In the graphic novel Persepolis: A Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi writes a memoir about her childhood using both words and pictures. Satrapi starts off at the earlier years of her life portraying the innocence she had when she was a child through Marji. As she was growing up, the Islamic Revolution began in 1979. The aftereffects of the Islamic Revolution greatly influenced Marji’s childhood. Growing up in a hostile environment forced Marji to quickly shed her innocence as she became more informed about the world around her and experienced war firsthand. Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis:A Story of a Childhood, frequently uses objects from the physical world to symbolize the effects that war has on an individual by causing someone to mature quickly, thus experiencing a rebellious phase at an early age.
Satrapi utilizes the veil to symbolize the oppression women faced due to the Iranian government. During the Islamic Revolution, the Shah’s regime made it mandatory for women to wear veils. When the veils were first made mandatory, Marji and the other young girls didn’t really like to wear the veil, especially since [they] didn’t understand why we had to (Satrapi 3). Satrapi depicts the children’s nativity and innocence through their horseplay with the veil in the fifth panel of page 3. The children’s negligence of a very important symbol of the Iranian culture, the veil, demonstrates their lack of understanding of the importance of the veil in their culture ( 3).Marji had to comply with the Islamic regimes since a very young age so much so that she immediately felt the repressive air of [her] country (96). The children were simply forced to wear the veil because it became obligatory to wear the veil at school (3).
However, as Marji grew older, she slowly understood the repressive idea tied with wearing the veil. Satrapi illustrates Marji’s compliance to the Islamic regime through her attitudes by this conformity. On the panel on page 3, Marji is looking directly at the reader, depicting an emotion of fright and reluctance towards wearing the veil. She seems to feel as though her voice is hindered and folds her arm as if to literally isolate herself from the government’s repressive ideologies. Marji’s emotion shows no eagerness in wearing the veil as shown through the curved down lines for her eyebrows and her subtle frown. In the early years of Marji’s life, she seems very innocent. Her mother’s actions pushes her to also believe that veils are wrong.
As she learns more about politics, she sheds her innocence as she leans towards the Communist ideals her parents taught her. The Communist ideals was used as a motivation for Marji to fight for the freedom she yearns for. Women are forced to wear the veil because it is indecent to even show an eighth of an inch (125). Satrapi purposely makes the veil very dark throughout the book to show how the Iranian government turned a deaf ear to the outcries of the women in the country. The pressure of the regime was so astounding that whenever Marji would take off her veil at home, she would exclaim, how good it feels to walk without a veil on my head! (189).
Satrapi’s use of curved lines around Marji’s face portrays Marji’s joy: the feeling that she experiences when she is finally able to take off her veil and breath freely rather than be suffocated by the regime in public. Marji’s enthusiasm of having the freedom she yearns for slowly led to her rebellious nature as year by year, women were winning an eighth of an inch of hair and losing eighth of an inch of veil (189). The act of showing the slightest bit of hair in public is deemed as sinful. However, Marji’s loss of innocence and rebellion towards the oppressive regime left her to only do one thing to do: stand up for herself. This goes to show how much this freedom means to the female population of Iran. Even a part of an inch is another victory for their fight for the choices they can make.
Satrapi utilizes cigarettes in Marji’s life as a symbol not only for Marji maturing at a very early age, but also as major symbol for Marji’s rebellion against the state’s oppressive regimes as well as her mother’s guidance. Marji lives in a state where her freedom is restricted and where each of her actions were surveilled by authority. The perpetual encumbrance of acting a certain way at all times resulted in Marji making rash and foolish decisions such as smoking. As Marji grew older, she would often take part in activities that many adults looked down upon. Marji feels as though taking in such indecisive actions at a young age, like smoking, would cause her to stand out and demonstrate her strong, hateful feelings toward the societal expectations and government actions that she believes to be unfair.
As Marji grows up during war, she learns to stand strong in her beliefs because she believes fear makes [women] lose [their] conscience[and] transforms [women] into cowards ( ). In order to stray from conformity and fear in her life, Marji attempts to live freely through her acts of rebellion. When Marji’s mother simply advises her to be more mindful in regards to what she wears, due to the recent legislations of the way women should act and dress, Marji begins to revolt against the new polices saying that I sealed my act of rebellion against my mother’s dictatorship by smoking a cigarette I’d stolen (117).
By taking part in such a prohibited action, smoking, in front of her her mother, Marji is trying to make evident that she is not afraid to go to the greatest extents to illustrate her strong hatred towards the government’s unjust laws towards women. Marji quickly kissed childhood goodbye with her first cigarette, a symbol for Marji to feel as thought she is now an adult (117). Satrapi utilizes the cigarette to demonstrate how quickly Marji matured compared to most kids her age. While children would fear to take part in many daunting adult activities, Marji does not hesitate to develop into her rebellious nature as it is a pathway to her growing up.
Satrapi utilizes Marji’s bed is important as it is symbolic to her change in mental state as she grew older. Marji would dream in her bed and it was also where she often spoke to God. While lying in bed, Marji dreamt of protesting in hopes for the …justice and love that she longs for (9). The longing for love and equality for all, even when men were brutal to her, illustrates Marji’s compassionate and childlike innocence as a young girl. Later in the book, Marji was finally able to join a protest. Before joining the protest, she was oblivious to the violence and the negative effect of war.
On page 76, Marji is depicted as a young girl who did not understand what was going on, which shows that Marji is not considered to be mature enough to take part in the violent protesting. On the third panel of page 76, all the protesters are wearing black and shouting, guns may shoot, knives may carve, but we won’t wear your silly scarves (76). Satrapi depicts the mourning and repressed feeling through the color black covering up the majority of the panel. However, Marji is the only one wearing a white shirt. The white symbolizes Marji’s purity as a young girl. In addition to wearing white in the protest, Marji was the shortest among all the protestors. Marji’s lack of height compared to the others was significant as it symbolized the fact that Marji was not fit to become an adult just so quickly.It was on this same bed that Marji, when she was a teen, lashes out on God, her authority.
Marj is tired of dealing with and being forced to comply with the brutal regimes that she harshly tells God to shut up and get out of [her] life as Marji never wants to see [God] again. Marji’s rebellious nature as she grows older is depicted her shift in attitude and loss of innocence through her change in the dreams and thoughts she has in her childhood bed.
Satrapi often uses realistic items to demonstrate the consequences war has on a person and how it causes them to mature quickly and develop a rebellious attitude. All throughout Marji’s lifetime, she is repeatedly affected by external factors. She matured more quickly due to the violence of war that he grew up in. Persepolis is a memoir of Marji’s journey throughout life, as she gradually matures and strays away from her youthful innocence. She goes through a rebellious phase, rebelling against both her parents and the regime alike. This novel represents the extent of influence the outside world can have on one’s personality, and how it can change one’s outlook on life.
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