Growing up is a quest. Age fortifies the need for particular values and opinion, as well as the requirement of differentiating oneself from others, as a person’s identity is developing. In practice, there are those who understand people, and those that disregard them. In most instances, many will choose to sit out at a comfortable distance, away from confrontation zone and yet succeeding in achieving the demands of objectivity. Normally, person’s stance remains subtle, but when steered by significant religious, political, and intellectual movements, standpoint becomes stronger and the reactions harsher. Persepolis is an innovative novel by Marjane Satrapi. It is a narration of Satrapi’s memorable infancy and coming of age in a large, caring family in Iran during the Islamic uprising; of the inconsistencies between the public and private sphere in a nation overwhelmed by a political instability. Furthermore, it depicts her college years in Vienna where she was facing challenges of youth far away from her relatives (Satrapi 45). The story also revolves on her return that caused her conflicting emotions and finally her self-imposed expatriation from the beloved nation. The book is a record of girlhood and teenage years at once conversant and outrageous; a young girl’s life entangled with the account of her nation that is yet occupied with the universal trials and joys of growing up. It is evident that Persepolis is a spectacular work from one of the most endowed graphic artists at work today.
Main Message in Persepolis
Marjane Satrapi offers a vivid account of a young lady coming of age after the revolution in Iran. Her message focuses on the events that surrounded the revolution though they have been expressed from a unique point of view. The account of the revolution is narrated from the perspective of a child. Satrapi reveals the horrendous cruelty that the hostages of the war experienced during the revolutions (Satrapi 89). It is apparent that Marjane Satrapi strives strongly to focus on the subject, but her choice of the word and graphical image are structured from a child’s point of view. When explaining the horrific torture occurrences she tries to insert infant emotions and thoughts. For example, a prisoner of war is subjected to a hot iron box; such memories are resonated with protagonist’s recollections of her mother using the box. The outcomes of such occurrences magnify horrendousness of the torturing techniques used by the regime (Satrapi 67). Consequently, the child perspective on the issues tends to be quite appealing to the readers’ emotions.
Persepolis is intertwined within the events taking places during the Iranian revolution of 1979. During this period, the Shah of Persia was ousted and eventually substituted by an Islamist r?gime. As result, many Iranians who supported the shah were consequently forced to exile or left the country. In the book, Satrapi recounts her experiences under the revolution, which include stories of torture, bombing, and violent deaths of family members and close friends. However, such accounts are depicted by a young girl who also has to experience the rapid social transformations that followed the revolution (Satrapi 113). What previously had been liberal, pro-western country turned out to be fundamentalist religious republic. For instance, Satrapi recounts that now she had to wear a veil, learn religious and government propaganda in school and encounter with the Iran’s moral enforcement police.
Furthermore, since Satrapi was recounting her lifelong events, she essentially offers a very modern perspective to the issues of feminism in the book. Satrapi wanted to be educated and liberated woman. Consequently, she has gained a lot of appreciation and moral support from her parents who request her to start protecting the fundamental rights of women (Satrapi 179). Satrapi worked hard to provide a feminism outlook since she feels the importance of her contribution to the culture of her country. Since Iran has become a fundamental nation with strict religious rules, Marjane Satrapi developed a rebellious personality and was concerned about her safety especially in an autocratic regime. Thus, her parents relocated her to Europe.
Satrapi depicts her childhood period as characterized by numerous political circumstances that were evident in the country. Years of political unrest led to deaths of thousands of people and destruction of the social structures. Besides, at the start of the story, Satrapi is depicted as a child with images of the glorious past being combined with modern reality of a society in definitive transition path. In addition, Satrapi views things in a simplistic manner though the image from the past is still vivid in her. However, as a child she failed to understand the essence of limitations imposed by different genders, social classes, and religious beliefs. As a result, the childhood innocence is gradually becoming extinct against the backdrop of the political instability when her conscious questions the repressive style used by the authority to control its subjects. In short, Marjane Satrapi depicts the predicament of children brought up in a conflict zone or a country undergoing political transition. Furthermore, it outlines the problem of adaptation, repression, homelessness, loneliness, and discrimination that face the victims of war. In the novel, Satrapi provides unwavering portray of the problems experienced by the foreigners forced in exile by the political temperatures in their homeland (Satrapi 204).
Primary Role of the Novel
It is evident that the novel put great emphasis on social and economic transformation that Satrapi experienced during her child and adulthood life. The novel appears to be personal reflection on the author’s life though she sheds much light on the wider historical period and political situation during this era. The main objective of the novel is to offer a contrast between previous culture that was considered glorious and culture of political intolerance and fundamentalism. The novel has followed a specific progression in which the novelist moves from infancy to maturity. The author is later forced to exile because of tragic circumstance and, as a result, undergoes the process of self-actualization that is characterized as a conflict between cultural order and protagonist.
