“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Not a career. Not wealth. Not intelligence. Certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.” – Audrey Hepburn
In the book, “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, a girl with short dark black hair with a black veil around head, named Marji is not an ordinary girl. As a six years old girl, her dream was to be a Prophet. Her teachers and friends thought she was crazy because she wanted to be a Prophet. She lied to her parents about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Marji had a holy book and only her grandmother knew about it. “Every night I had a big discussion with God.” (Satrapi 8) Unlike any other girl, she talks to God every night. All she ever wanted was: “I wanted to be justice, love and the wrath of God all in one.” (9)
Because of where Marji lives and her beliefs, she is forced to wear a veil. In the beginning of the book, she doesn’t want to wear the veil. “We didn’t really like to wear the veil, especially since we didn’t understand why we had to.” (3) On page 6, there is a picture of Marji wearing a veil on the right side and doesn’t wear a veil on the left side. On the left, she has dark charcoal hair that goes up to her neck. On the right, you can only see the black veil covering her body except her face. The picture also represents how she is different and has two sides to herself, modern and religious.
Although Marji is different than most girls in her school, she is compassionate and loving. From reading the book, you can tell that she is very empathetic. When her mother told her that her grandpa was put in a cell filled with water for hours, she would stay in the bathtub for a long time to know what it was like for her grandpa. Not all children around the world would do what Marji did. Spend their time to know what it feels like to live someone’s experience. Not only is Marji empathetic, she is also straightforward. When Marji overheard her mother talking on the phone, she heard the name Laly, her friend. She went to her Laly and asked her:
“Where’s your father?”
“On a trip.”
“Don’t you know that when they keep saying someone is on a trip it really means he is dead.” …. “At least that was the case with my grandpa.”… “The truth is sometimes hard to accept.” (48) Marji wanted to tell Laly the truth because she thought that Laly should know. She didn’t say it in a sympathy or cheerful way, she just wanted Laly to know what happen to her father.
Marji loves her family and thinks of them as her hero. “There are lots of heroes in my family. My Grandpa was in prison, my Uncle Anoosh too: for nine years! He was even in the U.S.S.R. my great-uncle Fereydoon proclaimed a democratic state and he was…” When Marji had to go to Austria because Iran wasn’t safe, she was sad and didn’t want to leave without her parents. She took down her favorite posters and gave them all to her friends. She realized that her friends loved her and how important they were to her. Because of who Marji is: empathetic, straightforward, loving, and caring, it made her special and different from everyone else.
I may not be like Marji, but we both have some similar experience. Marji is empathetic because she tries to understand someone’s past by doing it to herself. The story about her grandpa locked up in a cell for hours filled with water made her miserable and shocked. “That night I stayed a very long time in the bath. I wanted to know what it felt like to be in a cell filled with water.” … “My hands were wrinkled when I came out, like grandpa’s.” (25) My story is different because it took me a while to understand, but in the end, I knew what it felt like.
When I was in 6th grade I was in training orchestra. I played the violin and wasn’t the best at it. One of my best friends was also in training orchestra and played the violin, however, she was a lot better. One day, our teacher said we would have a test that will determine whether or not we stay in training orchestra or go to a higher level, intermediate orchestra. I wasn’t worried and didn’t care about going to intermediate orchestra. I didn’t practice and didn’t tell my parents we would have a test. Yet, my friend was the opposite. Her parents knew about the test and she would practice. On the day of the test, we would go into a room and play to the teacher. When the test was over she told me that she didn’t get into Intermediate orchestra and I didn’t as well. We were both happy that we would still be together, but then she sat on a chair and started crying. I was confused and didn’t understand. I asked her why she was crying. She told me that her parents wouldn’t be mad at her if she didn’t get into the intermediate orchestra, and she wasn’t sure why she was crying. I asked her if she wanted to go eat lunch, but she didn’t want to because she was afraid that our other friend might tease her for crying. So I stayed in the room with her. I went to the cafeteria to buy some food for her. I bought a chocolate croissant and split it in half with her. After lunch was over we went back upstairs. I didn’t know how she felt at that time, until this year. When I was trying out for swimming in the beginning of the year, I wanted to get into silver. My goal was to swim under 2:40 for 200 freestyle and 1:20 for 100 medley. When it was the day of the tryout, I didn’t get in silver. I got in bronze. My parents weren’t mad at me, but I cried. Tears came out of my eyes when I saw my time. I asked myself, why am I sad? It was because I was disappointed in myself and I didn’t reach my goal. Then I connected to what happened in 6th grade, when my friend was crying because she didn’t pass the test. Even though our goals were different, I knew how she felt, even if it took me two years to realize what it was like for her on that day.
My life is not like Marji, we are from different time period, live in different country, and have a different lifestyle. Nevertheless, we are both teenagers, making mistakes and memories. Most of all we both have empathy. We try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoe, try to understand how they feel. There’s no doubt that I’m nothing like Marji, but that doesn’t mean that we both can’t be empathic towards other people.