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Satrapi's Penstroke

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Satrapi’s Penstroke

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi is an autobiographical account of a girl’s youth during the Iranian Revolution in 1969. As a graphic novel, Satrapi accompanies her text with images, drawn in a simplistic fashion in the comic book format. This is very effective in displaying her perception of Iran during the time of the revolution. The black-on-white drawings depict scenes of intense violence, emotion, and imagination. “Satrapi’s super-naÐ"Їve style is powerful; it persuasively communicates confusion and horror through the eyes of a precocious preteen” (Press, www.villiagevoice.com/ books/0319.press.43844.10.html, 2) The seemingly child-like imagery that Satrapi used in drawing Persepolis serves as an effective tool to convey her powerful emotions and opinions with regard to the state of living that she endured during the Iranian Revolution.

Marji, as Satrapi refers to herself, is the daughter of two intellectual Marxists living in Tehran. She is blessed with many freedoms that other children her age lack. In the initial pages of Persepolis, she believes that she is the last prophet. One frame depicts her image of herself as this prophet, where the sun manes her head and people bow before her stature, proclaiming her the celestial light. This dreamy self-perception slowly dwindles away as the book progresses through its stages of war and tragedy. After the overthrow of the monarchy of Marji’s great-grandfather by the Shah Reza, Iran became the host of a slew of unjustifiable prejudices against women and non-supporters of the teachings of the Shah’s regime. All of the women of Iran were forced to wear veils, referred to as chador, to cover their hair, which was thought to be a tool of seduction. They were punished severely if they did not abide by the rules of the regime and many were beaten and imprisoned.

The Shah’s regime was maliciously unforgiving. In one scene, the soldiers under the Shah’s command set fire to a theater called the Rex Cinema with several innocent civilians inside. The doors were locked from the outside and guarded by the soldiers so that the onlookers could not release the victims. Satrapi’s imagery is particularly unique in this scene. She drew the frame to show the scene from within the building. Figures composed of flames rush out of their seats and for the doors, which they find to be locked. This method of drawing the victims as being completely covered in flames gives the scene an exaggerated sense of chaos, while maintaining a kind of childish perception of the event. This not only gives Marji’s perception of the story, told by her father, but keeps the material suitable for a young audience.

Marji’s naÐ"Їve views and imagination are further displayed when her father tells her about her great-grandfather, the king. Marji finds it fascinating that her grandfather was a prince. Satrapi displays the images of her imagination in a particularly imaginative way. The frame shows Marji’s grandfather with a crown, robe, and tail, riding an elephant, being followed by an abstractly rendered lion with a sword. The sun glares down, smiling over the whole scene. There is a castle and forest in the distance and all of the characters are engulfed in a mystical “wind”. Marji overlooks the whole scene with an imaginative look on her face. This scene further describes to the reader exactly how Marji perceived the things that she was told by her parents. It twists their stories into her version of reality and gives the reader greater insight into Marji’s character.

As Marxists, Satrapi’s family had to be very cautious, as many communists were being arrested and maltreated in the prison systems of Iran. Marji’s father was arrested for taking photographs of this maltreatment, though he escaped at the last minute. Satrapi chooses to depict these scenes of violence in a very interesting way. The scene on page 29 shows several of the photographs that Marji’s father had taken in a pile, while he holds a camera, just to the left of the images. This shows the reader exactly what kind of treatment was being endured in a creative and effective way. It only takes half a page to display 8 different ways that the war was beginning to affect Iran, which is an impressive feat for any artist.

During one of the more widespread days of protest, Marji and her maid snuck out to join the picketing. When they arrive home, Marji’s mother is furious. That day, later called “Black Friday”, one of the protests got out of hand and many people were killed by the Shah’s soldiers. One of Satrapi’s frames shows lifeless faces laying aside one-another. The next frame shows the same lifeless bodies forcing the Shah out of the country. This metaphor describes the population’s reactions to the massacres in Iran. Ultimately, that the shock of the massacres drove the people to rise against the Shah and exile him. This event caused the Islamist regime to come into power.

What followed was a great celebration, the largest that Iran had ever seen as described by Marji. People in flashy, western clothing danced in the streets to celebrate the success of the revolution. This celebration, however, was short-lived. Conditions steadily worsened and scenes of violence and cruelty eventually replaced the rejoicing crowd, returning the people of Iran to the same treatment they were subjected to under the Shah, in some cases worse.

One scene of Persepolis depicted some of the torture tactics used to get information out of suspected communists. Though the drawings are simple, feelings such as pain, anguish, and anger are stunningly apparent. “…She is able to portray such a vast range of emotions with a few simple strokes of the penвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Theokas, www.usatoday.com/hfe/books/reviews/2003-08-06-persepolis_x.htm, 1) Throughout the book, Satrapi consistently accompanies these scenes of vision and imagination with Marji’s reaction to what she is hearing or seeing. This is particularly effective in marking her growth throughout the novel. “At its strongest, [Persepolis is] an inspiring coming-of-age story.” (Theokas, 1)

Another gripping scene is that of Marji’s separation from her beliefs. After her uncle Anoosh is arrested and put to death for his communist beliefs, Marji finds herself feeling unbearably alone. The scene depicts Marji floating in space, with nothing to take hold of, a blank look on her face, nothing to offer her comfort or explanation.

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