In the book, Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, the main character is the author as a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979. She starts off as an incredibly positive child with enormous faith in herself and her relationship with G-d. Through her experiences, especially when she was in her crucial, early teenage years, she completely loses her faith in G-d and also rebels against her environment. The author wants to show the Western world that there are many people in Iran, like Marjane, that are no different than Westerners. She does this by describing her childhood teenage conflicts with her parents, with oppression and with her faith in G-d, all of which most Western teenagers could easily relate to. Marjane’s conflicts prove that she is not just a spoiled teenager, rebelling for no other reason than just being a teenager, but that the environment she was in would make most teenagers rebel.
Two of Marjane’s conflicts with her parents come from her strong desire to participate in the public protests against the Shah. Marjane has a close relationship with her parents, whose activism against oppression influences her greatly. She sees her parents go to protests against the Shah and she desperately wants to join in and be a part of it. On panels 16.9-17.6, Marjane is begging her parents to allow her to join them in the next day’s protests. She says to them, “For a revolution to succeed, the entire population must support it.” They tell her she can’t go yet because it is too dangerous.
She is very upset with them for not letting her go. Later, on panels 38.1-39.5, Marjane defies her parents’ authority by attending a demonstration with her maid, Mehri. The author narrates, “When I finally understood the reasons for the Revolution I made my decision.” Marjane is referring to her decision to go to a protest against the Shah. This is after her maid’s heart is broken because the boy she is in love with dumps her when he finds out she is below his social class. Marjane believes that the Revolution will abolish the social class system. These two examples of conflict with her parents show that Marjane is not just acting out against her parents, but cares deeply for the future of her country and those closest to her, like her maid.
The Islamic Fundamentalists’ new rules and laws also create conflicts for Marjane because of the influence from her parents’ secular beliefs and her previous secular schooling. On panels 96.1-98.7, the author describes Marjane’s new school environment after her secular French school is shut down. The students are forced into Islamic schools where the girls and boys are separated. They have new rituals to perform, like hitting themselves to honor the Iran-Iraq war casualties. Almost immediately, the students begin to make fun of the rituals and the new teachers enforcing them. The school is so upset with the students’ behavior that the parents are called in for a lecture as well. At the end of the lecture, Marjane’s father says to the teacher, “If hair is as stimulating as you say, then you need to shave your mustache!”
This shows Marjane’s parents’ rebellion against the Fundamentalism, which heavily influences Marjane. It also shows that Marjane, and her fellow students in this case, are not doing anything wrong in their parents’ eyes, but simply having a tough time adapting to this completely new set of beliefs, rules and laws. A similar conflict for Marjane revolves around the new, strict rules on what women can wear in public. On panels 130.1-134.4, Marjane’s parents return from a trip to Turkey with gifts of Western clothing for her.
She immediately puts them on, gets a compliment from her mother, and goes out to buy some black market rock and roll tapes. She is confronted by the Guardians of the Revolution for wearing the Western clothing and almost gets arrested. Like any teenager who receives cool, new clothes from their parents, she wants to immediately enjoy wearing them. Also, she has only known freedom and has been taught by her parents that it is OK to express herself with clothing. Rather than being a spoiled teenager, rebelling against the Fundamentalists, she is simply a teenager expressing herself and trying to enjoy herself in her new clothes.
Marjane’s environment also causes her to have a major conflict with her faith in G-d. As a young girl, Marjane truly believes that she will be the Last Prophet. (6.3-9.6) She feels so strongly about this and her relationship with G-d she even endures ridicule from her classmates for saying she will be a Prophet. But, as her environment changes, and the Revolution starts to build, she shows signs of conflict with her faith in G-d. On Panel 10.1 she says, “My faith was not unshakable.” On 10.2 the author narrates, “The year of the Revolution I had to take action. So I put my prophetic destiny aside for a while.” The fact that she truly believed she would become a prophet, to the point of enduring ridicule, showed that she was very serious about her faith in G-d. Then her environment changes so much due to the building Revolution and the terrible things happening in Iran under the Shah’s government that she takes her emotional energy away from her faith in G-d and starts to put it towards the Revolution.
Her once strong relationship with G-d ends completely when her uncle Anoosh is falsely accused of being a Russian spy and executed. (70.1) On panel 70.4, Marjane tells G-d, “Get out of my life! I never want to see you again!” Throughout the rest of Persepolis, Marjane never again mentions G-d. She went from believing she is a prophet, and talking to G-d regularly, to completely rejecting Him. This profound change shows that Marjane’s life was deeply affected by her environment. When the tough environment Marjane grew up in is considered, her conflicts with her parents, with oppression and with her faith in G-d seem understandable.
Her conflicts with her parents arose mainly from her desire to protest because that’s what she thought she should be doing. Her conflicts with her oppressive, Islamic Fundamentalist school are understandable because it was all new for her and her classmates. And finally, her conflict with her faith in G-d was due to the overwhelming circumstances of the Revolution and the oppressive, Islamic Fundamentalist regime. Her reactions to her environment seem completely normal and justified. She is not a rebellious child and teenager, but is just very committed to whatever she believes in, and conflict almost always comes with commitment.
Courtney from Study Moose
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