Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Summary and Analysis of "The Sheep," "The Trip," and "The F-14's"


The Sheep

Marjane’s Uncle Anoosh stays with the family for a time. He and her father have intense political debates. Marjane’s father is a bit perplexed by the political trajectory of the country -- the Revolution had been leftist while the Republic is now Islamic. Anoosh explains that because Iran is largely uneducated and illiterate, the people cannot unite behind ideas. They must unite around nationalism or a religious ideal. Anoosh predicts that the religious leaders will have no interest in ruling the country and will soon return to their mosques letting the people rule the country.

Outside at play, Marjane finds out that a boy she has a crush on is moving to the United States. The boy’s parents fear living under an Islamic regime. Another boy is excited for his friend, saying that he will probably meet Bruce Lee, though Marjane knows Bruce Lee is dead. Soon, others in Marjane’s family leave for the United States. Marjane’s mother worries that they should leave, but her father refuses to leave their affluent station in life. In America, he declares, he would be a taxi driver and she would be a cleaning lady. Marjane’s father is sure that everyone will soon come back to Iran.

One evening, the family receives a phone call and learns that Mohsen has been killed. He had been drowned in his bathtub. The authorities call it an accident, but “when they found his body, only his head was underwater.” A group of men calling themselves the “deliverers of divine justice” soon comes for Siamak and, when they are unable to find him, murders his sister. Siamak and his family leave Iran, hiding amongst a flock of sheep to cross the border. Anoosh’s pronouncements that everything will be all right become harder to believe. This is how “all the former revolutionaries became the sworn enemies of the republic.”

One day, Marjane’s mother picks her up from school. Marjane asks why Anoosh has not picked her up and her mother tells her that Anoosh has gone back to Moscow to see his wife. Secretly, Marjane understands that he has been taken and imprisoned once again. Her parents avoid the topic at dinner before her father finally tells her the truth: Anoosh has been arrested but he has asked that his one visitor be Marjane. She goes to visit him and he tells her that she is “the little girl I always wanted to have.” He gives her a bread swan. It is the last time that Marjane sees her uncle. A few days later, a headline in the newspaper reads, “Russian Spy Executed.” Marjane attempts to repeat her uncle’s words that “Everything will be alright,” but when her friend God appears Marjane yells at him and tells him to get out of her life. Marjane imagines floating, alone, in empty space, “lost, without any bearings....” A shout interrupts her dream. Her parents yell for her to run to the basement because “we’re being bombed!”

The Trip

Marjane’s father reads the paper one morning and curses at the headlines -- the American Embassy has been occupied. The paper shows a picture of a fire and an American flag. Marjane’s mother is uninterested because “the Americans are dummies.” Her father tells them that this means there will be no more visas to the US, so Marjane is sad that “my great dream went up in smoke. I wouldn’t be able to go to the United States.” A few days later, the television news announces that all universities will close. A bearded man declares that it is “better to have no students at all than to educate future imperialists.” Marjane sees another of her dreams -- to be like Marie Curie -- disappear. She fears that “at the age that Marie Curie first went to France to study, I’ll probably have ten children....”

One night, the car of Marjane’s mother breaks down, and Marjane and her father drive to get her. Suddenly, they see her mother running down the street, crying and in terror. She tells them that a group of men surrounded her and insulted her. They told her that she should wear a veil or else she would “be pushed up against a wall and fucked. And then thrown in the garbage.” Her mother is sick for several days after the incident. A decree that all women must wear veils is instituted soon after the incident. Marjane explains that there are then two types of women: the fundamentalist woman who covers herself from head to toe, and the modern woman, who covers almost all of her body except for her face and hands and who shows opposition by “letting a few strands of hair show.” Men are similar, differing only in whether a man shaves his beard and tucks in his shirt. Their neighbors change as well and adopt the strict dress and customs. Marjane’s parents instruct her always to tell people that she prays everyday and soon it becomes a competition between her and her friends to see who prays more.

Despite these harsh rules, a spirit of revolution is still in the air and for the first time Marjane’s parents allow her to attend a rally. With her face shown as half-dark and half-light, Marjane goes out in the streets to pass out fliers. A crowd chants: “Guns may shoot and knives may carve, but we won’t wear your silly scarves!” Then things get “nasty,” and a group of fundamentalist men attacks the protestors with clubs. They beat and stab many of the protestors and Marjane and her family run. It is the last demonstration that they attend.

After the violence, she and her family go on vacation to Italy and Spain because they know it might be their last chance to leave the country. In the hotel room, one evening, Marjane’s father sees a Spanish language news broadcast in which a picture of Iran is slowly covered by a black cloud. Marjane’s father is worried because the report seems to be talking about the whole country and not just the capital city. When they arrive back home, Marjane’s grandmother tells them that the country has gone to war. The fundamentalists have attempted to “stir up their Iraqi Shiite allies against Saddam” and Iraq has declared war on Iran. It is the “second invasion in 1400 years!” Marjane is angry and ready to fight for her country.

