How would you describe Marjane's interaction with Western culture?
Though she is born and raised for much of her life in Tehran, Marjane Satrapi is as much a product of Western culture as of Middle Eastern culture. Her parents both ascribe to Western political viewpoints and are not reluctant to let their daughter indulge in Western popular culture. One of the major reasons that Marjane is sent to Europe at the novel's end is because her parents feel as though she can no longer sustain the Western style of education that her parents want for her.
Whom do you think is described as the bigger enemy in the novel -- the Shah or the Islamic regime that takes control after the Shah?
Both the Shah and the Islamic fundamentalist regime are characterized as bad rulers of the Iranian people and it is difficult to say which was worse for the Iranian people. Satrapi seems to say that each regime is one side of the same coin. The Shah was brutal to his people, imprisoning many of the political dissidents, in his attempt to maintain power and to serve Western interests. The Islamic regime used the same brutality for the same reasons in order to propagate a pure Islamic state.
Discuss the theme of matriarchy in Persepolis.
Satrapi's novel is written from a feminist perspective, and thus the matriarchal side of her family features prominently in the story. Marjane's grandmother, as represented by her strength in caring for her children and her wisdom of peace and forgiveness, is the novel's chief matriarch. The end of the novel is a poignant scene in which Marjane falls into her grandmother's bosom and is sent out into the world with the mantle of matriarch now upon her.
Do you think that Marjane's father was a "resigned" individual, as Marjane claims in the novel?
Marjane has a complex view of her father throughout the novel. In many instances, one can see how she truly looked up to her father for holding controversial political views and for risking his safety in protests to overthrow the Shah. Marjane also sees her father has having the personality of "resignation," something she calls a Persian trait. He adamantly proclaims that he will not fight against Iran in the war and Marjane is disappointed that her father is not a tortured political hero as were Siamak and Mohsen.
How does the social class of Marjane's family conflict with their political views?
Marjane's family is a member of Iran's middle class. Her father has a good job as an engineer and they are able to keep a maid for the house, drive nice cars, take vacations, and give their daughter an excellent education. This privilege would seem to conflict with their political views, however. The family maintains a long familial heritage as leftist political activists. Many of Marjane's family members were imprisoned or killed for their beliefs. This dissonance between political belief and practice is a central tension of Marjane's childhood.
Discuss the symbolism of jewels and jewelry throughout the novel.
In several scenes of the novel, jewels represent the feminine. They are precious objects of great value. However, they are also easily bought and sold, as in the case of Mali and her family. Mali's jewels are sold in order for the family to survive their great loss in the Iraqi bombings. At the same time, Mali's life is seen as devalued by the other women Tehran because she is now a refugee. The loss of value of such beautiful, rare objects is mirrored in the devaluing of female identity under the Islamic regime.
In the novel's first scene, Marjane shows a photo of her elementary school class. She, however, is cut out of the picture. Why does Satrapi begin the novel with this imagery?
Persepolis can be read as one young girl's journey to find her own identity in the war torn, repressive Middle Eastern culture in which she grows up. By beginning the novel with this scene of a school photo, Satrapi is representing the fact that her Western self (the perspective from which she writes) is only half of her identity. The other half of her identity is found in Iran, a country that literally and figuratively attempts to hide away the identities of its women. Marjane's full identity, therefore, cannot be fully understood as long as a repressive fundamentalist spirit rules the country.
Some critics of the novel have claimed that Satrapi's view of Iran is too one-sided. Why or why not do you believe this is true?
Satrapi has been criticized for writing Persepolis from a Western perspective. In these critic's estimation, Marjane is as much a product of Western culture - Western education, Western politics, Western popular culture - as she is a part of her Middle Eastern milieu. This leads Satrapi to be overly critical of all who would ascribe to conservative Islamic practice. Her viewpoint, thus, correlates all conservative Muslims with the brutality of the Iranian fundamentalist regime. This criticism can be seen as unfair, however, if one reads Satrapi's novel chiefly as a political novel and not as a commentary on religion.
What symbolism does Satrapi give to cigarettes in the novel?
For Satrapi, a cigarette is first a symbol of adulthood and the freedom and independence that comes with being able to smoke. Marjane secretly sneaks away to her basement hideout to smoke a cigarette that she had stolen from her uncle. This, she claims, is her first act of adult independence. Her Uncle Tehar's smoking habit, however, represents the fact that both smoking and adulthood come with serious problems and consequences. Tehar is emotionally torn by his decision to send his son away to Holland while he is physically torn from the damage that smoking has done to his body.
Why does Satrapi think that the Islamic regime was able to gain control of Iran after the 1979 Revolution?
Through the characters of her father and uncle, Satrapi explains that the Revolution had been the product of a vocal minority while the majority of Iranians needed some kind of symbol to guide them and lead them. This allowed the Islamic religious leaders to take control of the country. Satrapi blames this on the people's lack of education. The people have faith only in religion, not in political ideals. Satrapi's uncle believes in the novel that the religious leaders will have no interest in leading the nation, yet this proves not to be the case.