Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | Persepolis | Summary



Marjane's grandmother comes to visit. She tells Marjane how terrible the shah was to their family and how difficult it was to raise her children in poverty while her husband was in jail. Marjane wants to know more about her grandfather, but Grandmother avoids the subject and instead talks about herself and how much she dislikes the shah.

Marjane, her mother, and her grandmother worry about Ebi, who went to take photos of a demonstration hours ago. Marjane worries he is dead. When he finally does come home, he tells them about taking pictures at a hospital following the protest. One of the protesters, a young man, was killed, and the other protesters were hailing him as a martyr. Another man's body was brought out of the hospital at the same time. The crowd proclaimed him a martyr too, even though his widow said he died of cancer. "No problem. He's a hero," one of the protesters said. The widow ended up joining the protest.

Marjane's parents and Grandma laugh uncontrollably at Ebi's story, but Marjane doesn't get the joke. "I realized then that I didn't understand anything," she says. She decides to read everything she can about Iran and the revolution.


Marjane's parents and grandmother laugh at Ebi's story because it illustrates the single-minded childishness of the protestors. They connect everything, even a death caused by cancer, to their cause of overthrowing the shah. Their enthusiasm is so infectious as to convince the man's widow that he is actually a martyr when she knows perfectly well he is not, or that the distinction does not matter as much as political change. Marjane doesn't understand the subtleties of the revolution or the act of protest itself, so she doesn't see how her family can laugh at a tragic story about "cadaver, cancer, death, murderer." She doesn't realize they are laughing at the protestors' illogical assumptions and the absurdity of the situation.

Marjane's age and lack of maturity prevent her from fully grasping the nuances of the revolution and her own family's story. Marjane wants to hear the nitty-gritty details about her grandfather's torture, but her grandmother decides it would be better to supply her with historical details about Iran that support the reasons for the revolution. She is afraid of filling Marjane's head with gory images, but she's also losing her audience. Like most children, Marjane doesn't care about the how or why—she just wants to know what happened. She realizes the best way to get the information she wants is to find it herself. The beginning of her personal education about Iran's history is also the beginning of her understanding of her family and herself.

The title of this chapter, "Persepolis," refers to the ancient Persian capital destroyed by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. Coined by the ancient Greeks, it means "City of the Persians." Satrapi names this chapter "Persepolis" to show the intensity of her grandmother's feelings about the shah. Grandmother thinks he, like Alexander the Great, is putting his own desires above those of the people of Iran. In Alexander's case, the Persians were committed to maintaining their own culture. She hopes the same thing is true now.
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