”Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi
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In the novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, there are many different themes that you could look at and decide to analyze. I decided to look at four different themes that are brought up throughout the novel. In the novel there is a lot of talk about the contrasting regions of Iran and everywhere else in the world, politics and religion, and warfare. In Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood, the concept of contrasting regions is explored by Satrapi when she talks about what it’s like to grow up in Iran, and to be misunderstood no matter where you go simply because of where you came from. The country of Iran acts like it hates Westerners, but a lot of its citizens envy Western culture. The main reason for the hate that Iran lashes out at Western culture is because we dismantled the old regime that they had, which happened to be a democracy. Western countries, mainly the United States and the United Kingdom, were blocked from buying Iranian oil by the former presidency, so they replaced the president with a Shah who would allow them to buy oil from Iran.
Because of this issue people in Iran will stereotype westerners in ways that we stereotype them, by what they wear and what we think we know about that culture. There are some cultures in the world that will stereotype other cultures. For example, when I visited Tanzania and Zanzibar, a lot of the African kids believed that the American kids from our school were all very wealthy. In their country, most people do not have running water or air conditioning, so what we see as normal things that we need and have in a house, these people do not have. Because of this, we seem extremely wealthy because we have things that they cannot afford to have. Some people in Iran may make it seem like Iran hates westerners, but Satrapi notices quite a difference in living in Vienna than she does in Iran. In Vienna, Satrapi had more freedoms than she had in Iran, and things were completely different from Iran.
In Vienna she had, “eight housemates were eight men, all homosexual” (Satrapi 25.4), and to Satrapi this was extremely different from what she was used to in Iran. In Iran, if people were homosexual, it was not widely spoken about. Muslim cultures did not want people to believe that they went against the Qur’an and had people who were homosexuals, so they never said anything about it. The religion of the people in Iran, Islam, plays an important role on the people and its politics, which is why the people of the Middle East fight and argue based on their religion. Religion and Politics go hand in hand when you look at the politics of most of the nations in the Middle East. There are similarities between the United States and Iran now, but in the past there weren’t a whole lot of similarities between the two countries politics. One big idea that is brought up is the openness and freedom of media in the United States versus the strict government controlled media in Iran. Media in that United States isn’t regulated and because of this, viewpoints can be swayed or skewed.
In a lot of Middle Eastern countries the news media isn’t as swayed because they will be monitored on what they can or cannot say, and they usually try and give both sides of the story. In Iran Politics are usually said to be based on religion, and the Shah was said to be, “chosen by God…That’s what it says on the first page of or schoolbook” (Satrapi 3.6, 3.10). What we learn from Satrapi in the novel is that the Shah was appointed by the Western governments so that they could buy oil from Iran. A lot of people can use religion to take political power, and it will be done because people are power hungry. Satrapi talks about the Mullah that she was interviewed by and the Mullah said that she was the only person who did not lie, and she felt that she was lucky to have met a “truly religious man”. Satrapi feels that there aren’t many true religious men in Iran, and most of them will use religion as a means to power.
She was happy to see that the man in charge if admitting her to college truly believes in his religion, and appreciates Satrapi’s true belief as well. Warfare is another theme that is brought up often, because at the time people had just been through one revolution and are heading into another war. “The Iranian fundamentalists tried to stir up their Iraqi Shiite allies against Saddam…He’s always wanted to invade Iran. And here’s the pretext. It’s the second Arab invasion.”(Satrapi 10.50) In Iran, to get kids to enlist into the military and fight in the war. The military and the government told the kids that if they fought in the war they would receive a gold key that would get them into heaven if they died in the war. In most countries we try and make war seem like a good thing, but we know that war is hell no matter how you experience it.
The sounds of gunfire is what some kids like to hear on their tv when they play games, but bullets tear through everything and are not stopped easily. Some people in the world seek war games as entertainment and think that it’s all just fun and games, but for the few people that have heard the gunshots and know the power of a bullet they know that no matter what the situation that you are in, war is chaotic and seems like you’re in a living hell. In Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood there are many themes that can be looked at and analyzed as main ideas in the novel. In the novel there is a lot of talk about the contrasting regions of Iran and everywhere else in the world, politics and religion, and warfare. Marjane Satrapi uses these ideas to convey what she lived through and saw on a daily basis, and she also showed us what her life was like at this time.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis The Story of a Childhood. New York. Pantheon Books 2004, print