A Look in the Iranian Revolution in Persepolis, a Novel by Marjane Satrapi
In Persepolis, written by Marjane Satrapi, readers are informed about the Iranian Revolution through a memoir. As a graphic novel, Persepolis, highlights many historical events that occurred during Marjane’s life during the Iranian Revolution. Marjane is an adventurous character but can also be seen as a rebel for not following Sharia. Humor is used heavily in this graphic novel as a way to not only appeal to the readers, but to convey some of the more important themes in an unconventional, yet, dynamic way. Many readers would agree that the usage of humor in Persepolis, does not distract readers from serious events that occurred in the novel, but instead, help readers better understand Marjane’s life growing up in a developing country at the time. Readers are also able to relate to Marjane through the usage of humor which helps readers better understand Marjane’s feelings.
Some instances where humor is used as a way to describe a serious event or scene can be found in many parts of the novel that will be discussed throughout the paper. Marjane had a very special bond with “God”. Prior to her uncle’s death, she would talk good to God and would feel safe around him. She told God” I didn’t know what justice was. Now that the revolution was finally over once and for all, I abandoned the dialectic materialism of my comic strips. The only place I felt safe was in the arms of my friend [God]” (Satrapi 53). As a young girl, Marjane has a strong bond with God for she feels that he is the only one that can protect her, especially at difficult times. It is until her uncle is killed in prison through the corrupt government where she has a change of heart. She feels as if she has no one else to blame besides God. God was the only figure in her life and he disappointed her in her eyes.
She tells God” Shut up, you! Get out of my life!! I never want to see you again!” (Satrapi 70). While some readers can see the humor behind this as the illustration shows Marjane on top of the bed so that she is the height of God while she is shouting and pointing at him, the idea of faith is shown here and at this moment, Marjane had lost faith in her only friend. This scene is very crucial for readers to understand why faith is a theme in this section. Marjane had went through many challenges and faced unfortunate loses at a very young age. The one person who she grew close with, her uncle, was taken away from her. In addition, there is a photo of Marjane floating in space alone with no dialogue ( Satrapi 71). Where God is usually at, in the sky, there is no one besides Marjane. At this moment, Marjane realizes that after she had casted God out of her life, she is left with no one.
Marjane continues to face more challenges in her country. It is very difficult to enjoy her childhood when she is restricted from doing anything fun or that appears to be “western” affiliated. She welcomes herself into adulthood by smoking a cigarette. She says “ As for me, I sealed my act of rebellion against my mother’s dictatorship by smoking the cigarette i’d stolen from my uncle two weeks earlier… Now I was a grown up” (Satrapi 117). In this illustration, Marjane is seeing coughing as she is trying to smoke her first cigarette. In the last photo, she is seen holding the cigarette in her hand and putting her hand up as if she is pledging.
There are many things wrong with this scene for one, there is a young girl smoking a cigarette. In the eye’s of the guardians of the revolution, this type of behavior would also be deemed as inappropriate. It is also evident that this type of behavior is wrong in Marjane’s eyes as well. Her understanding of smoking as an act of disobedience is what makes it an assertion of her adulthood which many readers would be able to agree upon. On top of all this, there is also another factor that contributes to her disobedience; she has no parental guidance. Readers would agree that Marjane had experienced events in her young life that no young girl should have witnessed or dealt with and for Marjane, it is a reason why she is so eager to want to become an adult. She has been forced to mature.Furthermore, readers can see how much hope Marjane has lost for her country. She is aware of how unfair the new system in Iran is and does not want to take part of it. She wants to continue to express her individuality, even if it means going against what everyone else believes is the “right thing” to do. As a comical character, Marjane has a way with getting out of trouble and it is through lieing. While lying may not be the ideal way to handle sticky situations, Marjane is left with the choice of being detained for days and whipped or just lie to the nuns about the clothes that Marjane is wearing. Marjane says “Ma’am, my mother’s death.
My stepmother is really cruel and if I don’t go home right away, she’ll kill me… burn me with the clothes iron!” (Satrapi 134). Marjane then cries hysterically, hoping that the nun would budge and set her free, and it worked. Many readers would be able to see the humor behind this scene, for Marjane is a young girl who who is fighting to keep her individuality. Readers could see that Marjane intended to do no harm with her skinny jeans and music. In eyes of the guardians, she is called a whore for it (Satrapi 133). People can see how this type of treatment can negatively impact an individual’s life. Women are being called whores and sent to the committee by the nuns for things that readers might not deem as inappropriate or bad. This type of behavior makes readers feel more sympathy for Marjane.
While readers may get a humorous feeling when Marjane lies to the nuns, the important message behind this scene is basically saving oneself from cruel and unnecessary punishment which many would probably agree is the favorable option. On one hand, there are some instances where readers do not see Marjane as a comical character, but rather a disrespectful young girl. Since Marjane has such a strong character in terms of expressing her personality and voice, she can come across as being a stubborn girl who does not like being told what to do. In this scene, Marjane and her peers are acting out with the nuns.
Marjane and her friends had made masks out of their hijabs, decorated the classroom with toilet paper and pretended to be martyrs ( Satrapi 97). This type of behavior can be seen as childish and disrespectful to the nuns as wells as their culture. In this scene, readers can feel pity for the nuns as they are being taunted by young girls who are acting out. They have no control of the kids and are being laughed at. Punishment is an understandable way to handle a situation like this. On the other hand, Marjane and her friends are being who they are: kids. Of course kids want to have some fun and when they are being absolutely restricted from doing anything that seems fun, it is okay to have some fun. These kids are not directly hurting anyone, but instead, getting a little kick out of the situation. In addition, the nun in the scene mentioned above was very harsh with her words towards the girls which could be seen wrong as she is suppose to be an adult trying to calm a group of girls down.
She tells them: “ You’re as worthless as your decorations! You’re worthless!! You hear me?! Worthless!!!…”( Satrapi 97). These are very harsh words to tell elementary school girls. This could be a reason perhaps why these young girls do not have respect for the nuns for the way that they are treated and talked down against. Like the common saying, two wrongs do not make a right and as adults, the nuns should know how to talk appropriate and respect to young school girls. To wrap up, the idea of humor was a great tactic for Satrapi to use to engage her readers in Persepolis. By using humor, Satrapi was able to not only engage her readers, but also convey her messages in an untraditional type of way. While readers did have to take the extra step to actually see the importance behind some of the comical scenes, it did not distract them from the overall purpose of the graphic novel. Readers were able to get an understanding of Marjane’s feelings and see her grow as a comical character in Persepolis. As mentioned before, Marjane could have came off as a disrespectful character with her type of character but it was then revealed that it was not the case. Readers were able to see how the struggles that Marjane faced growing up in Iran affected the way Marjane viewed others, such as guardians. It was evident that Marjane did lack guidance in her life but it only made her into a strong, independent woman who stood up for what she believed.