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Persepolis: A Surprisingly Accessible Piece in Canon

Persepolis needs to be interpreted in its intentionality in format. We can assume that Satrapi produced a graphic novel in part because of her interest in producing comic-strips, but when considering how the message of her work is translated to the audience, we can speculate what other motivations may have led to this. Satrapi talks about the influence that the graphic novel presentation of theories of dialectic materialism had on her as a child, and there’s no denying the influential power of complex topics being introduced in such an accessible and visually appealing format.

Furthermore, there’s something to be said for the tone of her novel. Already it is addressing heavy topics of assassination and the systematic disenfranchisement of Iranians in the face of revolution and political instability. Her comic strips depict the childish vibe achieved by works like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which strategically engages readers with a much more serious topic. It’s also a very appropriate depiction, given that these events were occurring throughout her childhood, which really puts us in the empathetic space of what it might feel like to be a child in such a tumultuous period of Iran’s history.

My only experience with graphic novels for adults was Fun Home, and the importance of the accessibility of the medium was erased in that work by the complicated references to F Scott Fitzgerald (a niche, high culture reference to an author that not every reader is intimately familiar with). That shaped my expectations of graphic novels, which led to my surprise with this work and its easy comprehensibility. I’m excited to see how her language might transition as she becomes an adult over the course of this memoir.

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2 Comments

  1. Nora Apt Nora Apt

    Similarly, I only have one previous experience with graphic novels. Last semester, in my English class, we read Art Spiegelman’s “Maus”. Through the use of mice, cats, and pigs, the work clearly conveys a Holocaust survivor’s traumatic experiences. I look forward to comparing techniques used in “Maus” to those used in “Persepolis.”

  2. Michael Paul Michael Paul

    When I first read Marji’s reference to dialect materialism, I thought she was breaking the fourth wall. It was only when I looked back on it that I realized it was simply a reflection of Marjane’s own experience, which is clearly what led her to create this graphic novel. Pictures make ideas more accessible to people because it activates different parts of the brain than words do. Combining the two has a strong influence on what people remember. Not only is this graphic novel a retailing of Marjane’s own life, but it presents it in a way that spoke to her as a child as well.

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