Discrimination in "Persepolis"

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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is presented as a graphic novel giving an account of a young woman in Iran, who is not yet of age. While telling the story, Marjane Satrapi focuses more on important events in her life. Rather than focusing solely on herself, she includes cultural and political events that she believes shaped her. For that matter, the issue of discrimination is clearly seen in her story. In the story, we see Marjane struggle while growing up in Iran and later finds herself in Europe. Her narrations are wrapped up by her difficult home return. At the beginning of the story, Marjane is turning ten years old. And regardless of the fact that her family lived a secular life, she is expected to wear a veil as well as attend religious schools which is exclusively for girls. Despite her imaginative nature, she does not understand her environment. However, her family helps her make sense of what is happening around her. The story is also full of violence.   

Events of discrimination which includes, lifestyle, ethnicity, religion, as well as gender-related discrimination, are seen throughout the story.

Discrimination starts being evident in the story right from the beginning. Unlike men, women are expected to dress in a specific manner as opposed to men. Again, they have to attend different institutions where they are to be educated differently. For instance, Marjane has no option rather than wear a veil even though her family had a different lifestyle which did not adhere to religion (Chute, pg. 16). Furthermore, she had to attend a girl-only school for religious education. In another instance, Marjane’s mother is accosted for not wearing a veil.

In Persepolis: The story is childhood, the way religion is perceived displays discrimination to a huge extent. In her story, Marjane begins by introducing her veil which I directly related to her religion. This is a kind of dressing mode which is supposed to be adhered by all women. She described how the veil covered the body. According to Marjane, the importance of veil diminished when she was separated from her childhood friends. Her parent introduced a sense of modernism to her and for that matter, traditional sense of self-was somehow divided. Therefore, she didn’t see it be fair for the society to discriminate against women by deciding for them what they must wear just because of the religion (Barr, pg. 13). She was born with religion and states but also committed to other things such as French education which was difficult for someone like her to pursue. “At the age of six, I was already sure I was a prophet”. At some point, the Islam announced that it was going to close the so-called bilingual schools citing the reason that they represented westernization as well as capitalism that comprised the culture of their people. However, this culture brought about discrimination against women. For this reason, the construction of Marjane identity had a lot of problems.

Religion is to a great extent discussed in the first half of the novel. The is where Marjane recounts his loss of naivety and faith. As a small child, she sees herself as the last prophet in the line of Zarathustra, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. All this changes later when she can’t find comfort again in God. In fact, she now sees it as a form of discrimination. One of the events that break her is when her boyfriend cheats on her. As a child, she even has an imaginary friend with long flowing beards who she saw in a vision. She is even encouraged by her friend to be a symbol of love and justice and follow all the laws. As a young adult, this is no longer the case since she begins to confront social and political realities that prove to be very unfair (Chute, pg. 36). She, therefore, starts to gradually detach from her faith. And when the Islamic regime takes over power, it no longer makes sense to her to defend faith which is represented by discriminative principles.

In the Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood the issue of ethnicity that brings about discrimination is symbolized by the veil. For Marjane, the veil is connected to traditionalism. For that matter, she is forced to wear a veil so as to signify her relationship with her cultural and national identity together with her responsibility as an Islamic woman. It means that an Islamic woman has duties that she must fulfill. The veil distinguishes a good Iranian woman from an indecent western lady who is not veiled. Therefore, the meaning of feminism is adorned with a woman’s body and it reminds her the position she holds in the society. That is why the veil in the body ends up reducing woman’s individuality.

The way of living displaying discrimination is also evident in the novel. To begin with, the Iraq-Iran war compromises Marjane’s childhood. It becomes more intense when her friend, Neda, dies following a missile explosion in their childhood. The events surrounding her makes her change her thinking concerning her country and the society. He leaves her country and since then, her identity changes. Modernity and fundamentalism touch how people live in a society. In the Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, lack of ability of the Marxist as well as socialist revolutionaries to acquire power after the revolution causes a huge strain for families like that of Marjane. They are the families that view themselves as modern people who hold political and social believes that are viewed to be from the west. For that matter, they hold different social values from the society they live in. They believe in women rights, education as well as human right and keep reaching out to them. This clearly shows that; discrimination is the norm of the day in this society. Religion and ideology are viewed as an obstacle to the development of Iran. These ideological principles repress the Iranians (Ramazani, pg. 45).  It takes away their property that they enjoy as well as their identity and dignity.

The class conflict which is a form of discrimination is seen throughout the novel. Right from the beginning, Marjane’s father talks much about class consciousness and equality. What leaves her confused is the fact that, her father preaches all these things yet he can drive a Cadillac. The society described by Marjane consists of urban elites as well as countryside Iran people who lack basic things such as education. In the chapter “the letter”, The conflict is seen clearly when Marjane maid is forced to abandon the love of her life for a neighbor. Marjane’s father explains to her that they cannot be allowed to be together because social classes are not allowed to intermarry. This is the highest level of discrimination (Barr, pg. 22). In this instance, Marjane witnesses a great deal of injustice.

Social environments such as the religion, nation, as well as the society, plays an important role in the formation of the identity. This, on the other hand, brings about discrimination. For that matter, in Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood discrimination is seen in terms of religion, lifestyles, social class, and gender. Being aware of this Marjane Satrapi has to find freedom so that she can form her own identity. 

Work cited

Barr, Rebecca Anne. "Persepolis: the story of a childhood."(2005).

Chute, Hillary. "The texture of retracing in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis."WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly36.1 (2008): 92-110.

Satrapi, Marjane. "Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (New York."Pantheon (2010): 210.

Ramazani, Nesta. "Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, and: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books."Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 24.1 (2014): 278-280.

December 12, 2023

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