Persepolis, the book title, in large extent alludes to the ancient capital. At deeper levels, the title expresses the theme of tension between the past and present. The novel title reveals that within its fundamentalist exterior a deeply entrenched culture and people that are often isolated from the western world exist (Satrapi 211). Furthermore, the novel primary intends to reveal the story of an individual who has lived the history. This is because it offers the reader a privilege to comprehend and interpret the perception of those that live through historical events. The book is critical in a way it develops a reflective lens of childhood life and perception of landmark events that surround the Iranian political upheaval in 1979 (Satrapi 85). In addition, the work significantly reveals how self-identity can be ruptured because of extreme religious beliefs resulting from the Islamic rules. Hence, it is evident that the novel offers an essential platform for the author to recount and reclaim her lost personality as an Iranian citizen.
Characters Role in Conveying the Message
In her book, Marjane Satrapi has used numerous characters to drive the plot of the novel. As a major character, she offers a perspective that depicts her life from childhood to adulthood coupled with historical events that define her personality. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Satrapi, play a crucial role in protecting Satrapi from the Islamic regime that would otherwise have eliminated their daughter because of her rebellious nature. Mr. Satrapi, who is a political activist, participated in 1979 demonstration though he is a well-established middle-class citizen. On the other hand, Mrs. Satrapi, also with leftist political views, molds the Satrapi education wise (Satrapi 275). Satrapi has pretended to be a revolutionary figure just like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. However, her parents have been protective. For instance, she overheard her mother and father talking about fire at a local theater that killed more than 400 people. The fire was ordered by Shah and consequently people planned to demonstrate. The author begs her parent to permit her to demonstrate, but they refuse because they understand the ruthlessness of the ruling regime.
Some characters have been used to represent the cruelty of the rule. For instance, Anoosh, Marjane Uncle, was imprisoned by the Shah regime because of her communist ideology. Though he was set free after the revolution, he was later arrested and exterminated after being indicted deceptively of being a Russian spy (Satrapi 143). The charges were largely influenced by the fact that he had married a Russian woman. To depict the use of torture during the revolution and war period, Satrapi uses her grandparents who lived with their family for a while. His grandfather was a head of Shah and had been nominated to be a prime minister. Yet, he was later incarcerated for conspiring with the Marxist and tormented in the water cell. The pain subjected to the old man makes the reader imagine the horrific experiences undergone by prisoners during the revolution. Extermination of her grandfather makes the grandmother assume a matriarchal behavior mode for Satrapi.
Siamak, who is imaged as a hero of the revolution, is forced into exile. Siamak was arrested and subjected to inhumane treatment thought he was later freed after political instability. Nonetheless, he was later captured by the Islamic regime and killed together with his sister. However, Siamak is lucky to have crossed the border hiding within a group of sheep being ferried across the border. These depict the nature of political intolerance especially to the dissident voices. Moreover, other characters that undergo the same ordeal include Mohsen, a friend of the Marjane Family. Mohsen was tortured by the Shah forces, before being killed by the Islamic administration by being plunged in a bathtub. However, the regime frames his death to resemble a suicide. The author has used characters to depict the nature of discrimination based on social classes. For instance, although Mehri falls in love with a neighbor, she cannot be married because of social classes’ differences.
The Key Point of the Novel
The most critical part of the novel is when Satrapi start questioning the new regulations. In the book, Satrapi has dedicated considerable space to the transformation introduced into the daily lives of the people after the revolution. Consequently, this details the impact of the revolution process to the everyday life, traditions, families, and the characteristics of Iranian people. It is important because the images and symbols people use while telling their experiences offer the texture and evidence of the lives they lived. In this part, the author has provided the account of how absurd sharia laws appear on the eyes of a child. The author witnesses the changes and the relations within the family before and after the revolutions happening due to the complexities of adjusting to new and regulated lifestyles in the public domain. Apart from social and political changes that characterize these sections, the author shows the inner dynamics and changes in the private realm.
Lesson Learnt from the Novel
The graphical novel by Marjane Satrapi has offered her a greater freedom of expression. As a reader, one can understand that Iran has a variety of people and diversity of thoughts. As a result, this contributes to the efforts that strive to overwhelm the stereotypical way of thinking regarding Iran in other countries, especially western nations. The account on revolt is executed through unadorned drawing styles that deliver an effective message to the reader. It raises consciousness of the audience concerning the essence of a vital period in the history and voices the similar experiences of most Iranians living in a foreign land. It is also apparent that the novel introduces the harsh trust that exists in Iran. The novel is about understanding, fear, and loss. It is a harsh reality that offers the readers a truthful perspective regarding the suffering and injustices that coexist with the revolution. In addition, the graphic novel introduces the readers to contentious topics and its influence in the society. It is evident that a large content of the novel deals with religious issues and poses key questions regarding the religious values within the Iranian society. The book offers an insightful reflection of the current Iranian society that appears to be defined significantly by the events of 1979, when the Islamic regime overthrew the existing administration. Persepolis provides insightful review on the predicaments faced by women in the world. Difficulties that are largely defined by the socio-cultural approach broke out after revolution. In overall, the novel offers a truthful representation of the life in Iran before and after revolution, and its influence on social structures.