The Complete Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi

Lecture 2: 87-172

Marjane Satrapi

Marjaane Satrapi – biography

Satrapi was born in Rasht and grew up in Tehran in a middle-class Iranian family.

Her parents were both politically active and supported Marxist causes against the monarchy of the last Shah. When the Iranian Revolution finally took place, they were dismayed and intimidated by the Muslim fundamentalists who took power.

Born in 1969 in Rasht, Iran, Satrapi grew up in Iran’s capital, Tehran. She was an only child of secular, Marxist parents. Iran’s Islamic Revolution against the shah, the country’s monarch, took place in 1979, the year Satrapi turned ten, and her child’s-eye view of the changes in her country later became a focus of her first book.

Her parents, who were against the regime of the shah, happily joined in the first protests that helped depose him, but the religious rule that followed turned out to be worse for them. An uncle of Satrapi’s was imprisoned by the shah’s regime, then executed by revolutionaries. Her mother, who was not religious, eventually felt compelled to wear Islamic garb to avoid attracting the attention of the religious police.



Marjaane Satrapi – Biography

At 18, she moved back to Tehran, where she attended college and struggled to adjust to living behind a veil and under the watch of the religious police, which would sometimes raid and break up the parties where she and her friends would wear makeup and western clothes.

After college, she moved to France, where she studied art in Strasbourg, then moved to Paris. Some of her friends there, who were part of a prominent artist’s studio called the Atelier des Vosges, introduced her to graphic novelists, starting with Art Spiegelman, whose graphic novel Maus told the story of the Holocaust through the lives of a few Jewish survivors

She realized she could tell stories and make serious points the same way. “Images are a way of writing,” she wrote on the Pantheon website. “When you have the talent to be able to write and to draw it seems a shame to choose one. I think it’s better to do both.” Graphic novels had some of the advantages of filmmaking as a way to tell stories, but without needing sponsors or actors, she added.



1. According to the introduction, what stereotypical image is Satrapi trying to dispel?

2. The author indicates two motives for writing Persepolis. What are they?

Persopolis (Overview)

Satrapi created a book of black-and-white comic strips about living in Tehran from ages six to 14. The book, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (named after a part of Iran known for its ruins) tells the story of her growing up, while also showing the Islamic Revolution and its effects on Iranians. Toward the end of the book, war breaks out between Iran and Iraq, and her mother puts tape on the windows of the family home, anticipating correctly that Iraqi bombs will fall nearby.

The book also included moments of humor. “Tales of torture and war are offset by lighter scenes, like the 13-year-old Marjane trying to convince the morals police that her Michael Jackson button is really a button of Malcolm X, ‘the leader of black Muslims in America,'” wrote Tara Bahrampour in the New York Times. Iranians, Satrapi explained, are used to using humor to stave off despair.

Edward Nawotka, writing in People, called Persepolis “one of the quirkiest, most entertaining memoirs in recent years.” Dave Welch of said it “expressed in deceptively simple black-and-white drawings the broken heart and crushed hope of a people.” One slightly dissenting comment came from Joy Press, writing in the Village Voice, who found Satrapi’s youthful, innocent voice powerful but complained that the book did not reach the emotional depth of Maus and that its summaries of Iranian history were cute but not insightful. “Satrapi keeps us at arm’s length, so that we never feel fully involved in this girl’s intellectual and moral transformation,” Press wrote.


Persopolis – Part II (Overview)

The sequel, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return, was published in the United States in 2004. Nawotka of People declared it “the most original

Representation of death

The Persopolis – The Party

Aftermath of massacres after Black Friday

Sees hypocrisy that people who were at one time supporting the shah are touting pro-revolution slogans

Shah’s secret service (Savak) who is unapologetic about killing communists

Marjaane learns about tolerance/intolerance

The Persopolis – The heroes

3000 political prisoners are released (1978)

“Bad people are dangerous but forgiving them is too. Don’t worry there is justice on earth” (52)

Marji’s understanding of heroism – why is her father not a hero or a revoultionary?