The F-14’s

Marjane is with her father at work one day when a group of fighter jets flies over Tehran. Everyone in the office is terrified. Marjane thinks it is the Iranian air force but her father does not recognize the planes as Iranian F-14 jets. They turn on the radio to hear that Iraqi jets have bombed the city. They quickly return home. Marjane asks her father if he will fight against Iran and he answers, “Of course I’m not going to fight. Why should I?” She tells him that the Iraqi’s have always been Iran’s sworn enemies because, “The Arabs never liked the Persians...They attacked us 1400 years ago. They forced their religion on us.” Her father answers, “The real Islamic invasion has come from our own government.” When they reach home, they find Marjane’s mother in the shower, completely unaware that anything has happened.

Later that evening, Marjane declares that, “We have to bomb Baghdad!” Her parents tell her that all the fighter jet pilots had been imprisoned during the coup d’état and that they would have to be released from prison first. Marjane remembers that one of her friend’s fathers is a pilot but her father tells her that he had been imprisoned. Marjane is angry with her father for being a defeatist. Suddenly, the family hears the Iranian national anthem playing on TV. The anthem had been banned and replaced by a new anthem of the Islamic regime. The family is overwhelmed as they hear the music. The news announces that Iranian fighter jets have bombed Iraq. They celebrate the news and learn that President Banisadr had ordered the release of the pilots after they had negotiated to have the national anthem broadcast. The rest of the news is not good: many planes and pilots had been lost in the attack.

The next day at school, Marjane runs to find her friend Pardisse whose father had been one of the released pilots. She knows right away that Pardisse’s father has been killed. In class, the teacher asks all the students to write a report on the war. Marjane writes a long essay on “the historical context” of the war. The teacher is not impressed, however, and instead calls on Pardisse to read her essay. In that essay, Pardisse writes of how she has promised to take care of her mother and little brother after her father’s death. After class, Marjane tells Pardisse that her father is a true hero. Pardisse tells her, “I wish he were alive and in jail rather than dead and a hero.”


In “The Sheep,” Satrapi uses a conversation between her Uncle and her father to explain why Iran’s Revolution resulted in the rule of a fundamentalist Islamic regime. During the Revolution, leftist and religious factions joined together to protest the rule of the Shah and to bring about his demise. However, after the Revolution, the Islamic religious leaders stepped in to bring order to the country. Anoosh’s explanation for this is that the Iranian people, who are illiterate and uneducated, need a religious and moral basis for establishing a new state. Religion, not ideas, provides this basis. Religion, thus, is seen as a tool for the powerful to use in order to rule the ignorant.

The title of this chapter, “The Sheep,” works on a metaphorical level. In a literal sense, a sheep herd is the mode of transportation that Siamak and his family use to cross the Iranian border and escape persecution, but it is also representative of the general population of Iran, as well as Marjane’s family who leave for the United States. Like sheep that simply follow each other with no notion of direction or purpose, Satrapi is arguing here that the people of Iran have made an unconscious decision to follow the religious leaders for no other reason than that they cannot determine a purpose or direction for the country without them. Marjane’s family also imitates the sheep, blindly leaving for a life in the United States.

Anoosh’s arrest, imprisonment, and execution represent the novel’s turning point. Her hero, Anoosh, once again becomes a victim of political persecution. While Marjane’s relationship with her parents is certainly a loving one, the novel portrays her relationship with her uncle as the tenderest one. This means that his death is particularly difficult for her. Anoosh’s death represents Marjane’s break from a childish conception of a God that had represented love, justice, and holy wrath for evil. Marjane finds herself lost and without direction, much as the general Iranian population is lost and without direction. Marjane’s crisis is the inverse, however, in that she begins her rejection of religion while the people of Iran embrace what becomes a cruel religious fundamentalism.

The chapter “The Trip” uses important imagery to chart the progress of Marjane’s struggle with identity. The first imagine that the author uses is a picture her own face right before she goes to protest the regime. It is half covered in dark and half covered in light. The dark symbolizes the metaphysical void that has occurred. She has rejected God, and she is lost in a kind of inner darkness. The light is representative of the spirit of revolution that still permeates Tehran. She and her parents still see a hope in the rise of the leftist demonstrators, yet find that the religious fundamentalists go much further in their violence than had the Shah’s forces. This leads into the second image of darkness -- the dark cloud that Marjane’s father sees descending over the country on a television newscast. This cloud represents the same darkness and void that Marjane experiences in her own life.

In “The F-14’s,” Marjane begins a struggle with her feelings of nationalism. She is unable to find a cause to root for in the fundamentalist government and, instead, finds her national pride in the great Persian empires. She correlates the war with Iraq with the Arab invasion of Persia 1400 years before and claims that it is patriotic and just to fight the Arab forces. Her father understands the real war is not just with another country but is, instead, a war inside of the country between those that envision a modern Iran and those that adhere to extremism.