Discussion Questions

What do clothes say about the people who wear them? When do they become an expression of identity?

During the civil rights movement in the United States, some African Americans wore a hairstyle called the Afro, which was considered an expression of black history, culture, and pride. When do expressions of identity become a protest?

Do you think that the state/government have the right to tell you what you can or cannot wear?

 

Reading Assignment Discussion questions

Immigration: What does being Iranian mean to Marjane as she adjusts to life as an exile in Austria?

Class Politics: how are the different factions of society affected by the revolution? In other words, discuss the people who have migrated to other countries as a result of the war and those families who decided to stay in Iran after the revolution.

Coming-of-Age: What are the stages in Marjane’s downward spiral that ends with her living on the streets? To what extent does she take responsibility for her failings? What changes has she gone through that lead her to embrace the veil and to return to Iran?

Humor: American writer William Zinsser has written that “humor is the writer’s armor against the hard emotions.” Is this the way that Satrapi seems to be using humor when she says that “every situation offered an opportunity for laughs” (97) and again that laughter is “the only way to bear the unbearable” (266)? What instances of humor stand out to you? Why?

Sexuality: How does Marji cope with her romantic relationships and sexual maturity in Austria?

The Iranian Revolution: How is revolution portrayed in the book? In Satrapi’s account, what are the stages of the revolution and what do these stages mean for the Iranian people?

 

 

The Shabbat and The dowry

As the bombing increased, Marji and her family lived with her Jewish neighbors but do not survive the next bombing raid.

The dowry becomes a revealing chapter as it shows the negative effects of the war. Marji’s family does not believe that she is safe in Iran and force her to migrate to Austria after they witness the execution of a young rebellious woman.

Her mother is gripped with fear by her rebelliousness, explaining that she risks execution, which is even worse for young women because it is against the law to kill a virgin. To circumvent this law, a Guardian of the Revolution will marry a condemned virgin, take her virginity, execute her, then sends a meagre dowry (and message) to her family. I

Part 2 Begins

Who makes Marjane feel at home in Austria? How do they do it?

What does a person need to feel at home in a foreign place?

Why do you think Marjane ends up with her group of “outsider” friends? What are your impressions of them?

Let’s discuss Marji’s life in Germany. How does she communicate with her roommate?

How does Marji cope with western holidays including Christmas?

Compare and contrast Marjane’s friends at school with Lucia and her family in Tyrol. In what ways do they make Marjane feel better about her new life?

 

Pasta

What is Anarchism, and why do you think Marjane’s friends are so interested in it?

 

What are some of the key differences between the culture in which Marjane was raised and the Western culture into which she tries to assimilate after she moves to Austria (118)?

Anarchism

Anarchism is a political philosophy that advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions. These are often described as stateless societies although several authors have defined them more specifically as institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations.

Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful. While anti-statism is central, anarchism entails opposing authority or hierarchical organisation in the conduct of all human relations, including, but not limited to, the state system.

Famous Anarchists

individualist anarchist thought in the United States and Europe.

Thoreau was an American author, poet, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher, and leading transcendentalist.

Civil Disobedience (Resistance to Civil Government) is an essay by Thoreau that was first published in 1849.

It argues that people should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that people have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau was motivated in part by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican–American War. It would influence Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Martin Buber and Leo Tolstoy through its advocacy of nonviolent resistance.

Understanding of Sexuality

How is her understanding of sex/sexuality different from Dimple?

How does Marjane respond to Momo’s suggestion that she “cultivate” herself?

 

 

Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex

Simone de Beauvoir – second sex

Published in 1949

it deals with the treatment of women throughout history and is often regarded as a major work of feminist philosophy and the starting point of second-wave feminism

She believes that woman’s inferiority in society is a result not of natural differences but of differences in the upbringing of man and woman.

“The eternal feminine” – French feminist philosophy – She uses the phrase “the eternal feminine” to describe all the terrifying processes of fertility and reproduction that arose from male discomfort with the fact of his birth and the inevitability of his death

The pasta

Why does Marjane get kicked out of the dormitory? Do you think she was justified in defending her background, or was she just being rude?

 

 

Nationality and perception

One of the nuns tells her off for eating out of a pot, and then insults her for being Iranian, saying that Iranians have no education. Marji talks back to the nun, saying that she was a prostitute before becoming a nun, and ends up getting kicked out of the boarding house.

The pill

Julie introduces Marjane to many new ideas about sex and being a woman in the western world. Which ideas does Marjane accept, and which make her feel uncomfortable? (187-8)

The Vegetable

Marjane goes through many physical changes in this chapter—both voluntary and involuntary. How do they think they affect her?

