Persepolis Gender within a specific culture, country, or even household can have a various amount of roles and predetermined ways of life placed upon individuals. The characters inside the stories of Persepolis and “Mrs. Dutta writes a letter” truly give an audience an idea of how both Men and Women handle the roles they have according to society. Whether its rebellion, or conformity, the characters path is set to find deeper meaning and happiness. Marjane is forced to face her role of gender in many forms throughout the entire film of Persepolis.
First, Islamic politics would project Marjane’s early onset of rebellion. The Biased teachers preach to the children their respect for the “Shah”, and like any young child would, Marjane originally believed in what her instructor had to say. Being a young and energetic kid, she chanted and repeated the view she had learned in class, but her parents were on the other side of the fence. They instilled in Marjane their true feelings about the “Shah”, whom was causing harm to city and many of their loved ones. Instantly she entered into rebellion mode, and lashed out at her Instructor and fellow classmates.
The execution of her beloved Uncle, would only anger and strengthen her views even more, and her outspoken personality forced her parents to send her away, as it is unacceptable in their society for a female to voice her opinion in such a manner. On the other hand as a male in the community she would have been preparing to fight in the violent, rebellious war. Next, the restrictions placed on women in the Iranian culture, were very relevant in Marjane’s story. She had two incidents with the police that portrayed these restrictions.
The first one, she was seen running down the street, and the police stopped her, saying it made her butt look indecent. In the second incident, she is in fear of being scolded for wearing red lipstick, so she quickly diverts the attention from herself, and lies to the police, claiming that an on-looking man made a rude comment to her. They were very angered at the allegations and in Marjane’s honor they beat the man in the street. She later laughed when reciting the story to her grandmother, and her grandmother in turn made her feel very guilty for her actions. A final example, of the restrictions, was the norms of remaining overed with a veil. One instance, she was traveling in an airport, and the man checking her papers, in a stern manner told her to fix it. All of these explain how women, were not seen as equals, and were inferior to males. The restrictions on women, play a close tie with Marjane’s rebellion, as she follows the paths of Western Influence. Dealing with a lot of built up anger, her decisions in Europe contrasted her upbringing in the Middle East, where women were modest and inferior subjects among society. She seemed desperate for acceptance, as she attempted to hide her background from Iran, in a strategy to shy away from racial prejudice.
In one instance she claimed she was French to a man that was hitting on her at a party. Soon she fell into a crowd that was willing to accept her, and they practiced the more “Western” way of life. Sex, Punk Music, different fashions, and marijuana use became a part of everyday life for Marjane. This behavior would be extremely frowned upon in her native home, especially as a woman. But the acceptance offered immediate gratification,while her actions caused her conscious to miss her culture and more importantly her family. Family and relationships were the final subject that reveal Marjane’s role of Gender.
Her strongest relationship, was with her grandmother, who was a humorous fun loving woman, that Marjane could turn to when she needed someone to talk to. Throughout the story, her grandmother seemed to represent integrity, as a common theme she wanted Marjane to be “true to herself”. It can easily be argued that she was however not so true to herself, as she was in and out of relationships that consisted of drug use and sex. The men obviously did not show her much respect, and she was commonly cheated on, and emotionally abused.
Also, she rushed into an early marriage, which came to quick end, as the couple was not as compatible as she had hoped. Her relationships with her friends when she returned to Iran had changed, as she became annoyed with their integration of Western Influence, as she had a hard time relating to their new found fashion and glamour attitudes. “Mrs. Dutta writes a letter” differs from Persepolis in that the audience is able to see the true role of gender through multiple characters, instead of just one. In this particular story, generation and cultural practices are a key component in the role of gender.
This is exhibited at the very beginning of the story, where Mrs. Dutta wakes up before the rest of the family to prepare tea for the household. She is willing to suppress her own desire, in this case sleeping in, to fill the family needs. Next, when disrespected by her grandchildren, Mrs. Dutta is surprised that her daughter-in-law does not punish them, as she would have been if she were that age. Also, the laundry becomes an activity of conflict in many forms. For one, she secretly washes the clothes by hand, because she is scared of the modern washing machine.
At her age it would be hard to become accustomed to new ways of performing tasks she has been handling her whole life. Second, she prefers to do her own laundry, as she would be devastated at the thought of someone else seeing and touching her underwear. Lastly, Mrs. Dutta shows that her womanized generation is behind, by the fact that she dries the laundry over the fence in the backyard. One, time in particular she waves to a neighbor, who is rude in return by not waving back. This confuses Mrs. Dutta who is clearly not acclimated to American culture, like her daughter-in-law Shymoli.
Shymoli’s character in “Mrs. Dutta writes a letter” reflects her gender role in her personal transition from Eastern to Western Influence. Her everyday routine and activities seem to catch Mrs. Dutta off guard, as they contrast heavily the norms of their Indian culture they come from. It roots, with her attempt to assimilate herself into American culture. One example, is her Americanized nickname of Molli, in which she has picked up to further fit in. Next, in a pivotal scene, she asked her husband, Sagar, for help with the laundry. This appalled Mrs.
Dutta, as she felt it was solely the woman’s job to perform household chores, and offers to do it instead of her son. While doing it she notices “Mollies” lace, sexy underwear, which appeal the American men of today. Shymolli also begins to question, Mrs. Dutta’s cooking, as it is high in cholesterol and unhealthy. Her knowledge of this was definitely learned in her new environment, as health facts were not as common in her original setting in India. But aside from all these minor details, the biggest impact that the Western Influence shows upon Shymolli, is her worries of how she is perceived by her fellow Americans.
For instance, she does not want to stick out as the “Indian family” or be seen as different from everybody else. This is why she was angered and embarrassed by her mother-in-law for hanging the laundry, as the rude neighbor from before made a complaint to her. Since Shymolli is much further ahead and is further ahead in her acclimation to the California lifestyle, than Mrs. Dutta, their personalities clash. The tension built to the point where Shymolli can’t handle it anymore, and reveals to her husband that she wants his mother to leave. This is surprising, because not long before, Mrs.
Dutta had Shymolli living with her in India, but the American way of life truly changed her views on life. Sagar, the husband to Shymolli, and son to Mrs. Dutta, shows a final piece of the the role of gender in the story. The main point made through his character, is equality to women. As we see in Persepolis, men have a lot more power over women in society, but that is not the case in “Mrs Dutta writes a letter”. This is proven in a few ways. One, both Sagar and his wife have 9-5 jobs, something not seen elsewhere. Second, it is seen as normal, for Shymolli to ask Sagar for help around the house, which completely opposes Mrs.
Dutta’s views of a husband. Lastly, Shymolli is much more outspoken with the male figure in the story, more directly in her thoughts on her own husband’s mother, which would be unacceptable in her original Eastern culture. As it is shown, the different roles of gender throughout the two stories had multiple differences. Marjane, Mrs. Dutta, Shymolli, and Sagar all had separate ways of living with their responsibilities and predetermined notions of how to perform their human duties. More importantly as they live and learn through their stories, the ultimate goal is happiness, which is achieved in the hearts of all the characters.