i. Impact of reading graphic novels and “Persepolis” in particular on readers
Based on the results ,I can conclude that most modern readers prefer reading novels with illustrations as well as easily decode their messages through the images .Satrapi successfully displays her life in Tehran from her childhood till her adolescence using strong black and white comic strip images. Moreover, she presents the overthrow of the regime of the Shah and the rise of the Islamic Revolution besides the catastrophic effect of war with Iraq.
Satrapi’s simple images pack a big punch, and they allow readers to immediately identify what is happening on the page and what the characters are feeling. They also help bridge the cultural divide between the Iranian characters and Satrapi’s Western readership. Anyone from anywhere can see themselves in the nondescript features of her main characters.
The formatting of “Persepolis” allows for better understanding into to the life of Marji and how the war with Iraq and the Islamic Revolution has affected her.
The use of the graphic novel format allows for a better understanding and a clearer interpretation of events due to the combination of text and illustration, particularly in Persepolis I and II with regards to warfare. For instance, in Persepolis I on page 51, the shocking presentation of Ahmad’s execution. Also, the catastrophic consequences of warfare on pages 136 to 155. The use of gutters and transitions are characteristics of Satrapi’s graphic novel as they require the reader to make a few mental judgments.
One of the main themes in the novel is the struggle to define and fight for freedom. Throughout the book we see Satrapi and her family and friends lose more and more of their freedom as the Shahs regime becomes more extremist. For example, at the beginning of the book Satrapi notes, we found ourselves veiled and separated from our friends (4). Later in the book we see how members of the Satrapi family and their friends are imprisoned, tortured and even killed for fighting for their freedom. For example, Satrapi describes what happened to Ahmad, a family friend: They Burned him with an iron in the end he was cut to pieces (51-52). Meanwhile, others fall in line and do what they are supposed to do, even if they do not believe in it. Often we see these people turned into eyes for the regime so that no place become safe and people are always afraid of being caught for acting too freely. Satrapi writes, To have the Iraqis attack, and to lose in an instant, everything you had built over a lifetime, thats one thing but to be spat upon by your own kind, it is intolerable (93)!
Each person in the novel sees things differently and we, as readers, become witnesses to Satrapis struggle to protect her own freedom amidst the chaos of differing opinions. The grown Satrapi, who both wrote and illustrated the novel, is careful to stay true to the feelings of her childhood self. This makes Satrapis struggle much more visceral and moving as we follow her through the anguish of a country and a family torn apart by the struggle for freedom. .
ii. Impact of gender role in “Persepolis”
This book does deal with gender issues in Iranian society, particularly when Satrapi talks about how women were forced to wear the veil and then all the girls had to be sent to a separate school than the boys. On page 4, Satrapi writes, we found ourselves veiled and separated from all our friends. It would be suitable for readers to note the different treatment of men and women in Iran and then explore why those laws are in place. Some of this is explored in Persepolis along with full awareness of the historical social background about Iran at that time. Another gender issue in this memoir can be seen towards the end of the book when Marjane Satrapi explains how she learned that boys her own age were being recruited to the Iranian military. The Satrapis maid, Mrs. Nasrine comes to their house one day and tells them, They gave this key to my son at school. They told the boys that if they went to war and were lucky enough to die, this key would get them into heaven (99).This deals with gender because only the boys were recruited to the Iranian military and a major ploy was to make them believe that if they died fighting for their country and for Islam, that they would be rewarded with paradise. Students could consider the issues of having a dual-gender military and the tactics that governments use to recruit people into their military.(Persepolis :Unit Plan,.7)
iii. Why Satrapi wrote “Persepolis”?
Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjanes childs-eye view of dethroned emperors, state sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity.
Persepolis purpose is heavily linked to identity. In one of the articles, it was mentioned that ” Satrapi employs the idea of identity, whether her own, her families or that of Iran or the West to aid her purpose of correcting the common misconceptions that all too often divide the cultures of East and West “(1).
It is to be concluded that memoirs have the power to speak out what the author needs to speak out his or her thoughts openly in a world that sometimes refuses and even excludes opinion in public or major events exactly like what happened in Iran or in any society that is bulid upon suppression.
iv. The major character’s development using first person narrative techniques and how far it was affecting her major theme
Throughout the novel ,Satrapi depicts the revolution and its crisis and sheds light on her development into a woman amongst the trauma of revolution, war and repression – redefining the importance of the historical background along with rich information given through her memoir about her hometown at that crucial time.
In the introduction to her graphic memoir, Satrapi writes, One should forgive, but never forget (2). Throughout the story, Satrapi details many different instances where individuals (including herself) are wronged either by the government or by other characters in the novel. Although forgiveness is not explicitly talked about in the book, it is important becauseit plays a role in the Satrapis purpose for creating the graphic novel. Students should consider that perhaps she wrote the book as a way of forgiving what has happened to her and those she loves, while also making a record of those same things. In addition, this theme is something thatwe all struggle with. Should we forgive those who hurt us?Satrapis memoir is a powerful example of someone who could seek revenge, but instead chooses the path of forgiveness instead.
Satrapis black and white illustrations, for example, mirror the very repression that Marji and her friends and family face. For example, the veil is an extensively repeated image throughout Persepolis; and with it the illustrations seem to change. Whenever the children are depicted wearing the veil Satrapis graphics becomes plainer and unassuming mirroring the uniformity of the girls.
