Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | Introduction | Summary



Author Marjane Satrapi (who is also the narrator of Persepolis) gives a brief history of Iran, which was founded in the seventh century BCE, destroyed shortly after, and then resurrected in the sixth century BCE. Iran, formerly known as Persia, was once a wealthy country, which attracted invaders from around the world. Despite frequent invasions, the country retained its own language and culture. That changed in the early 20th century, when monarch Reza Shah began embracing Western influences and modernization. The discovery of oil in Iran followed, and Western countries quickly took an interest in the nation. That led to years of political turmoil—the exile of Reza Shah, a coup against Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, and the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which culminated with the unseating of Reza Shah's son, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

Satrapi notes the "fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism" depicted in Western media is not representative of her native country. She wrote Persepolis for those who died in the name of Iran, who "suffered ... repressive regimes," or who were forced to flee their homeland.


When Marjane Satrapi began writing Persepolis, she wasn't a comic book writer or even a novelist. She wrote unpublished children's books. Living in Paris, she was struck by how negatively the Western world perceived the nation she loved. That, combined with pressure from her cartoonist associates, is what pushed her to tell her story. "I believe [a] ... nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists," she writes in the introduction. Though she lived in Iran during some of its worst days, the happy memories of its culture and its people remain at the forefront of her mind. She wants others to see Iran the way she sees it—as a loving home with a complex past and troubled present.

Satrapi's introduction also indicates her discontent with how Iran's government treated its citizens. Many thousands of people died during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the Islamic Republic's subsequent rule. Satrapi doesn't take those deaths lightly. "One can forgive but one should never forget," she writes. Her story holds up a magnifying glass not only to her own life, but to the actions of a repressive regime she believes has crushed the spirit of many Iranians.

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