Persepolis presents the Islamic Revolution in Iran through the point of view of a child who questions the most fundamental practices and assumptions of Islam. Growing in a household that frowns upon the dictates of Islamic fundamentalism at a time when there is a growing presence of Islamic fundamentalists, the point of view in the graphic book offers a different look into the local Islamic movement in Iran. Through that perspective, my understanding is that the movement placed the people within the limits of a religious fence that does not give room for questions. Challenging the dictates of the Islamic institution is also seen as a challenge to the religion itself, which in turn explains why those who openly opposed the movement were physically harmed by the advocates of the Islamic Revolution.
My understanding of the impact of the Islamic Revolution in Iran is that it caused people like Marjane Satrapi’s child character in Persepolis to develop an attitude that tries to resist the forces of the movement. At least in terms of forming a household behavior deviating from the principles put forward by the movement, the child is able to question her surroundings and find the answers to satisfy her desire to be fully aware of what is happening around her. In general, I see the Islamic Revolution as a double-edged sword—while it rebuilds and strengthens the piety of the Muslims to their religion and its edicts, it also threatens to lose the devotion of those who are against some of the principles advocated by the movement. Unfortunately, the movement creates a wide gap between those who are for the movement and those who are against it, dividing the believers into two extreme opposites which defeat the essence of religion.
Some of the cultural and political issues raised by Satrapi’s narrative include the negative response of Islam towards the Western societies, the conflict between fundamentalism and the changing trends in the modern world, and the issue of sacrificing or repressing individual liberty in exchange for following stringent religious doctrines. In the narrative, the parents of the child try to expose their child to the Western culture right in the midst of the conflict in Iran. They gave her posters of Iron Maiden and Kim Wilde and they drink wine in their home despite the fact that their religion forbids them to do so. Her parents are Marxists and they try to teach her about the glaring evils of the Iranian regime. These things indicate that Iran at that time was a country where there is no stability in terms of politics and culture. The fact that the Islamic fundamentalists at that time tried to repress those who were against their principles suggests the apparent conflict that creates the impression of turmoil. There was a struggle and it was one that was far from being over.
The conflict between fundamentalism and the Western world present in Iran is best seen in terms of the attempt of the Islamic fundamentalists to do the opposite of what most democratic Western societies practice. While most democratic Western societies encourage their citizens to practice social liberty and freedom of expression, Islamic Iran under the clutches of the fundamentalists are trying to “veil” their society, in a manner of speaking, from the influence of the Western societies. In a way, the fundamentalists do not only discourage the Iranians from replicating the beliefs and practices of the Western societies; they also give sanctions to those who attempt to become religious subversives.
Satrapi’s graphic novel comments on those issues by presenting the conflicts in Iran from the life of a little girl who, despite being a child, sees her Iranian society as a crumbling society, whose principles do not promote the interests of the people but rather promote the interests of the religion. The strip also injects a bit of humor on the issue, using language that invokes comedy along with the...