Response to Persepolis: Essay
Persepolis, a graphic novel written Marjane Satrapi is an autobiography written from the perspective of a 10-year-old Marjane. The story takes place in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in the 1980's. The book uses a wide range of stylistic features to portray different themes throughout the novel. Juxtapositions and flashbacks are two of the more dominantly used stylistic features used in order to portray themes such as religion, historical context and validation, and social classes.
Juxtapositions are literary techniques that enable the author to put either two or more ideas, places, characters or even character's actions side by side to develop a comparison or contrast. Satrapi does this throughout the novel Persepolis as eastern and western ideas are juxtaposed. Satrapi captures the theme of religion throughout the novel through the use of juxtapositions. One of the most dominant examples comes in the panel with a caption expressing Marjane's confusion about the veil "Deep down I was very religious but as a family we were very modern and avant-garde". The image of young Marjane's face is divided down the middle by a line, it shows the new and old, the eastern and western, the advancement and religion and of course, veil or no veil. Marjane, in the middle of all this, with a lost expression on her face representing all of the confusion and different directions she has to choose from, particularly her own deep religion or the ideal westernised culture of her family. Another example of juxtaposition and its effectiveness comes in the panel where Marjane explains to her grandmother the rules she made up for her holy book. Marjane's belief that she is the last prophet and the holy book itself are examples of the eastern influence in her life. However, Marjane is a female prophet and the rules she makes in her holy book bring out the western influence of her family, for example, one of the rules is "everybody should have a car". Being somewhat wealthy, Marjane's family owns a Cadillac and they also have a maid. Mehri, the family's maid, is often portrayed as a sister like figure towards Marjane. The juxtaposition here is that once again Marjane is influenced by western lifestyle, particularly modern western lifestyle as the family owns an American car and they also have a maid at their disposal. Satrapi shows Marjane in her western denim jacket and her eastern head scarf. Although the big picture here in this panel is that Marjane is walking along the street with a thought bubble containing "We're the kids in America whoa" playing in her head. In the same panel the women's branch of the guardian revolution were in the background in a van behind her. This is just another strong and cleverly weaved example of juxtaposition made by Satrapi, putting both the ideas and themes of social class and also of westernised lifestyle in a side by side comparison.
Flashbacks are often important in narratives as they fill the reader in on background information that may otherwise be unknown. Persepolis includes many flashbacks for a suiting variety of different themes although most fall under the theme of the entanglement of Satrapi's family history and stories with Iran's historical context. One of the first instances of a flashback can be seen in the chapter "Moscow" which takes place as Marjane listens to Uncle Anoosh tell her his past experiences and life story. He mentions how he was a secretary to his uncle (Minister of Justice) and how the Shah took over. He recounts how his uncle was killed and how he escaped the USSR. He tells Marjane he has a family although is divorced and that one day he missed his family and country so much he tried to return although upon arrival was arrested and put in prison. The most important thing that this flashback does is it gives the reader some historical context on Marjane's Uncle Anoosh and about that certain time frame in the Middle East. The flashback personalises the story in a way through a family connection, in this case from her to her uncle. Due to this particular flashback, Marjane becomes closer to the war than ever before thanks to her uncle's past experiences as well. Another example of a flashback can be viewed as Marjane, her mother and her cousin Shahab are talking. The flashback itself involves Shahab's time in the army and how the front lines of the war are all young, new recruits that come flooding off the buses straight to the front line. These children are all poor children who were brainwashed to their miserable fate. Satrapi uses black backgrounds in conjunction with the feature of flashbacks to show that this was a depressing and dark memory. This flashback also fits the theme of historical context and validation as it gives the reader historical context into the military side of the war. Although used to fill the reader in on unknown information flashbacks can also contain visual qualities that can also assist the reader in developing a greater understanding of the author's emotions towards that particular scene.
In closing, this essay Satrapi uses the stylistic features of both juxtapositions and flashbacks effectively to move the story forward and to help strengthen the story's dominant themes of social class, religion and historical context and validation. The clever use of juxtapositions enables Satrapi to contrast and compare the Westernised world to the Easternised world in Marjane's life. The flashbacks allow Satrapi to give the reader some historical background information on particularly Marjane's family members and also some validation on the current war taking place at the time of the novel.
Word Count: 946