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The People Without Eyes (or Hair??)

Throughout the graphic novel, Marjane Satrapi has use black pinpoints to indicate the pupils of all of her characters. It is not until we meet blonde characters that we first see a switch to small circles in those faces, likely to indicate blue/green eyes. Though this change in pupils was not noticeable to me on the rare occasion that they were used for characters like Lucia or “Heidi,” they become especially noticeable in these chapters for characters like Ingrid and Markus.

Looking back at the reading, it’s interesting that not every blonde character seems to possess this feature, and no dark-haired people do (even from Europe). Obviously not all blonde-haired people have blue/green eyes, but this choice nonetheless reflects intentionality of the author behind who has these glaringly different pupils. They are especially noticeable with Markus, which suggests that she may have regarded them as a particularly salient or attractive feature. Similarly with Ingrid, it may have had to do with the distinctness of her light eye color in Marjane’s memory, or may have possibly been tied to their relationship with weed together, which the author often emphasized through sketches of glazed or spiraling eyes. Or maybe she was pointing to a certain vacantness in both characters.

Whatever the reason, I loved this feature in these chapters because it was startingling in a way that reminded me of Beloved. When Beloved referred to white people as the men “without skin,” it was a disorienting way of describing whiteness with “absence” of features. Similarly, by leaving a hole where the pupils for other characters can be found, Marjane is pointing to an absence of color in the blue/green eyes that are often highly regarded in Western culture. The pupiless eyes look creepy, much like the idea of people without skin. Needless to say, this detail didn’t add positively to my perception of these characters.

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4 Comments

  1. Nora Apt Nora Apt

    I really enjoyed the way you linked Persepolis and Beloved here. After reading your blog post, I couldn’t help but flip back through the pages and look at the illustrations again. Although I did not originally notice this myself, I think you make an important point about Satrapi’s commentary on/her depiction of Western culture.

  2. Emma Joaquin Emma Joaquin

    I also am very interested by your point about the eyes and then the link between Beloved and Persepolis. I did not notice this, just like I did not pick up on the part in Beloved about the “men without skin,” and I think those are interesting things to note regarding both author’s perspectives on white people/western culture.

  3. Rachel Nugent Rachel Nugent

    I am intrigued that you pointed out that maybe Marji found light eyes to be an attractive feature, because when I see them in her drawings I’m always put off by them and think they’re kind of creepy. In any event, they’re definitely intended to display the “other” and it’s a very simple but strikingly clear way to do so.

  4. Alexander Seeley Alexander Seeley

    I am kind of confused by your comment. Although I can see the slight parallel from Beloved’s men without skin, I had this idea that she intentionally gave people crazy eyes because she couldn’t connect with them, or their values were skewed. As Marji existed in Austria with many white people, I felt as if the crazy eyes alluded to western ideals in general rather than a direct commentary on whites. As Marji couldn’t find any group to connect with in Austria I believe this symbol helped guide us to understand the jarring disconnect between two cultures, not wholly between races of people.

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