Essay on Veil in Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’

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Persopolis Guided Literary Analysis

The graphic novel ‘Persepolis’ written by Marjane Satrapi, follows the author and the retelling of her experiences and feelings during the time of the Islamic Revolution which took place in Iran in 1980. The book explores many themes and notions such as feminism, gender roles, freedom, power, justice, social classes, and religion just to name a few. In short, the book really delves into the themes of personal and national identity through the experiences of Marjane and what's happening in society during this time. The passage (The Veil), gives us an introduction to Satrapi as she is 10 years old and the implementation of the veil in Iran has commenced.

‘Persepolis’ is written in the first person from Marjane’s perspective as she was 10 years old however the narration, while still being from Marjane is from her in her adulthood which brings an extent of maturity and wisdom to the overall book. This allows the novel to differentiate from being a children's book to a book ideal for young adults while still capturing 10-year-old Marjane’s mischievous and lively spirits. With ‘Persepolis’ being an autobiography it is a given that it's predominately from Marjane’s perspective and the book follows how she feels and how she reacted to the societal changes at the time. In the passage ‘The Veil’ we only really hear from Marjane however as the book progresses her family and other significant characters begin to be more present in the dialogue.

The book takes place in Tehran, Iran during the 1980s. During this period, Iran’s largest revolution had commenced which is referred to as the ‘Islamic Revolution’. The Islamic revolution consisted of Islamist revolutionaries who opposed the western secular policies of the authoritarian Shah of Iran named Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. This saw supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini organize large protests which ended in Khomeini becoming the new leader of Iran. The end result was the replacement of an Authoritarian monarchy with a theocratic republic. This was no doubt a lot of changes for a ten-year-old like Marjane who was also under the pressure of her parent’s strong political beliefs. This made Marjane question reality and this is highlighted in the book when Marjane says “I really didn’t know what to think about the veil, deep down I was very religious but as a family, we were very modern and avant-garde” (Satrapi 2006, page 6). Marjane was never short on giving her opinion and had plenty to say about the new changes and this is due to her nature and how her parents had raised her.

The mood and tone are portrayed clearly from the outset of the book. The most conspicuous is the black-and-white format of the novel. The colors, well, in this case, lack of color, exhibits to the reader that life at this point for Marjane and society perhaps wasn't the happiest and was quite dull. Giving the book a mood appropriately described as ‘depressing’ and ‘bleak’. The visuals in conjunction with Satrapi’s tone and linguistic choices help emphasize these tones. For example, In the passage ‘The Veil’, there is a minimal amount of smiles and happy expressions on the characters and Satrapi is quick to express her feelings and thoughts on the societal changes in a reasonable yet pessimistic fashion. “We found ourselves veiled and separated from our friends… and that was that.” (Satrapi 2006, page 4). Quotes like such make the reader feel for Marjane and influence the mood of the story onto them.

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‘Persepolis’ is written in a graphic novel form, meaning there is an imbalance of pictures and words - being significantly more pictures than sentences. Consequently, Satrapi’s style of writing can be described as clean and sharp as she allows the images to tell her story more so than the words themselves. Because of the well-thought-out and executed images allow her to cut any unnecessary language, adjectives, and adverbs thus making the novel ‘Persepolis easy to read for a large range of audiences ranging from young teens to mature adults. The physical structure of the book consists of 5-8 windows of images with small amounts of text on each page. The images themselves are rather simplistic however there's plenty of detail and sometimes even subliminal messages that aren't always picked up upon first glance.

How do all those elements contribute to the conveyance of the themes and morals of the book to its audience? As mentioned previously, the book is filled with different aspects of a large range of themes such as feminism, power justice, social classes, and religious beliefs. In the first chapter of the book, ‘The Veil’, the primary theme is religion. This all begins as the Shah is overthrown in favor of an Islamic Republic. This new government becomes significantly more religious and oppressive. One of the things they introduced was the veil which makes it obligatory for all females to wear a veil that covers most of their faces. This new change doesn't go down well with the girls at Marjane's school. This is shown within the first 2 windows of the first page with all of her friends evidently disinterested in the new demand. Their disinterest most likely stems from their lack of knowledge of why they need to wear it.

Continuing on with religion, Marjane comes from a modern family however she “was born with religion”. It is clear in this passage that from a young age she considers herself “the last prophet”, despite prophets traditionally being men before her. This is where a notion of feminism comes in, she doesn't let tradition stop her from believing that she is truly “the last prophet”. She was so passionate about her beliefs she goes to create her own holy book with rules that are influenced by some of the prophets before her. Because of her modernized family, Marjane connects deeper with her grandmother and she is the only other person to know about the holy book. Towards the end of the chapter, we witness Marjane talk with God who confides with her. After she begins sharing her ambitions to become a prophet all her friends find it absurd and concern her teacher. She lies saying “I want to be a doctor” (Satrapi 2006, page 9). But in her heart, she still wants to be “the last prophet”. The chapter ends with Marjane saying “I wanted to be justice, love, and the wrath of God all in one” this leads to some of the other themes which are introduced in the next chapter such as power, justice, and social classes.

In short, the graphic novel ‘Persepolis’ written by Marjane Satrapi is precise, and polished and explores many interesting themes and authentic events that occurred in our history in a non-traditional manner. Most authors when writing a memoir of this caliber would tend to write a novel with minimal pictures whereas Satrapi set out to do the opposite. This linguistic and structural choice, in my opinion, was very effective in its conveyance of messages and themes while keeping mature topics light-hearted and appropriate for younger audiences. The story at times can be playful as it’s from the perspective of a ten-year-old but this doesn't jeopardize the authenticity and quality of the information. This book is still relevant in today’s society with females taking over the world and doing things that weren’t imaginable in Marjane’s childhood and she was starting to break traditional gender roles at a young age. Evidently ‘Persepolis’, may it be the first chapter of the book as a whole continually explores deep and new themes and makes for a relevant yet engaging reading experience.

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Essay on Veil in Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 20, 2024, from
“Essay on Veil in Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
Essay on Veil in Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 May 2024].
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