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PERSEPOLIS: The Story of a Childhood

Formal Assignment 2: Non-conventional option
by

Kalani Linnell

on 26 April 2011

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Transcript of PERSEPOLIS: The Story of a Childhood

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Marjane Satrapi chose to write Persepolis as a graphic novel. This genre choice proved to be effective because it relayed an unfamilliar Eastern history to a Western audience in a simplified style. By doing so, Satrapi "creates the instability necessary to interpret the complexities of her seemingly uncomplicated autobiographical and historical recontrauction" (Constantino 442). The novel is written as a series of "black and white drawings and simple dialogs" (Tarlo 347). Because the illustrations are not overpowering, the content becomes the focus. This aspect of the style of Persepolis allows the audience to interpret Marji's opinions and arrive at their own conclusions. The illustrations are decievingly far from simple. Nuances convey Marji's emotions. The variations are slight and almost go unnoticed. Satrapi impacts the reader's subconcious by integration of detail into the frames. For Marjane Satrapi, the illustrations are her rhetoric so she carefully adds and removes subtleties. In this frame, Strapi depicts the uniformity of the school girls while they wear their veils. At first glance, the reader sees the identically clad school girls. Upon further investegation, their differences become apparent. The variations in their expressions suggest "that there are vastly different personalities in this apparently uniform group" (Costantino 439). In the frame of the demonstrations for and against the veil, Satrapi establishes her alligence by incorporating symbolism. Notice the veiled women Their eyes are closed. This is significant when compared to the unveiled rioters. These women are illustrated with eyes that are literally and figuratively open to the funamental oppression. As a nine year old narrator, Marji sees the world in a black and white perspective which is reflected in the nature of the illustrations. Marji desperately tries to categorize everything into good or evil, right or wrong and white or black. As a nine year old narrator, Marji sees the world in a black and white perspective which is reflected in the nature of the illustrations. Marji desperately tries to categorize everything into good or evil, right or wrong and white or black. In reflexive scenes, such as Marji is split between an unveiled verson of herself, with tools for science and innovation, and a veiled version, with an abstract Eastern pattern in the background. She has trouble understanding the relationships between complex ideas like religion, education and politics. She desperately tries to relate them through public and private events but frequently misinterprets messages. When her father relays the story of the overthrown emperor, Marji becomes enchanted by the idea of royalty The fantastical illustration shows her imagination glorifying monarchy and simplifying the position of emperor into luxury instead of a position of politcal power. Throughout the novel, Marji wishes her immediate family was more heroic. She idolizes those who have encountered danger for the Iranian freedom cause. It is hard for her to initially understand the magnitude of human sacrifice in the war. When asked to relfect upon the war for a school assignment, Marji writes a political dialoge. Pardisse, on the other hand, writes an emotional piece about her father's sacrifice. This is when Marji realizes the impact that death is having on common citizens. Marji is forced to investigate the legitamacy of education throughout the novel. Her initial belief, that everything she hears and sees is the truth, is challenged countless times throughout the novel. When her teacher has the students tear out the page that proclaims the Shah as chosen by God, Marji realizes that her education is dependent on dominant ideology of the State. Marji is conflicted when faced with views of religion. Since she constantly contextualizes information in terms of binary opposites, she views religion as the opposite of intellect. She chooses to represent intellect with an image of Marx. This is significant because Communism is her father's religion. God is only present in the beginning of the novel because the more Marji matures, the more she relies on intellect rather than religion. The use of images within the narrative suggests that Marji believes that images are the best form of evidence Instead of describing herself using characteristics or even visual hints, she provides a school photo. To prove her mother was involved in the demonstrations of 1979, she references a snap shot. Her father chronicles the progression of the demonstrations by photographing them. To marji, pictures capture important moments. Ironically, of course, the entire novel is made up of the images that Marjane satrapi found important. In Persepolis, clothing is a symbol of larger social, political and religious movements. The veiled woman, in particular, represents the oppression and ignorance of the Iranian regime. Marjane Satrapi “documents the complex interweaving of the personal and the political, the individual and the social, demonstrating how dress stands on the border of these domains, making their separation impossible, for it is quite literally the substance through which issues of freedom, control, aesthetics, and politics are negotiated and enacted” (Tario 348). This is parallel that can even be drawn with the graphic novel style of the book. The aesthetics of the frames themselves represent the point of view of a child. Satrapi emphasizes Marji as a simple child narrator with every intention of the reader ascribing additional qualities to her. The qualities become obvious throughout the novel. Marji’s opinion on God, education and family change throughout the novel. Satrapi hints at the change that is about to occur several times throughout the novel. During a bombing sequence, Marji is handed her baby nephew when her Aunt panics. This literal act is symbolic of the responsibility that Marji must contend with before she is ready. (107) Just a short time later, Marji engages in the act of smoking a cigarette. She “kisses childhood goodbye” by partaking in a ritual that is reserved only for adults (117) The culmination of her maturation and change occurs when her family decides to send her to Europe during the war. Marji once idealized Western culture and wished she could partake in the freedoms that came along with it. When she is faced with the reality of leaving, however, she does not embrace it as an opportunity. She realizes that she would rather live with the people she loves in a society of repression than experience the Western freedom she once longed for. (153) By the end, she has literally been unveiled (going to Western culture). Since she is capable of critically analyzing information and has changed her view of right and wrong, she has also symbolically been unveiled. Persepolis was published in 2003. At the time, the US was amplifying action in the War on Terror. This sparked a Western sentiment which Satrapi applies to aspects of the novel. In Europe and North America, governments were using propaganda to justify occupation in the Middle East. Satrapi reflects a “benevolent intervention” (Costantino 437) perspective in Persepolis. Satrapi reinforces Muslim fundamentalist stereotypes throughout the novel. Fundamentalists are portrayed as ignorant, cruel and misguided. On occasion, Satrapi illustrates the reality of fundamentalists. At the end of the novel, Marji flagrantly displays symbols of Western culture. This causes female fundamentalists to notice her. Marji tries to lie to them because she assumes that the fundamentalists know nothing of Western culture. Up until this point in the novel, Satrapi has only created naive fundamentalist characters. The fact that these women can identify the markers of Western culture is a sign post to the fact that the opposition isn’t quite as ignorant as Marji believes. Persepolis is an exemplary model of the graphic novel. The comic is set up to accurately reflect the point of view of a child narrator while incorporating adult themes. The internal conflict that takes place throughout the novel results in the maturation of Marji. It has been successful because of the openness of Westerners to educating themselves about Middle Eastern history.
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