Another example in the above image, t he Guardians look unearthly and imposing as they tower above little Marji in their floor-length veils. This image shows how the veil was an empowering tool for women aligned with the regime, as they wore it with self-imposed superiority. Thus, the veil is both a weapon of oppression (victimising women by repressing individuality) and of superiority mirrored in Satrapis graphics.
The Islamic Republic’s strict laws about proper dress and behavior cause sudden changes in Marjane’s friends, family, and neighbors. After being wearing miniskirts , they cloak themselves in the chador (cloth that covers the head and upper body leaving the face exposed), and children who never showed any religious inclination boast they pray several times a day. In fact , they’re just trying to avoid punishment by obeying the laws. Behind closed doors these same people throw parties, drink alcohol, and question the regime’s rules. Marjane soon recognizes the “contrast between the official representation of my country and the real life of the people,” and it seems as if everyone is leading a secret life. Devout public exteriors serve as masks for individuals’ private selves, and the difference between the two can be disorienting. In “The Socks” Marjane says of herself and her classmates, “Our behavior in public and our behavior in private were polar opposites,” which make them feel “schizophrenic.” It’s hard to know oneself when bouncing between two completely different personalities. Because of this, Marjane struggles with figuring out who she is and who she wants to be.
In Marjane’s experience it is incredibly difficult to discern the nature of a person from the public persona alone. This is the case when she reunites with her childhood friends after returning from Austria. On the outside they look like “the heroines of an American TV series,” fully made-up with fashionable hairstyles and clothing. Because of their appearance Marjane assumes they hold the same values as she does, so she gets a nasty surprise when one of them calls her a whore after learning she’s had more than one lover. “Underneath their outward appearance of being modern women, my friends were real traditionalists,” she says. The same thing happens with her art school friends when she mentions she takes birth control pills.
Satrapi also depicts herself as torn between these two worlds: the forwards, liberal-minded world of her parents and her religiosity:
One half of the image shows her surrounded by cogs, a hammer and a ruler implying the influence of the mechanics of her avaunt-garde family. The other half, shows her fully veiled and surrounded by elegant Persian patterns, referring to the ancient traditions of her religion; Marji idealises Islam yet not in the same way the state follows. And so, as much as Marji revels in the rebellion against the theocracy she feels torn between the religion she idealises and her liberalism.
The story then moves to Vienna, Marjane, escaping the war in Iran finds herself in an alien environment. As Tarlorecognises: The veil provides a subtle affinity between the nuns and the fundamentalist women she left behind in Iran, and Satrapi implies that the affinity is more than simply visual (Tarlo, 5): From here, she is thrown out of the convent – directly mirroring the tyranny fundamentalist Guardians of the Revolution in Iran. She begins to lose her way and not only forget who she is but repress herself. Persecuted for being Iranian, she begins to accept her role as the other and in a desperate attempt to fit in she abandons her identity and tries to pass as French, to impress a boy:
Satrapis perception of herself keeps fluctuating; she at once identifies herself as being other and so desires to conform with the Europeans. This moment shows Marjane repressing herself, thereby illustrating repression can come from within oneself as well as from external forces.
Finally, after a very adolescent downwards spiral (including a lover, drugs, a break-up and a bout of homelessness) Marjane returns to Iran. She, at first, feels alienated by her child-sized room and overwhelmed by her welcome home. However, after realising the subtle rebellion the other young women employ, Satrapi transforms herself: perms her hair, wears make-up, runs an aerobics class and parties. There, she meets Reza and together they gain admission to a prestigious art course at university. Together they become more confident about defying laws, so much so that Satrapi dares to meet Reza in public wearing noticeable make-up. However after spotting Guardians of the Revolution Marjane panics:
She cowardly accuses a stranger of a graver crime than her own rather than face the consequences of her rebellion. Hence, now Marjane becomes the unjust agent of repression resembling those that she protests against.
Yet, in the end, Marjane and Reza became fed up that they could not publically show their relationship unmarried couples could not display their affections, as pre-marital affairs were illegal. Consequently, in an attempt to escape the repression of their relationship, Marjane and Reza marry. Yet, Marjanes regret seems almost instant; she abruptly recognises her mistake. She feels caged by their dwindling communication and eventually feels trapped by that which was meant to free them. She is depicted as litterally caged.
The institution of family is one of the most important institutions in Persepolis: The
Story of a Childhood.Marjane watches her parents as they fight against the regime and this plays a huge part in the formation of her own political beliefs. Her parents offer her guidance in a complex web of personal, political and religious motivations. At the beginning of the story, MarjaneSatrapi writes, I really didnt know what to think deep down I was very religious butas a family were were very modern and avant-garde (6). This confusion is eliminated asMarjaneSatrapi grows older and begins to understand the world as her parents do. She writes,After the death of Neda Bab-Levy, my life took a new turn. In 1984, I was fourteen and a rebel.Nothing scared me anymore (143). In the last few pages of the novel, Satrapi leaves Iran for Vienna. In order to ensure her safety, she has to leave her parents behind. Recalling the momentshe was separated from her parents in the airport, she writes, Nothings worse than saying goodbye. Its a little like dying (153). This is a very important theme for students to consider because it is applicable to everyone. We all know what it is like to have a family and how important they are in the formation of our own beliefs and worldview. As students see MarjaneSatrapi move through this process students should be able to relate it to their own lives, thus allowing them to connect with the events of the book.