Through the eyes of a young Marjane Satrapi, the reader gets a fascinating look at the Islamic Revolution in Iran during the late 1970s and the early 1980s and the war with Iraq. The times are definitely tumultous and Marjane is certainly an inquisitive and precocious girl living through it. The juxataposition of the graphic images of war and torture against the everyday situations at school, make for rather haunting images especially as the graphics are represented in the form of black and white artwork. So graphic are the images of torture, that this book was banned by a middle school in Chicago where some parents felt that the images were too graphic for 7th graders. The fact that the book is baned by certain political groups and countries, raises points of conflict for me and makes me wonder why some people would not want others to know the truths of a certain era. Is the restriction to access of this kind of information a breach of democracy and does it not perpetuate the oppression of people who would find the information contained in this book, liberating? What conflicted with me the most was how the citizens would be forced to conform to stiff behaviour, morals and rigid dress codes by the fundamentalists of the new ruling party(Anusha 3).
The book really affected me in the powerful way it delivers the nuances of a rather bloody period through the memoir of a woman looking back on her life as a young girl, in the form of a comic book that is slightly cartoony(Anusha 1). The illustrations are made of drawings made of heavy lines and laid out in comic strips style, dramatically showing the intersections between her personal life, surrounded by family, friends, her school and the neighborhood in Tehran. This telling of one’s story as surrounded by a very heavy and life-altering history in a graphic form that seems very trivial at a glance, made the book a compelling read.She paints her family history and provides content detailing her daily life(Mastroianni, Deneuve and Darrieux).The heaviness of the realities of that period are still there but are somewhat neutralised by the uncontroversial perspectives of a little girl; aged between six and fourteen, the effects of the fundamentalist siege is thus nuted rather than amplified. This observation acknowledges that her uncle’s or her mother’s point of view would be a much different one.
As the book and the artwork increasingly took on an introspective tone, the more and more it occurred to me as a sad coming-of-age story set in the reality of a social upheaval and characterized by so much strife(Anusha 1). Growing up in an Iran controlled by a ruthless, self-imposed Shah, evokes and cultivates a sense of non-conformity and rebelleiousness in Marjane.Her story is set against the grim backdrop of bombings, executions and arrests duing the Shah’s regime, the war with Iraq and the Islamic Revolution. Persepolis humanizes both the survivors and the casualtiesof war.
I care about politics to the extent that it affects me and those that I care about. More so to the extent that human rights are diminished and restrictions on how people express themselves are forced on them in the name of governance.This book takes a political position in its opposition of the Shah and the doctrines of his regime.This book shines the spotlight on fascism and fundamentalism, and some of these threads are familiar in the current times that we live in and through her uncontroversial and personal version of this piece of a historical time one can find the relevance and the usefulness of her story. Of true significance to me was how the book captured the Iranian women’s struggle during the Islamic Revolution and how their lives changed pwerfully, drastically and dramatically during those times.
In the book’s account of Satrapi’s childhood, her desire to express herself through her choice of music, choice of clothing and choice of words become more articulate and stronger as she comes of age and in opposition to the intensifying restrictions.Satrapi as the protagonist in the story comes across as sharp, outspoken, fiery and determined. Her story shows shows her coming of age as she experiences a moral and intellectual awakening which is intertwined with her country’s political and social history.For instance, Marjane challenges social class as she examines the life and roles of Mehri; the young maid who not only serves her family but is also her friend(Satrapi, 7).Without fear, she speaks out in class, whenever she finds hypocrisy she rails against it and as a young girl, she sneaks out to political rallies and believes that for a revolution to succeed, it must be supported by the entire population.
As I read the book and as I watched the film how her ordinary life is punctuated by horrorific events experiences, depicted the sense of insecurity Marjane had to live through and how the imminence of an attack or death was always hanging in the air like a dark cloud. For intance when her shopping trip for forbidden music and punky new clothes ended with the discovery of the bomb that had been dropped in her neighborhood and that her friend had died, telling from the sight of her hand with her bracelet poking out from the rubble. Or when her first party is experience is told adjacent to the illustration of the explosion of young boys in a minefield.As she grows up side by side with the atrocities in her country, she struggles with the notion of justified murder and the reasons that made it acceptable for bad people to be killed as fronted by her friend whose father had killed a number of communists. Her reactions and genuine pain as she learns of the torture her family and the families of her schoolmates faced in prison, also show instances where she is forced to grow up and makes part of the things that change her and her general outlook.
The way Satrapi and and her friends make fun of the veil in various ways in the book brings a sense of relief and abandon regarding this form of restriction. The lack of support for the use of veil by her relatively well-off and liberal family in Iran, was very appealing to me in the sense that in the midst of all the restrictions and their rigid application and enforcement, her family was a sort of safe haven where freedom of self-expression was embraced and not frowned upon.During her parents’ rare opportunity to travel to Turkey, we see Marjane’s prioties as what they will bring back for her from the trip and her eagerness and willingness to defy the islamic code of dressing by painting her nails and wearing western clothes.With increasing maturity and consistency in ones beliefs, parents begin to view their child as reasonbly grown up and with open dialogue and transparency, parents can continuously trust and support their activities (Satrapi 8).
Even though I have never experienced the horrors of war and the oppression on the scale which Marjorie did, having been a teenager, I can identify with her as a normal teen with developmental needs, as a budding rebel and as a would-be revolutionary.The ideas of social revolutions, death, censorship and teenage rebellion are quite relatable and the exploration of social identity, religion and politics.The constant search of identity; as an immigrant, feeling like a stranger upon returning to one’s country of origin and the individual identity against the state(Satrapi 278). The contrast between a modern life and the expectations of a religious life also call for a deeper inspection of the matter and the introspection of choices made over the years.
The contrast of the enjoyment of freedoms provided for in the West and the punitive fundametalism in the Iranian regime and other such places in the world further inform one’s life choices. The desire for an individual living in the diaspora to understand their diasporic heritage together with their cultural history is also reflected in my choices. My choices can also be seen as an effort to understand what one’s experiences in a later generation relates to those of the older generations and that understanding helps in the negotiation of one’s identity not only across cultures but across generations. This is in line with the realization that the construction of a woman’s identity is founded on identification, independence and community.
Satropi’s parents; who were communist sympathizers and outspoken against the extremist regime, were crucial to evolution, her father was passionate at politicking (Satrapi 20), her mother was permissive (Satrapi 131), and her uncle Anoosh was courageous (Satrapi 68)As the book ends, her parents, who see her differently but appreciate and acknowledge that her outspoken and rebel nature would make her a potential or easytarget for the fundamentalists in power, ship her to a school in Austria; at age fourteen. With this move they feel thatshe would be safe, get access to a better education and hopefully a chance at a better future(Mastroianni, Deneuve and Darrieux). At the time people were being arrested for activities considered by the extermist regime as crimes such as throwing parties, talking to people of the opposite gender if you weren’t married to them, listening to western music and wearing fashionable clothes.
The fact that Santropi now lives in Paris, a city where the use of a veil is banned and yet she does not support the ban, makes for a very complex undertone. From the Persepolis, one can pick Satrapi’s sentiments of the fallacious images of Iran in the West where the media’s portrayal of Iran consists of men with guns and women in chadors. She seeks to unveil this as an erroneous simplification and inserts the more multi-faceted and complex political and social terrain in the country.
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