Persepolis, is set in a war torn, revolutionary Iran. The author, Marjane Satrapi, recounts to us tales of her childhood from a perspective many Americans never get to see. She talks about the morality police, and the radical Islamic government, yet we also see that not everybody conforms. Marjane buys heavy metal albums at a “black market”(126). Marjane has many different experiences due to her growing up in this war torn, islamic country. When she is a child she is at the same time indoctrinated by the propaganda the government is pushing out but she also speaks her mind and does whatever she believes in.
Marjane tries to beat up the son of a torturer in order to teach him a lesson. However at the same time, she frequently gets in trouble with authority and cannot seem to hold her tongue for the life of her. Satrapi’s depictions of the ways that growing up in a warzone affects children does not end with her alone. She also depicts the way that poor children are promised paradise and salvation with the symbol of a key, which would supposedly open the gates of heaven for the dead children upon their arrival.
The government convinces the children to go to their deaths with joy, even eagerness, in their hearts as they were slaughtered on the front lines. The narrator says, “The key to paradise was for poor people. Thousands of young kids, promised a better life, exploded on the minefields with their keys around their necks. ”(102) The accompanying panel does so much more than any words ever could. It shows a great explosion as dozens of lifeless children are flung into the air with their keys dangling from their necks. One of the dearest parts about childhood is the innocence that is inherent.
Children are not born racist, or homophobic, or judgemental at all. From the moment children are born they have a pure view of the world until the realities and cynicism of adulthood come crashing down upon their heads. In the scene in the grocery store, Marji’s mother says that they will have to buy some kidney beans in order to make chili. They will simply have to ignore “the flatulence factor”(92). Marjane and the other children giggle together over the very idea of farts, but the grim reality they fail to grasp is that with all the refugees flocking to the city, there are precious few other choices for them to eat.
The gradual loss of innocence is present in every childhood, but it appears to happen more quickly to those children growing up in dangerous areas. Marji wants to grow up and she does so faster than most other children. Even when she is young she is asking for rock albums and other things that are illegal in her country(126). She goes so far as to convince her parents to smuggle posters into the country for her, risking her parents safety. This trend continued for Marji. She was always finding new ways to speak out against authority and rebel, or to try and seem older than she was.
Finally, she smokes a cigarette she stole from her uncle two weeks prior. Marji says, “With this first cigarette, I kissed childhood goodbye. Now I was a grown up. ” There could be no clearer loss of innocence moment. Marji still had plenty of growing up to do however. When she wears jeans and jewelry to school, her principal confronts her about it. They get into a fight and Marji hits the principal, resulting in her expulsion(143). This incident made her parents realize that Marji would never be able to stay safe in such a strict country where she would not be allowed to speak her mind.
So in order to protect her, Marji’s parents sent her to Austria(153). While in Austria, Marji had many different experiences that she would never have experienced in Iran which made her grow even less innocent than most children her age. She experiments with a lot of different drugs, and she has sex with her boyfriend. If her home country were not war-torn and dangerous, she would have been able to simply stay in Iran and grow up normally. Those panels where Marji is shown tripping out especially make it clear to the reader that she is a child no longer(218).
Marji’s eyes are drawn as spirals as is her mouth and she has a happy, vacant expression not ever seen on her face before. Marji is also born with a connection to God that most people do not ever feel. As a young girl, her goal is to become a prophet, and she prays to God frequently. However, over the course of her life she gradually stops feeling that connection more and more. God no longer visits her at night nor does she even think of him very often. This is because of the various things she has done in the course of growing up.
She steals and smokes a cigarette purely to rebel against her mother and teach her who’s boss. Her loss of innocence very closely coincides with her loss of connection to God. Satrapi wrote an extremely effective memoir in Persepolis. Her choice to turn her story into a graphic autobiography made all the difference. It turned her story from a poignant, yet somewhat bland tale into a book not to be forgotten. Every panel conveys so much emotion and detail that readers will sometimes find themselves swept away by the memories. This autobiographical memoir proved that a picture truly is worth a thousand words.