Persepolis Analysis

‘Moscow’ is the eighth chapter in the graphic novel Persepolis by Marji Satrapi. In this chapter, readers are acquainted with Marji’s Uncle, Anoosh.

The panel situated on the right of page 60 illustrates a stupefied young Marji. The narratory block narrates that Anoosh was “in prison for nine years” (60). The jagged speech bubble that escapes Marji implies a yelp, and the repetition of “nine years” along with an exclamation mark further indicates her disbelief. However, there is no hint of sympathy, only utter shock in Marji’s expression as she gazes directly into the readers’ eyes. Simultaneously, however, there is a thought bubble hovering above the right side of her head, revealing that Marji, instead of feeling sympathetic, secretly indulges in the fact that her uncle suffered a period of imprisonment that was even “better than Laly’s father!” (60). The lack of sympathy, along with the selfish desire to boast to her friends about her uncle’s suffrage, portrays Marji’s immaturity and naivety. Moreover, the diction “better” juxtaposes with the idea of imprisonment, and by linking them together, Satrapi characterizes Marji as a naive child who still fantasizes about imprisonment because she is unexposed to the extreme feelings of fear, pain, and desperation that imprisonment connotes. This not only hints at Marji’s privileged upbringing and protective family but also foreshadows that Marji will soon learn to mature when she becomes exposed to the sight of war in the following chapters.

The panel on the bottom right corner of page 60 is crucial because it is Satrapi’s reason for creating Persepolis. There are two narrative perspectives explored in the panel: Anoosh and Marji. Anoosh speaks in a mature manner. He warns Marji, “Our family memory must not be lost. Even if it’s not easy for you, even if you don’t understand it all” (60). The anaphora in the successful clauses lends emphasis on the importance of his message. The solemn tone also foreshadows that something would eventually be “lost” and Marji is destined to document her family memory. Moreover, the contrast in this panel between Anoosh and Marji almost appears humorous. First, Anoosh’s words carry a sense of burden and weight, while Marji responds playfully, “Don’t worry, I’ll never forget” (60). Marji makes a bold claim. However, it seems unconvincing because of her childish and carefree tone. This again characterizes Marji as a young protagonist who is naive and unaware of the responsibilities in life. The contrast between the two characters is further illustrated through Anoosh’s firm facial expression and Marji’s furtiveness and also through their varying positions and heights. Satrapi presents this contrast to suggest that Marji, unlike Anoosh who has experienced the worst in life, is at the preliminary stage of life and believes in a bright future, just like how she is illustrated to look upwards. Perhaps, it is this reckless zeal that is the most powerful. It allowed Satrapi to actually write this graphic novel and share her story despite consequences that could follow.

On page 61, the longshot of Marji and her two friends presents an irony. Marji boasts to her friends about her uncle Anoosh, saying “My grandpa was in prison, my uncle Anoosh too: for nine years…” (61). Although the readers know that Marji is telling the truth, the panel illustrates one of her friends thinking, “Too much!” (61). This cannot be interpreted individually and must be corroborated with the top right panel on page 54. The same thought bubble repeating “Too much!” appears. On page 54, Marji is, in fact, exaggerating and lying for the sole purpose to boast, saying her both her dad’s arm and leg were cut off (54). Although on page 60, what Marji says is genuine, her friend continued to not believe her. This reveals the historical background that many of the horrid forms of torture were hidden at the time, and people were oblivious of the truth. The irony connects deeper to Satrapi’s broader message. As mentioned in the introduction, Satrapi recognizes that Iran is “discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism” but she says, “as an Iranian… I know this is far from the truth.” Satrapi is communicating the idea that not everything you hear is true. The accompanying illustration depicts that the children are walking out of the dark, oblivious forest (similar to the one in Snow White’s!) and into a bright clearing. This could represent Satrapi’s hope which is that her readers can finally see Iran painted in a new light.

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