About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1310 |
7 min read
Published: Dec 16, 2021
Words: 1310|Pages: 3|7 min read
Persepolis is a graphic and autobiographic novel written by Marjane Satrapi with the purpose of criticizing the Iranian regime and teaching her audience about the social and cultural issues of Iran. Marji’s life story is told through visual language. Satrapi chose to write a graphic novel with simple drawings because she wanted it to be accessible to anyone and because comics are easily readable, and they communicate with everyone. Marjane Satrapi uses literary devices in order to encourage the reader to feel sympathy for Marji, those literary devices being the stream of consciousness, first person narrative and flashback.
Satrapi uses stream-of-consciousness to teach the social and cultural issues of Iran to her audience. 10-year old Marji describes how she and other girls had to wear the veil in school since 1980, one year after the Islamic Revolution. We can see that both Marji (in the first panel) and her classmates are unhappy in the school picture (in the second panel). In the last panel, Marji’s thought bubble (the one on the top of each panel) says “We don’t really like to wear the veil, especially since we don’t understand why we had to”, and we can see the girls throwing the veil around and using it for jumping the rope and for role-playing instead of wearing them, and that was a way for them to express their dislike of the mandatory veil. Satrapi addresses this through her stream-of-consciousness because the veil is a symbol of oppression towards women, as it is forced upon them by the government instead of being offered the choice to wear them. Marji explains through her inner monologue that everyone at school had to hit themselves on the first day back from summer vacation, and we can see the teacher demonstrating it and instructing the children to do it as well. Even though the children were initially confused (as seen from the question marks above their heads in the third panel), they all ended up doing it too, as seen in the fourth panel. It is one of Iran’s religious rituals and it can get brutal, and sometimes people would use chains or even knives on themselves, as it can be seen in the last two panels. Young children are instructed to harm themselves, and that is a symbol of religious oppression as it is done against their wishes. Marji is distressed when she goes out on the streets of Iran after her return from Austria. The cause of her distress is the fact that the street names were changed to the names of the martyrs, and the change overwhelmed her – in the third panel she is seen spiraling and being surrounded by the street names written in the Arabic alphabet, and the background is dark, which shows that it is a painful memory for her. In the fourth panel, Marji is drawn as a small silhouette in comparison to the ground underneath her, which is covered in the skulls of the martyrs. The illustration shows the way Marji felt when she saw those street names – “I felt as though I were walking through a cemetery”. In the next panel, she is surrounded by the skeletons of the martyrs as if she is carrying them on her back, meaning that she felt guilty for fleeing the war, while others died for the country. The martyrs are revered purely because they sacrificed their lives for Iran, which shows the importance of Islam as well as self-sacrifice in the Iranian life.
The first-person narrative in the novel shows us the story from Marji’s perspective as it is an autobiographical novel, and Marji has problems that the audience may be able to relate to. On the top left panel in Figure 1, we can see the image of 10-year old Marji, who is facing the reader because she is addressing to us directly, and the story is told from her perspective. She also clearly starts the story by saying “This is me, when I was 10 years old. This was in 1980”. Her thoughts are written in the rectangular speech/thought bubbles at the top of each panel, and it is presented differently from the rounder speech balloons of the other characters, as it can be seen in the last two panels. Thus, the reader’s attention is directed towards Marji. In Figure 4, Marji is facing the reader and showing the blunt reality of the process of her “physical metamorphosis” from the age of 15 to the age of 16, also known as puberty. Puberty is something that everyone goes through at some point in their teens, which makes it a relatable experience to anyone in the audience. Satrapi drew herself in an ugly and asymmetric manner in order to show the way she truly felt about her puberty (i.e one eye bigger than the other, one hand bigger than the other), and she also drew a giant growing out of its clothes and with its hair growing out of control to visualize her “physical metamorphosis” in the first panel. The language used throughout Persepolis is simple, short and blunt, because Satrapi mainly uses pictures to depict her thoughts. Marji is once again facing the reader and the first two rows of panels show the way Marji changes her haircut and style in the span of one week because of her low self-esteem caused by her transition to puberty. In the first panel, she has long hair, and she first cuts it on one side, and then on the other as well, and she applies hair gel on her hair as well as an eyeliner on her eyes. This is a part of Marji’s “physical metamorphosis”, and her identity is changing as well throughout her metamorphosis.
Satrapi uses flashbacks to reveal more about Marji’s life as well as to add information to the plot. As a matter of fact, the entire novel is a flashback as Satrapi is retelling the story of her life. In Figure 6, we can see a flashback to the history of Iran. In the first panel, everyone is laying down on the ground in the dark, a metaphor for the Iranians “sleeping” instead of fighting against the invaders, and the darkness shows that it was a dark time for Iran. In the second panel, there is a horizontal pattern of repetition in which we can see how Iran has been invaded along the years.
Satrapi chose to create such a flashback in order to show the audience the context of Iran’s history to better understand what is happening in the plot and to explain why the Iranians are having a revolution. In Figure 7, Marji is trying to understand what her parents are talking about. She gets confused when she hears about pilots being jailed, and then we see a flashback portraying her friend Pardisse from school, who has a father that was a pilot. There are two similar images. In the first one, we can see in the first one that Pardisse is looking and smiling at a book while the student behind her on the left is reading and the one on the right is smiling. In the second one, Pardisse is missing and the students in the back are frowning. The reader can assume that Pardisse is missing because her father was jailed. This is a personal flashback to Marji, because it is about a friend of hers and the flashback helps validate what Marji is thinking when she thinks of fighter pilots.
There is no doubt that literary devices (stream of consciousness, first person narrative and flashbacks) play an important role in Persepolis, especially in encouraging the reader to feel empathy for Marji. Through these literary devices, the audience gets to learn about the social and cultural issues of Iran and to see the story from Marji’s perspective.
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