How does the revolution impact society in the book Persepolis?

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Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir of her life in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, depicts the radical transformations in Iranian society that followed the 1979 revolution. These transformations occur at the outset of Satrapi’s book, with the author illustrating the repressive atmosphere that gripped...

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Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir of her life in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, depicts the radical transformations in Iranian society that followed the 1979 revolution. These transformations occur at the outset of Satrapi’s book, with the author illustrating the repressive atmosphere that gripped her country in the aftermath of the Shah’s removal from power and his replacement with a fundamentalist autocratic regime. The opening illustrations and text in Persepolis show a ten-year-old Marjane unhappily wearing the veil on her head that was required by the Islamic clergy who now ruled Iran. In one of these early panels, Satrapi accompanies her illustration of the transformations that engulfed Iranian society with the caption “The Year It Became Obligatory to Wear the Veil at School,” the drawing depicting a female instructor handing the young elementary school girls the head covering that was now required.

As Persepolis proceeds, Satrapi continues to depict the changes imposed from the country’s new dictators, including the segregation of genders and the risks heretofore inherent in socializing outside the austere parameters of revolutionary Iran. It is in elementary school where the author experiences these social transformations most directly, both with the sudden segregation of boys from girls and with the banning of the study of foreign languages, described by one of the new instructors as “symbols of capitalism . . . of decadence.”

The transformations Satrapi describes go well beyond the strictures imposed on children. Satrapi also depicts the effects of the revolution on the adult members of her family and relatives, such as when they discuss the new policies put into place and the merits of denouncing Western-style economic systems. In a chapter titled “The Sheep,” Satrapi depicts adults lost in a society that has suddenly and violently undergone such dramatic transformations, with her Uncle Anoosh a victim of his failure to adequately appreciate the depth of animosity held by Iran’s new rulers towards any ideology or perspective not fully in line with the clergy’s interpretations of Islamic texts. Anoosh’s imprisonment and execution by the ruling clerics, despite his record as having been imprisoned for opposing the Shah, is a painful lesson for Marjane and her family regarding the repressive atmosphere in which they now live.

While the Shah of Iran had been a brutal dictator who imprisoned and tortured his political enemies with wanton abandon, many Iranians were ill-prepared for the major transitions they would experience following the revolution. The Shah had been committed to modernizing Iran and making it a model of political and economic stability in a turbulent region. The revolution resulted in his ouster. His replacements imposed a level of austerity unanticipated by many Iranians. Persepolis depicts the changes from a personal perspective, and those changes were far-reaching.

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The Islamic Revolution changed nearly everything about ordinary life in Iran. From the requirement that the women and girls wear the veil (hijab) to the requirement for schools to be one sex and the prohibition of alcohol, Marjane's life and her family's life changed completely. The effects of the Islamic Revolution cause the graphic novel's early major conflicts.

The graphic novel begins with two panels showing Marjane sitting with four other girls wearing veils. None of the girls look very happy about it. Marjane explains that in 1980 "it became obligatory to wear the veil at school" and she "didn't really like the veil, especially since we didn't understand why we had to." This sets of panels on the very first page of the novel set a theme for the rest of the work. It sets the theme that those living in Iran followed the rules set by the Islamic Revolution even though they "didn't understand why we had to."

Marjane came from a highly educated and very liberal family. Her parents and grandmother enjoyed drinking alcohol, they opposed the shah and hoped for a democratic revolution to usher in social and economic reform. Her father's friends and her Uncle Anoosh were in prison because of their opposition to the shah. The desire for economic reform was evident in the way Marjane's maid was treated by the neighbor boy who rejected her completely because of her social status.

After the removal of the shah, Marjane's family shares their hopes that things will get better, but the panel in which they express this feeling is wrapped by a snake, foreshadowing the bad things to come.

Eventually, the Islamic regime institutes new school rules, which increases the number of educated people in Iran, but also institutes rules about single-sex schools and the hijab requirement. Alcohol is outlawed. There is a strict dress code that is enforced in the country. The poor, who had previously been outcasts, became some of the major enforcers of these rules.

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