In Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, how does Marjane Satrapi challenge the myth that Iran is not just a country of fundamentalists and terrorists?

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One of Persepolis ’s main themes is to show what life in Iran is really like, through the eyes of the pre-adolescent Marjane. The picture that emerges is much different, and more nuanced, than the image of Iran common in the West. For one thing, Satrapi goes to some length...

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One of Persepolis’s main themes is to show what life in Iran is really like, through the eyes of the pre-adolescent Marjane. The picture that emerges is much different, and more nuanced, than the image of Iran common in the West. For one thing, Satrapi goes to some length to recount the actual history of Iran, showing that historically, Iran was not a Muslim country. But more than that, through exploring her childhood, Satrapi is able to show that she was not unlike other kids, and that her family loved her in the same way as families in the West. Young Marjane's family is fairly well-off; her father is a professional; Marjane wants the same things kids everywhere want (trendy clothes, the latest music, and so forth). Her parents are not fundamentalists, and they take real risks in breaking the rules—not to make a political statement, but to have fun, to preserve who they are in the face of repression.

On the other hand, Satrapi doesn’t shy away from the charged political climate of Iran. Marjane’s adulation of her leftist uncle, kept for years as a political prisoner, is a case in point. Marjane thinks of him as a hero, and the uncle desperately loves her, in part because she is outside the struggle and in part because she sees the value of his sacrifice. Her relationship with him is beyond ideology, and in that sense it can be seen as anti-fundamentalist. But at the same time, Marjane lives in a country where she is the one person allowed to visit her uncle before his execution for political crimes. Satrapi succeeds in showing that Iran is more than a cartoon country run by Muslim extremists, but Marjane does experience terrible things there, which shape her personality.

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In Persepolis: The Story of a ChildhoodMarjane Satrapi challenges Western audiences' preconceived notions of Iran as a country of fundamentalists and terrorists in the introduction, through the explanation of her country's rich history and through the description of her home life with a progressive middle class family.

In the introduction, Satrapi explains:

Since [the Revolution], this old and great civilization has been discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism. As an Iranian who has lived more than half my life in Iran, I know that this image is far from the truth. [...] I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists.

Satrapi goes on to describe her country's "old and great civilization" from the time of the Arab invaders to the modern 20th Century imperialism. However, she describes how the intellectuals of Iran, despite the "2500 years of tyranny and submission," were hopeful in making the country in their image. These revolutionaries who wanted to overthrow the Shah, Satrapi shows, did not depend on bombs or terrorism, but on protests and use of the media.

However, Satrapi is most effective in destroying the preconceived notions about Iran when showing the ordinariness of her family. Her father and mother both worked and were both "modern." Satrapi listens to Western music, particularly punk rock. In addition, after the revolution, Marjane's mother continues to show how she was a modern woman by having some hair show. In addition, her parents and their friends have a party where they dance to Western music, drink wine (despite alcohol being forbidden), and dress without the required garb.

Overall, Satrapi does a great job of demolishing the prejudices the West often has about Iran.

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