Writing 305: The Politics of Visual Rhetoric

Marjane Satrapi: Persepolis

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Source: www.persepolisgrill.com

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel presents the story of Marji, a ten years old Iranian girl, amidst the turmoil of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and its attendant demonstrations against the rule of the Shah. As the story unfolds, Marji learns that she is the grand-daughter of Iran’s former prime minister and the emperor’s son. During his mandate, he allegedly turned to the left, which upset the Shah and emboldened the regime to contain him and others as subverting factors for the state’s rule. Ultimately, he ended up dead.

Through the story of her grandpa and her experiences in school as well as with her maid at home, Marji learnt about the differences and struggles that define the gap between Iran’s social classes. Such concepts were, however, largely abstract and incomprehensible for her as a child. Marji found herself stuck in conundrum of her upbringing, her family history, her friends’ lives and Iran’s state-of-the-art societal developments. Through a child’s view, Marji’s dialogues with God exposed the reader to a simple, yet morally difficult set of questions such as one’s self-determination and cultural identity, equality or the state’s right to control the society. This exposition prompts the reader to think critically about the social aspects of life and the extent to which these are controlled by various public and private actors around us.

As a graphic novel, the implicit messages the story conveys are delivered in a subtle, yet effective way, allowing the audience to become immersed in Marji’s reality. The author’s choice of a child persona as the narrator allows for a deeper connection with the audience through an effective use of ethos and pathos. This is done by appealing to certain traits associated with children in general, such as honesty, innocence or empathy.

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