history this concept has fueled ethnic violence, civil war, and countless revolutions, but in Persepolis Satrapi investigates the ways in which nationalism was exploited for British imperialist means, and as a form of propaganda to fuel the Iranian government’s war effort with Iraq.
Following the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the international politics of Europe were governed by ideals of Balance of Power relations, in which redistribution of territory among great powers was utilized to check any single state from becoming too powerful. This later would lead to a new wave of 19th and 20th century imperialism, from which the British Empire would benefit handsomely from both actual colonies and puppet governments across the world. One of these puppet governments became Iran when the British government took advantage of a soldier seeking to stage a coup and replace the emperor with a republic, helping to install him as the next Shah despite his republican sentiments. Satrapi recognized this imperialist takeover of her home country, depicting on a panel on page 21 a dubious looking Brit reassuring the soon to be Shah that he should, “just give [the British] the oil and [they would] take care of the rest”. This brief backstory of imperialism in Iran, framed by Satrapi in the form of her father rebutting her naïve childhood claim that she “[Loved] the king, he was chosen by God,” is later picked up by her grandmother who tells of the nationalistic rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the son and successor of the Shah installed by Britain (Satrapi, 19). This is where exploitation of nationalism as a means to distract from British control of the Iranian oil industry is utilized by the Shah.
Actions such as the Shah’s visit to the grave of Cyrus the Great (depicted by Satrapi on page 28 as glaring disapprovingly at the Shah), and a frivolous government celebration of 2500 years of dynasty were two examples Satrapi gives of a celebration of Iranian national identity that was not in step with the political realities of Iranian autonomy. Ironically, history of empires and the states they colonize is riddled with various attempts to stamp out nationalistic sentiments, such as by the Soviets who deported around 6 million people across the various Soviet satellite states to remove ethnic and national ties (Finlayson, 73). History of International Relations suggests that the British imperialists should have opposed acts like the Shah’s visit to Cyrus the Great’s grave and should have instead purged nationalistic sentiments in the country. Instead, since Great Britain was only involved to take advantage of the Iranian oil industry, they felt the mobilization of nationalism by leaders friendly to British interests actually served to benefit them. Their hopes were that this would make pro-British Shah’s more popular (this wasn’t particularly successful) and would distract the people of Iran by reinforcing their national identity while simultaneously exploiting their oil industry. Though early in the novel the Shah’s government is overthrown by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the theme of exploiting nationalism to influence international affairs continues, this time by the Islamist government to support the war effort with Iraq.
Satrapi’s memoir Persepolis serves as both a historical account of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and as a Bildungsroman or “coming of age” story. Part of the development of Satrapi as a character is her shifting views of Iran’s government, growing increasingly skeptical and leftist as the story develops. Though by the start of Iraq-Iran war she has certainly grown from her blind acceptance of the king as a divine ruler, her response to the conflict shows just how successful nationalistic appeals can be in persuading citizens to support international conflict. Upon hearing from her grandmother that Iranian fundamentalists had attempted to overthrow Saddam Hussein with the support of Iraqi Shiite Muslims (the same sect of Islam with which the Iranian government associates itself), she ignores the obvious provocation of Iraq undertaken by the Iranian government, and instead latches onto the government’s pretext for the war as the second Arab invasion. “The second invasion in 1400 years! My blood was boiling. I was ready to defend my country against these Arabs who kept attacking us. I wanted to fight,” reads the final panel on page 79, outlining Satrapi’s thoughts of the news. The irony of the fact that the first Arab invasion had been what had brought Islam to the region in the first place, and the justification of war with a 1400-year-old event can seem almost humorous to the reader, but it also is not out of step with how people react when nationalism plays a significant role in conflict.
Over the course of the war, the ties to nationalism become even more obvious: in school students presented reports on the war and twice a day were required to participate in self-flagellation to mourn the dead (Satrapi 85-86, 95). Satrapi even described hitting yourself as “one of the country’s rituals” (Satrapi 96). However, it is with Satrapi’s shift in her views of the war, in which she realizes the sinister reality of the exploitative nature of the nationalistic conflict. “Iraq proposed a settlement, and Saudi Arabia was willing to pay for reconstruction to restore peace to the area,” tells an older and wiser Satrapi, “but our government was against it” (Satrapi 114). The reason that the Iranian government opposed peace it is revealed, was because, “They eventually admitted that the survival of the regime depended on the war” (Satrapi 116). The very idea as a bloody conflict with a foreign state as a means of nationalist propaganda is disgustingly backward, and with it we should learn a great truth about the ugliness which can sometimes occur when nationalism is exploited as a means of justification for violence or oppression.
