Revolutions are movements that are organized by individuals or masses of people, who are often oppressed and, therefore, feel the need to express themselves. Revolutions, therefore, have almost always led to the change in the order of a society, whether positively or negatively. Examples of revolutions that have changed the order of society and the world at large include: the Islamic revolution; the Cuban Revolution; the French Revolution, among others.
In deed, in Persepolis, the author brings out the changes that were imparted in her society by the Islamic revolution of 1979 that swept Iran and other surrounding Islamic nations like Iraq (Satrapi, 2003). During the revolution, the French school Marjane attended was closed due to its bilingual orientation. Boys and Girls were separated and the girls were forced to wear veils to cover their hair and faces (Satrapi, 2003). The revolution therefore brought change to the order of the initial society in Iran and her neighbors, and to the life of Marjane Satrapi.
The story of Persepolis unfolds around the different stages of Marjane’s life in her path towards maturity. It begins at the backdrop of the Islamic revolution in Iran, when the author, Marjane Satrapi, was just a ten-year old girl. She is brought up by a Persian family that was holy and had been involved in the socialist and communist movements before the onset of the Iranian revolution (Satrapi, 2003). She first experienced and witnessed the growing levels of oppression when her French school, Lycée Français, was closed due to its bilingual nature.
The Shah regime that had ruled over Iran for years had markedly suppressed civil liberty movements. However, people who had grown tired of the regime mobilized and organized these liberty movements leading to the fall of the Shah regime and the subsequent Iraq-Iran war. During the Iraq war, she was caught in the middle of Iraqi air raids with scuds falling very near to their home in Tehran. In deed, the story of Persepolis reports that one of the scuds hit a neighboring house killing a friend of hers (Satrapi, 2003). This effectively changed Marjane’s perception towards their government and she suddenly developed the urge to ‘do something’.
However, her main inspiration to ‘fight’ came from reading stories of world famous revolutionists such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. These stories caused her to make the difficult decision to follow in the footsteps of her parents and fight the oppressive people who were in power (Satrapi, 2003). Her parents tried to deter her by sending her to Vienna, Austria when she was just fourteen years of age. She defied them and instead joined the Vienna version of Lycée Français where she learned more about the revolutions and the revolutionists (Satrapi, 2003). In deed, her revolt is inspired by the revolutionists’ assertions that …“intellectualism could not succeed in solving the painful experiences of life itself, but rather, it was necessary that an individual suffers so as to understand the feeling of the hardships”... She later graduated from Lycée Français school in Vienna and went back home. While in Tehran, she attended and graduated from the Tehran University with a master’s degree in literary arts. Her experience during the Islamic Revolution caused her to use her acquired knowledge to communicate and mobilize the people of Iran and the Islamic world at large, through her writing and films (Satrapi, 2003). She later moved to France, from where she could express her ideas more freely and communicate to a larger audience.
The various stages of the author’s experience are brought forward in the novel by its categorization into phases. The first phase sets the ball rolling for the entire story since it looks at the immediate effects of the Islamic revolution when Marjane was just a young girl. This phase looks at the forcible wearing of veils among Islamic girls and women, an event occasioned by the revolution. The second phase is portrayed after Marjane had read about the works of famous revolutionists such as Fidel and Guevara. She realizes, from their works, that revolutions were like a ‘bicycle’ (Satrapi, 2003), that needed to stay in motion in order to continue working. She had been born a religious person. She, therefore, believed that the king was chosen by God to lead them, and therefore, despite protests from her parents, supported him. But tales from her parents reveals that her grand father had worked for the King as prime minister but had been mistreated and later detained in a ‘Water cell’ (Satrapi, 2003), where he was torture, often by being partially submerged in water in a water tub for several hours. This realization forms the basis of the third phase of the novel. However, it was the forth phase of the book that triggers Marjane into action. In this phase termed ‘Persepolis’, Marjane’s grandmother narrates to her the hardships and poverty they were subjected to by the king’s regime in earlier days since the Shah’s father took everything from the peasants and left them with nothing to subsist on (Satrapi, 2003).
The novel therefore brings out the experiences of Marjane, who is the main character, over the period of Islamic revolution, before and after the revolution, which helped to mature her into a revolutionist herself. She brings this out clearly in the novel by excellently portraying the heights of social censorship during the period of unrest. This novel is therefore a personal account of how the political and historical events in her country facilitated her maturity from a girl to a woman who had a strong spirit and belief to fight for what she believed in.