The Voice of the Oppressed in Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

Many say that literature is a voice for the oppressed. Marjane Satrapi backs this statement up in her graphic novel, Persepolis, in which she show how children, women and certain social classes were marginalized, excluded and silenced during the Islamic revolution in Iran throughout the 1980s. Her novel exposes the voice of the oppressed and serves as a reference to follow.

Since the start of the graphic novel in the first page, the author emphasizes the theme of growing up under oppression. She does this by introducing herself at a young age and expressing the conflicts that arose from the Islamic revolution through the symbol of the veil. The first panel of the first page introduces a portrait of Marji wearing the veil. We can see a neutral expression in her face while she glances expressionless. The caption says “This was me when I was 10 years old. This was in 1980” (pg.3). With a simple but direct text and image it allows the reader to understand the author, that reflex into her childhood by simply showing us a picture of herself veiled due to government restrictions and unhappy. Alongside, in the next frame it shows Marji’s colleagues in a class photos with a similar expression as her revealing that they all feel the same. Furthermore, the graphic novel allows us in the splash at the bottom of page 3 to discover in depth this theme. It allows the reader to see various kids playing with their veils, some of them using them as jumping ropes or as a simple `monster mask´ to play around with. It also shows the discontent of a girl with the veil as it is too hot for her and therefore takes it out of her head. Two other kids, one veiled ten-year-old says to the unveiled ten-year-old “Execution in the name of freedom” revealing that they are using the veil as a simple game emphasizing the innocence of childhood with the grave situation of the Islamic revolution in order to stand out how oppressive the Iranian regime was.

In her memoir, Marjane Satrapi decides to continue exploring the theme of oppression. In this case she redirects it toward gender role. In page 303, the last two panels involve the conversation between marji and two police officers that had stopped her for running and making `obscene´ movements. In reply to absurd comments made by the officers she decides to shout at them “Well then don’t look at my ass!” which got her out of that situation. This scene reveals a retrograde society with close minded people. In another frame (pg. 184) Julie starts discussing her sex life with Marjie and pointing out Marji’s innocence by being a virgin. This sequence divulges how conservative Iran’s attitude is towards sex. Women cannot be seen in public with men they are not related to. We can identify a clear contrast with people in Austria when in the left lower panel (pg. 168) Momo kisses Marji as a way to greet her, showing that people are more open about sexuality there.

As one reads the this graphic novel, one comes to an understanding that many people, not only women including Marji, but people across the whole spectrum are systematically marginalized. In Iran social classes are very present. We come to this realization thanks to Marji’s willingness to help people. She comes from a wealthy family and therefore count with a maid that works in her house. Her father drives a Cadillac which makes her feel embarrassed of her family’s social status, and she thinks it’s the cause of the revolution (pg. 33). Another significant moment that portrays this inequality between social classes is through a splash (pg. 102) were “The key to paradise” signifies young boys being promised to get into paradise if they die in the war. These kids usually come from very poor families and therefore are too naive not to believe the lies they’re told by the government. Ironically in the next splash Marji goes to her first party with a “punk” necklace on her neck while young boys are dying with plastic keys painted gold around their neck. This form of inequality is represented by the maid that works for Marji’s family. Because she didn’t receive a proper education she is not able to read and write, which is why Marji has to write Mehri’s letters (pg. 35). “The letter” shows how Mehri and Hossein could never get together because they weren’t from the same social class. Their relationship is “impossible” and Hossein doesn’t hesitate to break off the relationship when he finds out that she is from a lower class (pg.37). Marji’s parents acknowledge social classes and use them as a reason not to move to another country. They do not want to lose their upper-middle class status by moving to Europe (pg. 64).

To conclude, Marjane Satrapi narrates through her personal perspective how thousands of people were silenced and oppressed including herself in the 1980 in Iran. The author chooses to use black and white colors to contrast characters and with backgrounds emphasizing the multitudinous conflicts of the times. With this technique usage it is easy for the reader to identify the key concepts being displayed in the panels. This novel depicts the true horrors of the revolution and for an outsider Satrapi’s images and story-line may be shocking, as it portrays the numerous injustices amongst society. 

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