Identity Formation in “Persepolis” by Satrapi

Traditional narratives are quite elaborate and much complicated when compared to graphic novels. When a reader goes through a novel, he or she is able to form personal images of the settings and characters under discussion. Though graphic text contains fewer words, this does not hinder in any way its ability to enhance the development of vocabulary. The combination of visual and print context makes it easier for a reader to make sense of difficult words.

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The images used in graphic novels are mostly universal in nature, this helps the reader to relate what he or she sees to different kinds of people. For example, In Persepolis, Marji shows goodness to her friend by consoling her for having lost her father during the Iraq-Iran war. Satrapi has simplified the drawings of all images including faces to challenge the reader to use his/her imagination to explore further. Analyzing a particular chapter of the book can help explain how the book sheds light on the Iranian culture thereby downplaying stereotypes especially on how contradictions between religion and politics in Iran have left women in a dilemma of identifying themselves in contemporary society.

While in Iran, Marjane nurtures several important relationships with fellow countrywomen. Of especial importance is her grandma whom she is very close to. In fact, her first disciple to her newly formed religion is none other than her grandma. Another female closest to her is her mother. She turns to her for every important decision she has to make in her life. She is not close to men as she is to women who are her close confidants. Men like her uncle Anoosh and his father merely play as role models. The later who is a political hero according to Marjane gets liquidated for being a Marxist sympathizer (Satrapi, 2004, 62). This book highlights the need for women to form strong support networks.

Iran’s political system is a patriarchal system (Satrapi, 2004, 148). Women find themselves spending so much time on trivial matters such as makeup that destruct them from engaging in more meaningful affairs like political matters. In America, fear of being labeled “fat” keeps women grounded while in Iran women cannot comprehend being labeled “amoral” hence women are preoccupied with the idea of being thin or religious respectively. The idea of beauty creates enmity between women thereby making them a treat unto themselves. Since Patriarchal systems fear an independent female mind, they plant the seeds of vanity into their heads thereby making them keep a check on themselves. It is evident in both cases that women’s bodies exhibit a certain political dimension that cannot be ignored.

The book shows that there are double standards applied for men and women in Iran. In the course of a certain meeting held between the students and their dean, Satrapi recalls hearing the dean makes a condescending remark regarding the way women were dressing in the name of safeguarding religious and moral discipline. This offended Marjane and she questioned the speaker by asking him why there was a lack of reciprocity in modesty among male counterparts.

Most Islamic states that impose Sharia law overlook what Quran says about the male dressing code. Fear of feminine power based on their sexuality has been the cause of sustained women’s repression. Marjane differs from any view that incriminates women when two guardians stop her as she goes to see a dentist (Satrapi, 2004, 147). Marjane is obstinate and she hardly gives in to this doctrine that causes female guilt based on their sexuality since to her, the moral system is plain unequal. However, she is unable to totally rebel against the Islamic dressing code. She rebels by showing off some of her hair and wearing lipstick.

The role of Islamic women is restricted to household chores. This book puts forth the challenge of self-determination to women. Women in Islamic culture are expected to be dogmatic about the laws imposed on them and what is generally expected of them. Any deviation from the norm is checked and severe punishment imposed on the offending party. Most people in Islamic culture view wearing the veil as a path towards liberation while in western culture this is seen as a way to politically suppress women through religious pretexts.

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There is a point where one group of women strongly defends the veil while the other group calls for freedom. This leaves the reader with questions regarding the position of Iranian women on religious matters. It is not possible to figure whether they are for or against moral codes dictated to them by the Iranian regime. Marjane chooses to pray to God in a language that she understands rather than use Arabic. This makes her develop autonomy regarding moral and religious law thus avoiding contradictions brought about by confusion.

The Key to liberation according to Satrapi lies in the ability to independently engage in critical thought regarding matters touching on religion and politics. Her autobiography written in the form of a graphic novel combines the elements of captions, images and dialogue to induce emotions and create suggestions as to what is meant by a frame. The reader cannot help but interpret most things himself since the book is neither a political manual nor a religious discourse. The book seeks to empower women in making choices for their own customs and beliefs.

This graphic novel helps the reader relate to events taking place in Iran especially with difficulties that people had to endure during and after the revolution. The graphic stories show historical images of a general nature that help the reader delve more into his or her imaginations. The reader is able to follow the events by being able to connect with graphic narratives that are requisite to understanding the message the author intends to communicate.

Graphic narratives use frames of drawing with little text. The reader is prompted to read captions on the frame and then required to make a proper interpretation of the text in terms of art that are paneled. Marjane uses a black and white page with six to eight panels. Since the novel is about Marjane’s childhood, a person should try and understand its contents as a child would. The past and present of the Iranian Islamic revolution are symbolized by these two colors.

It is clear that Iran’s cultural history has faded. This kind of approach helps the reader to understand the plot and plot elements e.g. foreshadowing and irony gave that there is less text. The book clearly shows through the veil how the Iranian’s hopes of a better future were subsequently lost in the wake of Iran-Iraq war, the Islamic Revolution and the consolidation of power by the Islamic clerics. The rhetoric of the foregoing regimes had totally failed thereby prompting people like Marjane to write and expose the tyrannical and hypocritical nature of both the secular and the religious government that followed.

Works Cited

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis 2. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004. Print.

Excerpts

Identity Formation in "Persepolis" by Satrapi

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  1. The regime had understood that one person leaving her house while askingherself:
    “Are my trousers long enough?” “Is my veil in place?” “Can mymakeup be seen?” “Are they going to whip me?” no longer asks herself:
    “Where is my freedom of thought?” “Where is my freedom of speech?”
    “My life, is it livable?” “What’s going on in the political prisons?” …
    When we’re afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection. Our fear paralyzes us. (148)
  2. “Madam, why were you running?”
    “I’m very late! I was running to catch my bus.”
    “Yes…but…when you run, your behind makes movements that are…how do you say…obscene!”
    “WELL THEN DON’T LOOK AT MY ASS!” (147)
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