A Color Has Many Meanings Persepolis is a story that is illustrated in black and white. The author, Marjane Satrapi, uses many visual techniques throughout the story to draw in the reader and develop the storyline. One of these visual techniques is that she chooses to use the color of the characters’ clothing as a representation of how they feel towards the revolution. The characters are shown wearing black, white, or a mixed black and white pattern. The characters in Persepolis are drawn with white clothing when they are supporting the revolution.
There are many instances throughout the story when characters are drawn with white clothing, especially Marjane’s family. A year after the Islamic Revolution started, children were obligated to wear the veil at school. There is an illustration of this time period in the story and the children are shown wearing white clothing at school and playing with their veils rather than wearing them (Satrapi 3). The reason the children are portrayed in white is because they are uneducated about the Shah at this point in time since religion was not taught at Marjane’s school before the revolution.
There is a panel showing people demonstrating for and against the veil. The demonstrators on the right are chanting, “freedom! ” and they are shown in white clothing. One of these demonstrators happens to be Marjane’s mother (Satrapi 5). Another example of demonstrators shown wearing white is when they are throwing stones at the army (Satrapi 18). They are shown in white clothing because they are supporting the revolution and demanding freedom. Throughout the story, Marjane imagines speaking with God who represents her religious side. When she tells her parents she wants to be a doctor and not a prophet, God asks her about it.
Marjane says, “I felt guilty towards God”. In this panel she is shown in white (Satrapi 9). This is because wanting to be a doctor instead of a prophet would place her on the progressive side and not the fundamentalist side. Marjane going against God is shown later in the story when she yells at him to get out of her life (Satrapi 70). She is of course wearing white in this panel. After the Shah leaves, the school stops teaching religion and goes back to how it used to be. The teachers are now shown wearing white instead of black because they are teaching the progressive side now (Satrapi 44).
Marjane’s family is almost always shown in white in their home. This is because they are supporting the revolution and do not have to hide this within the privacy of their own home (Satrapi 84). Marjane’s uncle, Anoosh, is shown in white as well because he is a strong supporter of the revolution. He likes to discuss politics often and share his progressive views with the family (Satrapi 62). Marjane decides she wants to help fight in the revolution. She states, “I was ready to defend my country against these Arabs who kept attacking us” (Satrapi 79). She is shown wearing white in this panel because she is supporting the revolution.
When a character is going against the Shah’s law, they are shown wearing white. A few examples of this would be when Marjane’s uncle is secretly making wine in his basement (Satrapi 106), when Marjane is smoking a cigarette (Satrapi 117), when her mom is hiding an illegal poster in her father’s coat (Satrapi 128), or finally when Marjane goes out in public wearing a denim jacket, sneakers, and listening to music (Satrapi 133). The characters in Persepolis are drawn with black clothing when they are opposing the revolution and supporting the Shah. Earlier, I gave the example of a teacher shown in white when they are not teaching religion.
On the other hand, teachers are shown wearing black when they are teaching about the Shah (Satrapi 144). When Marjane and her family go out in public, they wear black because they do not want to be executed for going against the law. They dress as they are suppose to and wear their veils. Although this goes against their views, this is something they have to do so they do not get killed or arrested (Satrapi 93). Going along with this idea of blending in, Marjane’s parents are shown in black when they are fleeing from a demonstration after it gets out of hand (Satrapi 76). People opposing the revolution are always shown in black.
This includes the army, and people who torture progressive prisoners. Examples of these can be found on pages 51 and 18. Whenever a progressive person has been punished by the fundamentalists, they are shown in black instead of white. This could be because the fundamentalists have forced their views upon this captured and punished person. Examples of this happening are when political prisoners are released from prison and wearing black (Satrapi 47), when Marjane’s mother has been verbally tormented by fundamentalists (Satrapi 74), and finally when Siamak’s sister was killed and found in the street and is drawn in black (Satrapi 66).
Sometimes Marjane is shown in black. This occurs when her religious views are seeping through. She claims she wants to be the next prophet. Since this is a religious view that would support the Shah and the fundamentalist side, Marjane is shown in black (Satrapi 6). After Marjane learns about the King and God in school, she goes home to her parents and tells them how much she loves the King because he was chosen by God. She is of course wearing black in this panel because it is supporting the fundamentalist side of the revolution (Satrapi 19).
The Shah believes in eliminating social classes and having everyone look the same, wearing their veils. Marjane realizes that she too does not like having different social classes and this is why she is embarrassed of her father’s Cadillac. In the panel when she is thinking about all of this, she is shown in black because this agrees with the Shah’s views (Satrapi 33). At times in the story Persepolis, the characters are confused on which side of the revolution they support. This is exemplified by showing them as neither solid black or solid white, but rather in mixed black and white patterns.
Characters are often shown wearing this mixed pattern when they do not know too much about the revolution. This is why Marjane is shown wearing this mixed pattern while she is younger because she was confused on what was going on. She is often conflicted between following the views of her parents or following the views she learns in school and from her talking with God. She tries to educate herself on the matter by reading books on the revolution (Satrapi 32). Not only are characters shown with this mixed pattern when they are confused, but also when they are scared.
Marjane’s father is scared for her mother after she is shown demonstrating in all the European newspapers. Her father is shown wearing the mixed black and white pattern in this panel because he is scared that her mother will get in trouble (Satrapi 5). This fear is also shown when Marjane finally realizes how dangerous the religion truly is (Satrapi 136). There could be many reasons as to why the author, Marjane Satrapi, chooses to base the character’s clothing off of their views toward the revolution.
I believe the main reason she decides to use this visual technique is because it helps the reader know the emotions and thoughts of the character. With this being a comic book that is illustrated in black and white, it may be hard to go in depth regarding the feelings of the characters. By showing their feelings through the color or pattern of their clothing, the reader can get a better in depth view of the character and understand the story better. Works Cited Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of Childhood. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.