The idea of shame

Marji’s central conflict in the chapter – what is justice? Injustice?


The Persopolis -Moscow

Introduction of Anoosh – a communist revolutionary and a “hero”

Anoosh versus Freydoon – believer of ideals of justice and democracy

Escapes to USSR –becomes a Russian Marxist-Leninist scholar and marries a Russian woman

Russians versus Iranians

Idea of “family memory” – 64 – telling and retelling of storytelling

The persopolis – The Sheep

Discussion with Marji’s father – illertracy of Iranian population and as a result, they are unware of Marxist ideologies which can, according to him , unite them – nationalism or religious ethic would work. – Do you agree with his observation? Why or why not?

1979 – Khomeini comes into power and Marjis life has changed forever. Many people escape to Europe and other countries

Anoosh argues that its just a period of “transition” – many communists are executed including Anoosh on the charge of being a Russian spy (70) – loss of family and friends – the period of transition takes a sinister turn

Marji’s home bombed (71) – the start of the Iran-Iraq war


The Persopolis – The Trip

Fundamentalist takeover of the American embassy – inability for Marji to migrate to US

Universities closed for 2 years – the need to make textbooks more Islamic

The rise of the veil by the fundamentalists – forbiddance of attraction between opposite sexes

Trip to Europe – the war had been going for three months – the need to shield the child from the violence – very unlike Lenny who was exposed to the violence outright because of her connections with Ayah and so on.






The Persopolis – f-14

“War always takes you by surprise”

Marji’s father is doubtful about Iran’s ability to defend itself since all the pilots were either jailed or executed after a failed coup d’état, an attitude that Marji interprets as defeatist and unpatriotic. They realized afterwards that the jailed pilots agreed to be freed in order to attack Iraq only on the condition that the government broadcast the national anthem.

Replace National Anthem with Islamic Hymn

BBC – a mouthpiece for truth? But also Western media? Where are the lines between the two?

The discussion of war in school – her report on the war’s history was disliked versus Pardisse’s report “letter to her father” – dead and hero – was much preferred – what does this mean in terms of the information that was being taught at school?



”I wish he were alive and in jail rather than dead and a hero” (86)

How do you define a hero?

How do you define a martyr?

The jewels: Effects of war

Supermarkets were empty

Jerry cans to get gas

People were fleeing from nearby cities to Tehran. As a result, the resources were getting low and tensions between people were increasing.

The key

Page 95

“In school, they lined us up twice a day to mourn the war dead. They put on funeral marches and we had to beat our breasts”

The Key

What is the purpose of a “capital chamber,” and why are there so many of them in Tehran?

In this chapter, adults seek to influence the younger population of Iran in different ways. How do Marjane and her school mates defy their teachers? On the last page of the chapter (102), there are only two frames. Compare and contrast their images and their messages. (They look similar but show opposite experiences–what does this say about life and war?)


Education – Compare and contrast with I am Malala (pp. 98)

Why was Marji’s generation so rebellious? What does the teacher blame?


What injustices do the parents see in the educational system? Which restriction is particularly ironic?


What are the similarities and differences between the institution of education in Persepolis and I am Malala?

The key to Paradise

And what is the significance of the “golden” key given to boys?

The key

On the last page of the chapter (102), There are only two frames.


Compare and contrast their images and their messages. (They look similar but show opposite experiences–what does this say about life and war?)


Western ways of Life: The Wine and Cigarette

Marjane’s family enjoys having parties and drinking–what precautions do they take, and why do they continue despite the danger of being found out? Why do people seek to keep their regular routines even in dangerous times?

What understanding does Marjane come to about the war? Why could it have been avoided?


In the last frame, she announces that “with this first cigarette, I kissed childhood goodbye.” Do you believe her? What does it take to go from being a child to an adult?

The Passport: Chemical weapons (pp.122)

Kim Wilde (133)

What was the purpose of the Guardians of the Revolution? What happens when they encounter Marji? How does Marji respond?


The dowry

Where do Marji’s parents decide to send their daughter? Why? What is Marji’s reaction?

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