The graphic novel Persepolis explores the cultural revolution that took place in Iran during the 1970’s-1980’s and the effects this revolution had on various groups in Iranian society. Written in French and translated into twenty four different languages, Persepolis is purposely made accessible to a variety of countries. Satrapi offers the audience a vast cultural immersion into the country of Iran, which many people from different cultural backgrounds struggle relating to this Middle Eastern society. The reporting and documentation that surround Iran’s revolution and history portray it as an extremist country that is dangerous to Western countries, one that is full of terrorists and martyrdoms . Because of this fear directed towards Iran, Satrapi attempts to humanize Iranians in the eyes of the west by showing that they have emotions that can be translated to each society. Inviting the audience of these outside countries to question their beliefs about the people who reside in Iran, Persepolis allows the reader to expand not only their understanding of another culture but their moral compass.
To understand the lead up to the revolution that occurred in 1979, Satrapi illustrates the western countries’ avarice for oil, an abundant resource in the country of Iran. Great Britain’s leader is portrayed as untrustworthy and someone who manipulates Reza to become the next shah in order to improve the economy of his own country (20-21). The panel in the center of page 21 demonstrates the monstrosity of Great Britain’s actions; the leader looking down upon and hovering over Reza indicate his superiority and power. Contrasting black and white, graphic weight exemplifies the power of Great Britain and the malicious intent they had (21). Now the audience can recognize the impact that western governments have had on the country of Iran, all for their own benefit. By showing the parasitic relationship between the west and Iran, Satrapi strikes at the western audience’s beliefs that there are rarely poor consequences to their country’s actions. This malicious portrayal in pages twenty and twenty one help break down the barrier between the audience and the Iranians of the novel, and allow there to be understanding and sentiment as to why some Iranians view the west as treacherous and dangerous.
Marji throughout the novel lashes back at the revolutionaries ideal that women should be restrained. Even on page one Marji expresses that she “didn’t really like to wear the veil”, despite being required to do so (1). This dislike for the veil represents Marji’s disdain for the restriction on her freedoms, which can transcend to many western cultures with women who fight for equality each and every day. By having the main character of the novel, Marji, be against this requirement for wearing the Veil, Satrapi cleverly helps much of the Western audience relate to the novel. Furthermore, by creating this connection between the audience and the Iranians, Persepolis illustrates that both humans in Western Countries and Iran deal with the same day to day problems. This idea of connecting with Iranians extends to when Marji rejoices when finding her mother after a missile attack (140). The sharp edged dialogue bubbles containing bold letter and exclamation marks create and emotional effect on the audience when reading the words “‘MARJI’” and “‘MOM!’”(140). Everyone can relate to the fear of losing a loved one. Although silly and childish, Satrapi demonstrates that Iranians can make jokes involving “farts” and “poopoo” (92). Joking in the novel is an important moment because this shows despite all the struggle and conflict surrounding Marji’s family and the Iranians, that they still have the desire to enjoy themselves. All these emotions may seem as a given, that all humans share despite culture, religion or the society in which they live. However, in modern times many individuals forget that not all the people who inhabit countries like Iran are murderers. Thus, Persepolis is a vehicle in which Satrapi writes of a realistic family who contains many emotions and thoughts that we as westerners have. Through, the eyes of Marji, the reader is able to learn and understand that Iranians are not only humans like us, but also the possibility to do great things.