The history of nationalist movements is checkered at best. When utilized properly, as a self-determination movement of and by an oppressed group or ethnic minority, it can result in the creation of a state which better reflects the interests of its populace. Unfortunately, in the history of international relations, this is not often the case. Instead, often nationalist movements are exploited by those in power to justify cruel and unjust actions. During the reign of the Shah, under the watchful eye of Great Britain, this meant that while Iranian leaders were celebrating the might of Persia, the country gave up control of its most profitable industry in a grand political bargain. Under the Ayotollah this meant the avoidable deaths of countless Iranians who were convinced they were doing the right thing by giving their lives to defend a government who was fighting because the survival of their regime depended on conflict and nationalist fervor. It is because of events like these, and other even darker stains on the history of the human race, that remind us that we must be much more skeptical of leaders who prey on nationalism for justification. When nationalism becomes a façade to mobilize or distract supporters, when nationalism becomes associated with creating an “other”, when nationalism is being preached by those who are overrepresented and not those who are underrepresented, that is when we must be conscious enough to reject it. Now, more than ever, we must understand this as it concerns both our domestic and international societies.
Persepolis: A Bildungsroman
Persepolis is a bildungsroman that tells the story of Marji, a young Iranian girl growing up during a time of revolution, turmoil, and war. Her path of growth and development changes direction at a single moment, and she begins to grow up into a young adult with her own views and opinions. Marjane Satrapi reveals the moral development of Marji in her bildungsroman Persepolis through the theme of coming of age.
In the beginning of the novel, Marji was innocent and naïve about everything going on in Iran. All she understood was there was turmoil in her country; however, she did not fully grasp the severity of the situation. Marji was in her own bubble with her unrealistic ideas of the world. For example, Marji does not understand how bad torture is and what it was really used for, and she makes a fun game out of torture: “Those stories had given me new ideas for games. I have imagination too…the moustache-on-fire torture consists of pulling on the two sides of the upper lip” (Satrapi 53). This shows how Marji really knows little about what is going on because if she did, she would know that torture is not really a funny thing to joke about or a fun game to play. However, this quote does give insight into the benefit of a child narrator. It shows how a child narrator is able to reveal creativity and offer a new perspective through imagination. By doing this, Satrapi helps the reader understand what it was like for her at that time when she was experiencing it.
Marji’s innocence is preserved up until the pivotal moment in her adolescence. The pivotal moment was when her city was bombed, which marked the beginning of the war. Coincidentally, just in the panel before the bombing, Marji yelled at God and told him to get out of her life. Furthermore, on the same page, Marji’s Uncle Anoosh who was important to her, was executed. This moment clearly changes Marji and marks a shift in her views of the world. As they are bombed, Marji chronicles this by saying: “And so I was lost, without any bearings…What could be worse than that?” (Satrapi 71). By using a rhetorical question, Satrapi almost directly addresses the reader. This makes the reader stop and wonder about how Marji is feeling and put themselves in her shoes. From this moment on, Marji adopts a rebellious way of life. This moment shaped the story and added to the theme coming of age because it helped Marji develop further as a character and as a person. It helped her to grow up a little bit and find herself and what she believes.
That pivotal moment not only contributed to the theme of coming of age, but it also helped to develop the story because of the impact that it had on the protagonist. She starts to act out and stand up for what she believes in. This is most obvious by her adoption of and love for Western culture, which is forbidden. She loves listening to Kim Wilde and wearing Nike sneakers, which get her into trouble: “They were guardians of the revolution, the women’s branch. This group had been added in 1982, to arrest women who were improperly veiled. (Like me, for example)” (Satrapi 132). Even though she knew she could get in trouble, Marji still went out in public improperly veiled, wearing tight jeans, Nike sneakers, a denim jacket, and a Michael Jackson button. Satrapi uses these allusions in these panels in order to connect with readers around the world to help them understand that Marji is no different than teenagers in the United States, for example. This example also serves to show how Marji is acting out and rebelling against what is expected of her.
