Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

by Marjane Satrapi

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Student Question

Why does Satrapi revert to her child self to tell the story in Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood?

Quick answer:

Since Satrapi is writing about her childhood, she "reverts" back to her childhood self to tell her story Persepolis. She is writing as an adult but looking back to her younger self. It makes sense to revert to childhood when telling a story about childhood in order to capture the point of view and thoughts.

Expert Answers

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Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis uses the graphic novel format to tell the story of Satrapi's childhood in Iran, beginning with the authoritarian rule of the Shah and continuing through the Iranian Revolution and establishment of a theocratic state. Satrapi published the book (there's also a second volume) in 2000 but is looking back at her childhood in the late 1970s and 1980s. She is not so much "reverting" back to her child self as recalling her experiences as a child. It's effective because the reader will be more sympathetic to a child than an adult. A child is also (usually) innocent, and so the sometimes brutal events of the story (the repression by the Shah and his secret police, the murder of her uncle, the repression of the Islamic regime) stand in stark contrast to the younger Marjane's perception. The story can be considered a bildungsroman and is especially interested in how Marjane becomes politically aware and aware of how the state abuses its power, whether its secular or religious.

In the chapter "The Letter," Marjane recalls her family's maid Mehri and how she would writer letters for Mehri because she was illiterate; this letters were for a man she loved. Though a child, she is better educated than the adult Mehri, which says something about her family's social class. Marjane, however, is still a rather naive child, and she gets in trouble with her parents when they find out about the letters. Once again, the young Marjane learns a life lesson that helps her mature.

There is an animated film of the book, which Satrapi co-directed.

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