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Personal Troubles and Public Issues in Persepolis Essay

Marjane Satrapi’s novel Persepolis is an in depth look at Marjane’s child hood in Iran. Throughout the novel Marji faces many public issues which directly relate to her personal troubles. While Marji was growing up she witnessed the relinquishment of the Shah’s regime, The Islamic revolution and the Iraq v Iran war. Her novel covers an eight year span, from the ages six to fourteen. Even though the novel begins when Marji is only six years old she was more politically aware then most modern day adolescents. Marji was extremely young during majority of the events throughout the novel but her age did not stop public issues from directly affecting herself and others around her. While reading Persepolis I was able to get an in depth look at how Iran not only was in war with surrounding Countries but also at war within its own borders.

When Persepolis first began Marji attended a coed non religious school. This was normal for Iran until the Cultural Revolution. The Iranian government ordered that bilingual schools be closed down because they were a sign of capitalization and westernization. This caused great turmoil among the people of Iran. Half of the women were against wearing the veil and the other half were highly religious and believed that the veil must be worn as sign of respect to their religion and also their country. This public issue directly affected Marji because her mother was among the women who believed the veil wasn’t necessary.

Seeing as Marji’s mother was strongly against being forced to wear the veil she often participated in demonstrations, one time while she was demonstrating her photo was taken. Marji’s mom had to go into hiding she was forced to dye her hair and hide her face in public out of the fear that someone would recognize her. This public issue became very personal for Marji because she thought of herself as strongly religious and even wanted to be a prophet but she wasn’t sure if the veil was a necessary accessory at all times. “I really didn’t know what to think about the veil deep down I was very religious but as a family we were very modern and avant-garde.”(Persepolis page 7)

Another public issue that deeply affected Marji was the chapter of Persepolis entitled The Letter (page 34) . Marji’s had a maid named Mehri who Marji considered her older sister. Mehri fell in love with their neighbor Hossein and he began writing her letters but because Mehri was a peasant she couldn’t read or write. Marji began reading the letters to Mehri and writing responses since Mehri was not capable of doing so. This went on for six months until the news got back to Marji’s dad. Since Marji’s parents were Marxist they strongly believed in social classes. That meant they was no way Mehri and Hossein could be together because she was a peasant and she was not. Social class is a public issue that quickly turned into a personal trouble because Marji didn’t agree with her parents beliefs and also because she couldn’t stand seeing Mehri so emotionally distraught. “But is it her fault she was born where she was born?”(Persepolis page 37)

Marji’s father had a brother that she had never met, his name was Anoosh. He was a hero in Marji’s eyes because he had been the secretary of Azerbaijan which was an independent Iranian Province. Anoosh told Marji everything about his past from the rise and fall of Azerbaijan to the brutal torture he endured during his nine years in prison. Marji was so ecstatic to have such a historical hero in her family. Anoosh stayed with Marji’s family until he was arrested simply for being a former revolutionary.

Former revolutionaries were the sworn enemies of the republic; they were being arrested or murdered frequently. Marji was the last person to see Anoosh before he was executed because he was believed to be a Russian Spy. The public issue that the republic was against revolutionaries turned into a personal trouble because Marji’s favorite uncle was murdered and also because after the death of her uncle Marji became upset with her friend (god). “What seems to be the problem? Shut up, You! Get out of my life!!!! I never want to see you again! GET OUT!” (Persepolis page 70)

Persepolis provided me with examples of how a child’s society can impact them personally. Growing up in the Iranian society effected Marji both negatively and positively. She was taught about her governments flaws instead of shielded from them, she was raised to stand up for her own personal beliefs, and she experienced death happiness and the pain of reality. Marjane’s novel also helped me understand the turmoil that goes on in Iran that I had never noticed before. Personally I believe America is similar to Iran but here instead of being ridiculed because of not wearing your veil, you are ridiculed because of your skin tone.


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