A Comparison of Western Culture in Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Marji’s Versus Western Culture

On page 185 of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, the differences between Marji’s fundamentalist background and Western culture becomes quite obvious, as Marji struggles to adjust to the lifestyle of the local Austrians. After Marji moves to Austria, there is a sudden development in her maturity, as she is sent away from her parents and childhood home; however, her experiences adapting to a society so different from her’s, emphasizes the innocence that is still strongly present in her. At the party that Julia throws, Marji thinks, “The party was not what I imagined. In Iran, at parties, everyone would dance and eat. In Vienna, people preferred to lie around and smoke” (185). This panel and caption reveals a clear division between young adults growing up in war-times, and teenagers in Austria. In Iran, the citizens cherished life so much more, because they risked losing it on a daily basis and faced constant severe threats.

Meanwhile, in Austria, teenagers haven’t learned to appreciate their health, loved ones, and luxuries. While the Persians are throwing parties to celebrate with families/friends and take their minds of tragedy during the small portion of leisure time they can get, Austrians are constantly looking for distractions from what they see as a boring, routine life, leading them to substances and “all these public displays of affection” (185). In the image, Marji is sitting in the dark corner of a crowded, yet vacant room, surrounded by smoke, intoxicated teenagers, and couples. Her face not only expresses fear, but shock, as she says “I came from a traditionalist country” (165)- this party was an abrupt submergence into a culture she’d barely experienced.

The concern in Marji’s eyes can also come across as ironic after reading further into the text, because the terrified, innocent, girl at Julie’s party is so far from the drug dealing, boy-hungry, teen that she develops into. While Marji may seem off-put by the party, this moment, as she sits in the corner of a room filled with unfamiliar faces, is one of the few instances in which she stays true to herself and her Persian-based values. She doesn’t succumb to the ways of the reckless, Austrian teenagers like she does later in the novel, instead she seems to focus on her origins and the ideas her grandmother reiterated before she left.