Another example of Marji acting out arises when she smoked her first cigarette. She understood how people in her country were rebelling, and she wanted to rebel too: “As for me, I sealed my act of rebellion against my mother’s dictatorship by smoking a cigarette I’d stolen from my uncle two weeks earlier. Now I was a grown-up” (Satrapi 117). This quote serves to indirectly characterize Marji as rebellious through her actions. She knowingly defied her mother’s will. Furthermore, her reason for doing so was distinct and deliberate and showed that she knew what was going on and wanted to take a stand in her own symbolic way. She understood that people were being arrested and executed for their defiance, so she defied too. This shows her transition into young adulthood because she was forming her own opinions and making her own decisions based on her own personal set of morals, rather than based on what she had been told. For Marji, this moment was significant for her coming of age as she declared that she was now a grown-up; however, her transition into adulthood as Marji claims it to be really started when she kicked God out of her life with the beginning of the war. Satrapi shows Marji’s coming of age through her decision making and shift to a rebellious nature.
Marjane Satrapi masterfully weaves a story of bildungsroman together through the especially prominent theme of coming of age. She clearly demonstrates in Persepolis how a single moment can alter someone’s life and who they choose to be. Through the theme of coming of age, Satrapi not only tells a story but creates a lifelike and passsionate character out of Marji.
The Gray Area Dialogue: An Analysis of Western Perspective in Satrapi’s Persepolis
The late Ed Koch once said that “stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart.” In Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Satrapi recounts her childhood experiences from Iran through words and pictures as she searches for her true identity in the midst of the chaos surrounding her. Yet, beyond this journey of self-discovery, Satrapi exposes a critical dialogue between Iran and the West that she attempts to resolve through her own struggles. Through Satrapi’s stylistic decisions, Persepolis develops a personal connection between the author and the reader and clarifies our misconceptions of the Middle East, providing Western readers with a greater understanding of the Iranian conflict.
Persepolis would not be nearly as impactful without Satrapi’s development of an individual connection with her readers, which she creates through her graphic depiction of violence in the Middle East. Throughout the novel, Satrapi juxtaposes illustrations of torture with panels of her family to highlight the close proximity of violence. For instance, she places a panel of teenage boys setting off landmines with keys around their necks right next to a panel that shows her going to her first party, demonstrating that violence is always close by as a looming threat on her family’s safety — and creating a sense of unease that Western readers may fail to grasp when considering the conflict. Ultimately, the threat manifests itself completely at the novel’s climax, when Satrapi is confronted by the women’s branch of the Guardians of the Revolution for wearing her “decadent” American items and is threatened to be detained “at the Committee… [where] anything could happen to me” (Satrapi 134). Through her increasingly desperate pleas for mercy that are underscored by the change in her speech balloons and emotive expressions, Satrapi suggests that freedom of expression is dangerous in a country where violence arises because of the perception of cultural dissent. Such dissent is a right taken for granted in the West, and as such readers gain a clearer picture of the detachment between modern and fundamentalist perspectives that characterizes Satrapi’s lifestyle.
In the midst of this brutal setting is Marjane, whose internal struggle with all aspects of her life leads to a cognitive dissonance that reflects the time period’s overall confusion. At the very core of the story, Satrapi’s family is modern, from the material items they consume and enjoy (like jean jackets) to their social beliefs (such as gender equality). Still, as she acknowledges herself, “deep down I was very religious” (6), presenting an interesting dichotomy of beliefs that is depicted through a split illustration; half of her is surrounded by symbols of technology and industry, while the other half presents her surrounded shrouded in the veil and surrounded in calligraphy. This visual presents a readily-comprehensible depiction of her deeply personal connection to her religion, and as a result, readers empathize in her struggle to find a moderate balance between her secular and spiritual beliefs.
Satrapi even struggles in her political views, since she is shaped by the people she is around. As Satrapi mentions herself, she wants to be as peaceful as the philosophers of Zarathustra are, yet she also attempts to justify the Iran-Iraq War and other questionable altercations with the superficial knowledge that she carries at her age. However, when she is confronted and corrected by her father, whose speech balloon dominates almost half of one panel above Marjane in a menacing manner, she cries aloud that “it’s not my fault! It’s the TV!” (62). Like Marjane, children are often shaped by the political views of their parents and the media, so readers immediately connect with her confusion while further recognizing the manipulation and unrest present within Iran. It is because of this very confusion that Satrapi decides to convey her story in a graphic novel style, helping readers to understand a thoroughly complex topic.
