Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

by Marjane Satrapi

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Influence of family and culture on identity in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood


Family and culture significantly influence identity in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. Marjane's parents' progressive views and her grandmother's wisdom shape her political and social beliefs, while the oppressive cultural environment of post-revolutionary Iran challenges and molds her personal identity and resilience.

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How does Satrapi illustrate the influence of family and culture on a person's identity in Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood?

Family and culture play major roles within Marji's upbringing. Her parents are not traditional Muslims: they drink alcohol in secret (since Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol) and generally hold more secular views. However, Marji does not reject Islam entirely. Rather, she synthesizes religious ideals with secular values, stressing her own unique identity. As a child, she dreams of being both a scientist and a religious prophet. These seemingly opposite dreams are representative of how both Islamic and secular Western culture have helped form who she is.

Marji's confidence to express her individuality comes from her liberal parents, who live their lives with integrity even in the face of a repressive theocracy. Her uncle, who is jailed and then executed for his subversive views, is a heroic model for the young Marji. Ultimately, Marji's identity is most strongly formed by Islam, Western secularism and culture (represented through her love of rock-and-roll music), and her liberal family members. This makes it all the harder for her when she must separate from her parents at the end of the first volume of Persepolis. Her family helped form her into an independent-minded young teenager, but such traits also put her in danger as long as she stays in Iran and does not conform to the demands of the fundamentalist revolutionaries.

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In Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, how do her family members impact her?

In Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi is greatly affected by her family members, as they shape her ideas, give her a sense of cultural heritage, and encourage her to speak out against injustice. Let's look at this in more detail.

Marjane's parents hold modern views about the world, and they teach them to their daughter. They are all about discovering the truth and holding to it even if that means being persecuted for it. They also realize, though, that they are living in a dangerous situation after the Islamic Revolution, and they are forced to give in sometimes simply to keep the family safe. Marjane's mother, for instance, begins to wear a headscarf in public, and she hangs up curtains in the windows of the family home so that the family can continue to live as they wish without anyone seeing.

These ideas and practices affect Marjane greatly, for they set her own ideas firmly in place. Marjane's parents also give her the courage to speak up for what she believes, even though sometimes they remove her from situations that are dangerous.

Marjane's grandfather had once been a prince in Iran, and this gives Marjane a proud heritage that she holds to in the face of the Shah's rule. Finally, Marjane's uncle Anoosh is a political prisoner who is eventually executed. Marjane goes to visit him while he is in prison. She sees firsthand what it is like for someone to be imprisoned under the regime. When Anoosh dies, Marjane struggles with her faith in God and begins speaking out at school, especially when her teacher says that there are not political prisoners. Marjane knows otherwise and, with her uncle's courage, says so.

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