The transition between childhood and adulthood is a time of growing independence along with constant questioning, especially when being exposed to the cultural norms of society, some of which are divisive and not always driven by pure motivation. When becoming adults, our personal world is shaped around what we have been taught and through our experiences. This highlights that it is inevitable that you will be influenced by the world and people around you, but you will always have the final say on your own beliefs and values. To Kill A Mockingbird (1960), a southern gothic textual novel written by Harper Lee and Persepolis (2000), a graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi, both explore the conflict between the personal and public worlds of their two protagonists as they grow up within intolerant societies, using similar techniques despite their different distinct forms. Lee and Satrapi both use their two main characters (Scout and Marji) to show the ability that others have to influence people's values and beliefs, as well as the choice to either accept those values or reject them. This is effectively shown through the power that the protagonists' families, rules and teachers hold over the two main characters, the effect that loss of innocence and being confronted with the hostility of the world holds and the respective responses of the main characters.
With both main characters being young children, Lee and Satrapi utilise a young girl’s perspective in their chosen textual forms to explore the main influences on the girls’ open minded outlook - one of these main influences being the protagonist's school and families. In To Kill A Mockingbird Scout becomes greatly accustomed to the workings of the court system due to her father (Atticus) being a lawyer. When her father risks his life defending Tom Robinson, Scout later finds a new sense of anger within her, but for reasons she does not understand. She is upset that others call Atticus racist names and look down upon the family due to his choice, however although their family faces the consequences of his actions which are opposed to the social norms of the day, Scout still admires her father for doing the best he can in the face of such extreme opposition. This new found value she holds establishes the automatic influence that her father has had on her. “You can just take that back, boy!” is an emotive quote evoking the imagery of Scout being irritated, taken from chapter nine, which shows Scout wrestling with the social norms of other classmates looking down upon people who defend “black” people, like her father. In To Kill A Mockingbird we can see the strong influence that her father holds over Scout, which causes Scout to challenge the public world and uphold her family’s values over the public belief system.
In the graphic novel, Persepolis, Satrapi shows children to be extremely malleable ideologically and behaviorally during the Iran-Iraq war due to the fact that the children don’t currently have the capacity to understand the complexity of the situation around them. “I really didn’t know what to think about the veil.” is a quote taken from the chapter “The Veil.” This quote alerts us to the fact that for a child born into this new rule, it would seem perfectly normal, just as before not wearing a veil felt normal for Marji prior to the Revolution. Although at first Marji follows or reveres anyone within a power position and with popular appeal, she begins to become constantly confronted with the contradictions and confusions of life. Due the Iranian government understanding that the children of today are going to be the future adults, Marjane’s school becomes a microcosm of the wider world in which the government hopes to gain the support of the “future adults.” The 9th panel in the chapter “The Key” shows the students looking identical with a hand placed on their chests. Satrapi uses symbolism of the repetition of each hand on the girls chest to establish strict policing and allegiance. The vectors of the veils convey a sense of uneasiness while the high modality highlights the starkness and severity of the scene. Marjane’s confusion leads her to understand that she can’t simply follow the opinions of others - she believes that she needs to make up her own mind about the political realities and questions surrounding her. In Persepolis we can see the clear influence that the rules and her school have over her, and how due to her struggle with these rules she decides to challenge the public world just like Scout and form her own decisions.
Another main influence over the young protagonists views includes their early loss of innocence and being confronted by the hostility of the world. In To Kill A Mockingbird we see both Scout and Jem (Scout’s brother) lose their childhood innocence after witnessing Tom Robinson become a victim of racial injustice when wrongly convicted of assaulting and raping a woman. “Judge Taylor was polling the jury: “Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty…” I peeked at Jem: his hands were white from gripping the balcony rail, and his shoulders jerked as if each “guilty” was a separate stab between them.” is a quote where Lee effectively uses both repetition and simile, that conveys the severe effect it had on Jem as she realises that not everything in the world is “good.” When Bob Ewell tries to stab Jem and Scout, we see the characters become completely exposed to the dangers and hostility of the world. The racial-segregated society which has caused much trouble for Scout and her family, cause her to therefore steer away from the public world norms and form her own passionate way of thinking.
Throughout Persepolis, Marji explains several moments in her life that causes her to lose innocence and therefore become more mature, both physically and mentally. After being told of an interaction at one of the demonstrations in her town, she recalls: “Something escaped me. I realized then that I didn’t understand anything. I read all the books I could”. (p.32) Marji realizes that she is still young and doesn’t understand as much about the world as she thinks she does. She loses the somewhat “innocent” way that she used to perceive the world to be as she becomes more informed about the world around her. Furthermore, when Marji finds out Anoosh had been executed for being a spy, she realizes that even people who she looks up to are not immune to the world’s vast amount of cruelty. This is established in one of the panels from the chapter “The Sheep” which shows Marji lying down on her bed crying, while telling herself that “everything will be alright.” This panel is particularly powerful as the reader can see the clear contrast in what she is saying and what is portrayed in the panel. She is telling herself that everything will be alright, while crying and looking distressed, proving to the reader that she is, in fact, not alright. The close up of her lying on her bed and clear facial expression enables us to sympathise with her. We can see that Marjane understands that she is not immune to the dangers of the world either and in fact even more so in this case. Marjane responds to these events, by showing her nonconformity in response to the social norms and government expectations that she deems unjust. Her new found rebellious attitude proves to show that her loss of innocence greatly influenced her, causing her to rebel against the public world like Scout did.
Both the textual novel To Kill a Mockingbird and the graphic novel Persepolis enhance our understanding of how it is inevitable that you will be influenced by the world and people around you, but you will always have the final say on your own beliefs and values. This is conveyed as both protagonists react to the events around them as well as their families, rules they are ordered to obey and schools. We see both Scout and Marji struggle with their personal world and how they want to be portrayed in the public world. Scout ends up following her father’s way of thinking based off what she was taught as well as what she saw while Marji disobeys her authority and changes her beliefs and value in spite of what she finds out and begins to understand. Both of the distinct forms of text convey the unavoidable influence that your experiences and others will have on you, but how you will always have the option to conform to these influences or make your own path.