 

How have your physical changes affected you over your lifetime?

The Vegetable

Marjane says that her life in Austria felt like “playing a game by somebody else’s rules.” What does she mean by this? Does she have to play by “somebody else’s rules” to survive in her new home, or not?

The Vegetable

Discussion Questions

How do you think Marjane and her mother’s relationship have changed since Marjane left Iran? Do you think they are closer or more distant now that they live in different countries?

Marjane proclaimes Markus “the first great love of [my] life” (65) but their relationship has its own challenges and troubles. Do you think Markus is a good boyfriend to Marjane? What happens in the chapter that supports your opinion? How do some Austrians make Marjane feel like an outsider? Why do you think they act this way towards her?

Why does Marjane request that her parents never ask about the three months she went missing? Do you think this was the right thing to do?

Look at the last frame in the chapter. What do you think Marjane’s attitude is about going back to Iran? Make a prediction about how life will go for her after she returns.

 

Hide and Seek

There is an actual hide and seek game in this chapter, but what other meanings might this title have for Marjane? What is she seeking and/or hiding from?

Marjane proclaimes Markus “the first great love of [my] life” but their relationship has its own challenges and troubles. Do you think Markus is a good boyfriend to Marjane? What happens in the chapter that supports your opinion?

How do some Austrians make Marjane feel like an outsider? Why do you think they act this way towards her? (page 122) “dirty foreigner”

 

Hide and seek

Marji ‘s boyfriend Enrique invites her to a party, and, although it’s not what she expects, she has fun. She meets Enrique’s friend Ingrid, and, when she wakes up in the morning with Enrique not next to her, jumps to the conclusion that he is in love with Ingrid, but, later that day, he reveals to Marji that he is, in fact, gay. Marji is feeling confused, and has a long talk with her physics teacher. She decides that she wants a physical relationship, and, after failing miserably with the boy she likes, begins getting farther and farther into drugs.

She soon meets Markus, a student at her school, and falls in love with him, but their relationship is frowned upon by both Markus’s mother and Frau Dr. Heller. Marji procures some drugs for Markus, and gains a reputation as a drug dealer. Marji feels ashamed and believes that she betrayed her country and her mother by not being the best she could be.

The Croissant

Some of Marjane’s friends are very concerned about the new conservative, “Nazi-like” politicians in Austria. Why doesn’t Marjane seem to share their anger?

What are some of the ways Marjane and Markus grow apart during this chapter?

 

The Veil

Why is the chapter called the “veil”?

Why does Marjane end up on the streets? Do you think it’s a situation she could have avoided?

Why does Marjane request that her parents never ask about the three months she went missing? Do you think this was the right thing to do?

Look at the last frame in the chapter. What do you think Marjane’s attitude is about going back to Iran? Make a prediction about how life will go for her after she returns. (page 244-245)

What are the stages in Marjane’s downward spiral that ends with her living on the streets? To what extent does she take responsibility for her failings? What changes has she gone through that lead her to embrace the veil and to return to Iran?

 

 

The return

How have Marjane’s parents changed since she left Iran? What is their attitude towards the Iran-Iraq war, and why? (page 250-251)

Marjane’s father complains that the West supplied both sides of the war with weapons and supplies. Why do you think that they did this?

At the end of the chapter, Marjane decides never to tell her parents about her “misadventures” in Europe. Do you think she made the right choice? What about the fact that she eventually wrote this book?

The return

The return

After living in Vienna for 4 years, Marji finally returns to Tehran. She can feel the oppression in the air, now more so than ever.

At the airport, she recognizes her parents instantly, noticing the war has aged them faster than time normally would. Marji has changed so much, her parents don’t even recognize her until she approaches them herself. On the way home, she sits in silence as she tries to take in being back on Iranian soil.

The next morning, she takes notice of the things around her room that were remnants of her “punk” younger years. She sponges off a punk she had drawn on her wall as an action to move on to the future.

A few hours after doing so, she decides to go out. Donning her veil once more, she takes in the 65-foot murals of martyrs, rebel slogans, and the streets renamed after the dead. She hurries home. When her father arrives, there is slight awkwardness until he starts to tell Marji the story of the war. He tells her of the horrors and they talk deep into the night. After hearing what her parents had gone through while she was away in Vienna, she resolves to never tell them of her time there

The Persepolis Overall

In Persepolis Satrapi tells many people’s stories besides her own–her mother’s memories of visiting her own father in prison, Anoosh’s story of his Uncle Fereydoon, and others. How are these stories related to her own? What value does Satrapi attribute to storytelling?

How are the personal stories of individual citizens related to the history of their nation?

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