In Persepolis, the primary representation of the individual is the narrator, Marjane "Marji" Satrapi. The larger experience shared by many Western-educated, upper-class Iranians in an Islamist theocratic state is distilled through her and other family members. In part because of her age when the Shah was overthrown in 1979, she represents the dilemmas of a generation of young people in the 1980s who had expected to continue their formal education and their experience of liberal, Western-influenced ideas and activities. But she also presents the stories of other members of her family, including her parents, who had outspokenly opposed the Shah and then endured further political repression under the revolutionary regime. Her uncle is executed shortly after she visits him in prison.
One specific way that Marji’s family’s dilemma is shown is through her parents’ decision to send her out of the country, where she attended boarding school in Europe. These steps became necessary as the adolescent girl developed a deeper political consciousness, and became a vocal critic of the propaganda that substituted for factual information at her school. In addition, the Iran-Iraq War not only caused widespread suffering and deprivation, but was used as a political tool for the governing regime. As opposing the war was deemed not just unpatriotic but subversive, those who lacked appropriate public enthusiasm were also censured.
Based on her perspective in Paris, where she was living while writing the graphic novel, we might see Marji as being safe or at least spared the worst excesses. Clearly her memories and impressions remained sharp, and her sense of security could not be restored. The personal coming-of-age story focuses the reader’s attention on the human cost even on those who did not endure physical harm.