Social problems also provide a struggle for Marjane, as she tries to articulate her beliefs despite a class hierarchy present in Iran that places people in lower classes at a severe disadvantage. Satrapi’s portrayal of her family maid Mehri and her love for Hossein, for example, demonstrate the strict barring of movement between social classes that is at odds with her liberal upbringing. Readers empathize with her heartbreak after Satrapi effectively encapsulates Mehri as a sororal figure in a few humorous panels, so that when Marjane realizes the outcome, even she cannot contain her anger and sadness. In fact, in response to her father’s exasperations, Marjane asks, “Is it her fault that she was born where she was born?” (37). Western society takes social mobility for granted, and as a result Satrapi gives readers a glimpse into the struggle people like Mehri face in Iran, even beyond the violence. Satrapi suggests that people want to believe in what is right; however, society at times may dictate the opposite of righteousness simply because the injustice is so deeply rooted within society itself. As a result, tensions break out into a fight for lasting change.
Beyond the personal connection between Satrapi and the reader, Persepolis serves as a mediator of two different sociopolitical climates, providing a way to deconstruct Western readers’ misconceptions of Iran. Reflecting the work’s audience, the West in general has been hostile by portraying political upheaval as characteristic in Iran; situated in the Middle East, some Iranians are seen as misogynistic and fanatical, while others are given little agency in revolution. However, Satrapi shows that many men are neither fanatical nor misogynistic and are instead loving and compassionate. Marjane’s dad in particular is shown to be a beacon of compassion, demonstrating courageous selflessness as he documents the revolution through his photography while placing himself in dangerous situations. Depicted in a borderless panel, Marjane’s father and his photos take up over half the page as a visual emphasis on the small but important role he plays in documenting the revolution. In the West, there also exists a stereotype of loafing Iranian citizens who lack political agency and abide by the rules of an oppressive regime. However, in reality, there have been many who fought against the fundamentalist Islamic government for what they believe is right, and Satrapi uses this opportunity to showcase the real fight for justice and empowerment that pervades the novel. Politically, Marjane encounters many individuals who have risked their lives for their belief in an empowered society; for example, Marjane depicts the numerous tortures Siamak’s friend Ahmadi suffered in political prison in painful detail, even as he is severed into pieces as a result of his unfailing commitment to his comrades. Female empowerment is also demonstrated through Marjane’s mother, who risked her life for the right to choose to wear the veil and goes on to encourage Marjane to “defend her rights as a woman now” (76).
Still, Satrapi also acknowledges Iran-based stereotypes about America, both good and bad, in an effort to provide the whole story. Throughout the novel, America is alluded to as an escape from the reality of the troubles found at home; Marjane’s crush Kaveh, for example, leaves with his relatives for America because they believe “nobody realizes the danger” (63), and in many respects they are correct. The Kansas burger joint, for example, demonstrates the power of American culture and how people ignore the problems that surround them; the small excursion Marjane takes to Kansas seems almost trivial until the sirens go off, at which point a boy hits the dirt in panic for fear of a bombing. Yet, the grave seriousness of the situation is immediately juxtaposed with Marjane’s laughter in the next panel, because “in spite of everything, kids were trying to look hip” (112). At the same time, there is a pervading fear in Iranian society of cultural erasure, as is the case concerning the bilingual schools which were shut down as “symbols of capitalism” (4), as described by a bearded man whose gaze down to the adoring audience reflects the domineering, oppressive nature of the conservative rhetoric. Through the examination of stereotypes that persist in both in the Middle East and abroad, Satrapi clarifies their misguided justifications and attempts to resolve the disconnecting views between them.
In the end, the point of Persepolis is to humanize cultural conflict. Instead of painting the other side as terrorists, Satrapi helps readers realize the ever-present danger for families like Marjane’s in standing up for human rights and, as a result, Western readers develop empathy while gaining insight into the many sufferings that Iranians face. Ultimately, war is not black and white; rather, there are many shades of gray that make conflict difficult to comprehend. Therefore, humanity should make every effort to understand a conflict before attempting to solve it. In this way, society may hope to find resolution in seemingly divisive circumstances.