Why Marjane Satrapi chose to tell her story Persepolis in the graphic form The graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was written in the graphic medium to appeal to a wider audience. Literary critic, Manuela Constantino, proposes that “the combination of a visual representation and a child’s point of view makes the story easily accessible and therefore attracts a wide range of readers. ” (Constantino, 2008: 2) Another plausible reason for Satrapi's choice to do the novel in this medium is the apparent popularity graphic novels enjoyed at the point of the memoir’s publication.
Writing the novel graphically, brings the Middle Eastern novel closer to its Western readers. As Constantino wrote; Satrapi emphasizes “the universal qualities of her child narrator and the details of her experiences that would be familiar to her Western readers. ” (Constantino, 2008: 2) Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi in the graphic form deems effective because it is written in a form that is recognizable to her target readers, written in somewhat a ‘universal’ language. Satrapi chose to tell her story in the graphic form to better connect with her readers. It is apparent that Satrapi’s targeted audience are mainly Western Christians.
Over forty percent of the world’s population who practice a religion are Christians. The religious stature of the main characters made the novel accessible to its non Muslim readers. Being able to observe Christians in a predominantly Islamic country, opens a window to a life Satrapi's readers could only dare to imagine. A world where u are told what to believe and what to think. It is therefore logical to target the sensitive majority of the population to educate about the Iranian political struggle and to get her story across. The novel in itself is about driving away the West from the conservative Iranian nation.
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Driving away the things her targeted readers consider their norm. Westerners and others around the world try to “seek insight into a country and a nation that have been deemed “evil” and an imminent threat to Western society. ” (Malek, 2006: 10) To aid the West in its quest to “seek insight” into the nation of Iran, Satrapi wrote the novel in a medium that is very closely related to and very familiar in the Western culture. As demonstrated in: “... They found records and videocassettes at their place, a deck of cards, a chess set. In other words, everything that’s banned. The scene leads the reader to feel unwanted and driven off alongside Marji, an Iranian who embraces the reader’s culture as demonstrated in page one hundred and twenty six , from her Iranian world. The reader and Marji form a special bond – they become a unit. This common ground builds a stronger connection between Marji and the reader leading the audience to feel a stronger form of empathy towards the child, as they are now part of the cultural issue.
Satrapi also chose to relate socio-political issues, conflict and loss to Arabic writing; as demonstrated in page eighty seven, in the panel where in two women are arguing. Satrapi, 2003) Their banter is written in a language unfamiliar to her targeted readers leading the reader to classify fighting and arguments as foreign and that the very presence of these women and their conflict is alienating. Another instance is when Pardisse reads her letter to her dead father, a letter written in the same foreign writing – grief is then related to this alien language. (Satrapi, 2003: 86) And on page one hundred and thirty two, in the panel where The Guardians of the Revolution (women’s branch) were introduced, one will observe the same unreadable writing resembling Arabic on their vehicle. Satrapi, 2003) Her use of all these subtle details in the graphic aspect of the novel adds to the effectiveness of the medium in that it forces the reader to lose all sense of familiarity with the antagonistic characters. The visual aspect of this novel aided in Satrapi’s depiction of Marji as someone who embraces the western culture, the reader's culture, with the familiar images of Nike sneakers, jeans, jean jackets, and chocolates, as well as Kim Wilde and Iron Maiden songs. (Satrapi, 2003: 126) This brings another dimension to the relationship between Marji and her readers.
Writing the novel in graphic form brings the Middle Eastern graphic novel closer to its Western neighbours because it is in a medium that is recognizable in the West. In addition, Satrapi’s depiction of Muslim leaders as "uneducated, primitive, and narrow-minded brutes" strengthens her connection with her Western readers whose perception of Muslim extremists might indeed be quite similar to the one crafted in the autobiography. (Constantino, 2008: 4) The novel Persepolis is effective because it was written to please a specific type of community.
