Oppression and Marginalization in Persepolis: Story of Childhood

The memoir in the form of a graphic novel Persepolis: the story of a childhood, published in the early 2000’s gives the reader an insight into the daily life of Marjane Satrapi after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. This not only includes her day to day life, but also her thoughts, feelings, and experiences under an oppressive regime. Within the context of Marjane’s childhood, the reader can see how secular individuals were marginalized/excluded in that era. In addition, Marjane explores her own traumatic experiences with oppression and marginalization.

Throughout the graphic novel, the author highlights the struggles faced by nonreligious people and in particular her parents under the Islamic regime. Marjane’s parents live a relatively well-off lifestyle, frequent parties, and illegally enjoy alcohol. In essence they live a life that is heavily frowned upon by the new government, and at times secular people have even been executed for such behaviour. In the chapter named “The Wine”, on page 105 and 106 the reader can see Marjane’s mother putting masking tape and black curtains over their house’s windows because: “The black curtains are to protect us from the neighbours”. Her mother is referring here to the fear of the neighbours reporting their parties to the regime police and the subsequent reprimanding that would be sure to follow. Further on in the same chapter, on page 109 to 110, we can see Marjane’s father getting into trouble with the police due to their suspicion that he may have been drinking. Marjane’s father commands her and her grandmother to, as soon as their reach their home, to flush all the alcohol down the toilet. The frame where we see Marjane and her grandmother frantically pouring all the alcohol into the toilet excellently highlights how desperate they are to not get caught by the police, and this in turn shows how tangential their lifestyle is to the party’s ideals. The suffering that Marjane’s parents experience due to oppression by the government however reaches its climax at the end of the graphic novel when the reader is shown the sacrifices that they have to make, when they are forced to let go of their only daughter so that she could have a better life abroad in Austria. The irony of the marginalization experienced by these secularists is that a majority of them, Marjane’s parents in particular, were protesting against the Shah’s regime for being too oppressive and backwards in their view.

Other than the secular people being oppressed, the author also explores in depth her personal experiences from growing up under this fundamentalist regime. This theme is explored as early as the first chapter, or even the first page, where we can see Marjane looking quite sad as she is wearing the Muslim veil. “We found ourselves veiled and separated from our friends.”, the reader given first hand insight into the thoughts and feelings of young Marjane through this quote. Once again considering the very first page, we see the author reflecting on her old class photo in the second frame. The girls in the picture look somewhat unhappy and seem to strikingly resemble each other. This accurately outlines the dehumanizing effect the veil has on these young girls, under the regime they are no longer seen as individuals and are simply faceless factors to be controlled by the government. Yet the oppression does not stop at the veil, the Islamic revolution had other long-term effects on Marjane’s childhood. “I wanted to be an educated, liberated woman…and so another dream went up in smoke.” Under the Regime, she would not be able to receive a good education as a woman, or work in the field that she desires.

All of the above-mentioned points are expressed in the format of a graphic novel. Specifically, in unambiguous, black and white images. This allows the author to amplify the themes of war and oppression, giving the novel a more grim and serious tone. When paired with the innocence of Marjane as a child growing up, this text type expertly allows for the author to highlight the injustices faced by innocents in the name of religious fundamentalism. In conclusion, the central motif of the novel is the oppression and marginalization many such as Marjane’s parents (and secularists as a whole) and she herself were subject to under the authoritarian Islamic republic. The format of the novel and the monochrome frames allow for the reader to easily envision the dark reality and fear experienced by these individuals. Through the drawings, the author depicts all of the people somehow related to the Islamic government in a way reminiscent of a caricature. This is Marjane’s way of showing the reader of how she, as a child, saw certain individuals as evil. The memoir as a whole allows for a person who is unfamiliar with the atrocities committed in the name of fundamentalism in Iran to gain a mere glimpse of the injustices and fear experienced by those people.

Works Cited

  1. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, 2003
09 March 2021
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