It uses language and cultural barriers in the illustrations and text to further separate the reader from the antagonists. “Satrapi’s Persepolis appeared, significantly, at a time when memoirs have been experiencing a great surge of popularity. ” (Malek, 2006: 8) The time of the publication of the memoir deemed critical to its success. It was published around the time where graphic novels were coined “the most important narrative mode of our contemporary culture. ” (Miller, 2000: 421) It shared the lime light with other graphic novels, the likes of Craig Thompson’s “Blankets” and Joe Sacco’s “The Fixer”. Time, 2003) Satrapi chose the perfect time to debut her graphic memoir as she was able to ride ‘the literary high’ comics were experiencing at that point in time. A probable reason why Satrapi chose to tell her story in the graphic medium is the effectiveness and popularity of graphic novels at the point of the novel’s publication. Writing the novel in graphic form and through the eyes of a child allows the issue to be digested with fewer objections by the reader. The novel written through the eyes of a child makes it easier for the reader to comprehend the situation.
It gives the story a comedic approach to a devastating period in Iranian history. “Readers of all ages can identify with the child, feel for her, and learn with her about the complexities of national and international politics. ”(Constantino, 2003: 4) The connection shared between Marji and the reader strengthens their bond and heightens the effectiveness of the story. It is a medium closely related to fun. Writing the novel in graphic form ‘dumbs down’ the brutality of the whole situation. A frame on page fifty two illustrates Ahmadi’s gruesome fate in prison: chopped into several pieces. Satrapi, 2003) Another panel depicting the same kind of 'turned down' brutality is a scene on page seventy six where a woman is being stabbed on the leg. These otherwise gruesome scenes can be better understood because the reader can look at it, take it as it is, and envy the child’s innocence and simplistic thought process. Constantino adds: “The text is easily accessible and seemingly transparent. It makes many people feel that they are educating themselves while they are being entertained.
” Although the text might seem, in a way due to its graphic medium, juvenile, its purpose is to educate and tell an ‘untold story. Some might argue that depicting critical situations such as the Islamic Revolution in a form of graphic medium takes away the severity of the circumstances however; it can definitely be counter argued by the undeniable phrase ‘it’s so simple it works. ’ The visual element allows her to include the offstage action as part of the main narrative flow. Instead of having to impart information as separate incidents, where its impact is reduced by removing it from the context of the story, we see things as they happen, increasing the emotional mpact of the moment. The directness of her work allows her to do two things excellently: to distinguish between individuals easily with just small strokes of the pen and make her depiction of horrors, death, torture, and anguish, emotionally realistic without being graphic or gruesome. Persepolis was written in the graphic form to create a stronger connection with the material and its readers. Persepolis is a powerful story about a person’s struggle for self identity.
The different occurrences in Marji’s life that define her for who she is was written in the graphic medium to make it easier for her audience to connect with her as people in search of who they are. Writing the novel in graphic form offers a sense of familiarity with Satrapi’s targeted Western audience. It brings the unfamiliar Iranian world, issues and their traditions closer to the West’s classification of ‘normal’. It uses religion (specifically Christianity) in illustration and text to even deepen the connection between Marji and her audience. It forms a common ground, a sense of belonging to the same movement.
It is also plausible that one of the reasons why the novel was written in the graphic form was to ride the growing popularity of comics at that particular point in time. Publishing the graphic novel to a community who openly accept comics as a form of sophisticated literature presented an opportunity for the novel to succeed. And lastly, it was written in graphic text to make it easier for the reader to comprehend the situation as these instances don’t usually happen to her targeted Western audience. It makes watching people die a little bit more bearable as it is depicted in a way that a child might perceive death.
Satrapi choosing to tell her story in the form of a graphic novel not only shows us how far that medium has come as a means of expression, but allows us a glimpse into a world that few of us know anything about.
Word Count: 1707 Citation Arnold, Andrew. “The Best and Worst: 2003. ” Time. November 13 2010. Website. ;lt; http://www. time. com/time/bestandworst/2003/comics. html;gt; Malek, Amy. "Memoir as Iranian Exile Cultural Production: A Case Study of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis Series. " Iranian Studies: Journal of the International Society for Iranian Studies 39. 3 (2006): 353-380. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. Print. Manuela Costantino. "Marji: Popular Commix Heroine Breathing Life into the Writing of History. " Canadian Review of American Studies 38. 3 (2008): 429-447. Project MUSE. Cameron Library, Edmonton, AB. 17 Aug. 2010. Website. ;lt;http://muse. jhu. edu/;gt; Nancy Miller, “But Enough About Me, What Do You Think of My Memoir? ” Yale Journal of Criticism 13, no. 2 (2000): 421. Print. Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon Books. 2003. Print "World Religions. " The World Almanac and Book of Facts ©2010. 2010. Print.
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