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Persepolis | Quotes

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1.

I really didn't know what to think about the veil.


Marjane Satrapi, The Veil

Many devout Muslim women wore the veil prior to the Islamic Revolution, but it was a choice, not a requirement. After the new Islamic regime assumed power, veils suddenly became mandatory for women outside the home. Marjane doesn't dislike the veil itself—it is meant to be a symbol of freedom and devotion in the Islamic faith. At age 10 Marjane is extremely devout, so wearing the veil wouldn't necessarily be a problem. The thing that's problematic is she's being told what to wear. Marjane doesn't like to be told to do anything. That, more than the meaning behind the veil, is what gives her pause.

2.

In this country you must stay within your own social class.


Ebi Satrapi, The Letter

Marjane doesn't understand why the family's live-in maid, Mehri, can't marry the boy who lives next door. She was under the impression her father wanted to break down the barriers between the classes. That's not really the case. Iran has a firmly entrenched class system, and it is very difficult to move up in social status. Instead of breaking down class barriers, Ebi hopes for equal treatment between the classes. Just because individuals are poor doesn't mean they should be punished or oppressed.

3.

The battle was over for our parents but not for us.


Marjane Satrapi, The Party

The end of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 brings relief to adults, such as Marjane's parents, who are eager to go back to their quiet everyday lives. The children, however, have become used to the excitement that accompanied the revolution and aren't ready to give it up. Those whose parents had opposing views during the war still consider themselves enemies, which is why Marjane decides they should punish Ramin for his father's alleged murder of a million people. The revolution is a game to the children but not to the adults.

4.

Bad people are dangerous but forgiving them is too.


Taji Satrapi, The Heroes

In the previous chapter, "The Party," Taji tells Marjane to forgive those who have done bad things. After hearing Mohsen's and Siamak's stories of torture, however, Taji suddenly decides "all torturers should be massacred." Marjane doesn't know what to think. Taji wants Marjane to understand that when people forgive too much, the wrongdoers continue to do increasingly terrible things. At some point it has to stop. This escalation of wrongdoing will cease only if the world's onlookers stop making excuses for those who inflict evil upon others.

5.

You are the little girl I always wanted to have.


Uncle Anoosh, The Sheep

This is probably the greatest compliment Uncle Anoosh could give Marjane. He has two daughters, but they are in Russia with his ex-wife. He hasn't seen them in almost a decade—after his divorce he returned to Iran, where he was held as a political prisoner for nine years. Anoosh missed out on much of his daughters' childhoods, but he gets a second chance with Marjane. She is also everything he'd hope his daughters would be—smart, inquisitive, and unwilling to accept everything she's told at face value. She's also completely enamored with him, which makes her all the easier to love.

6.

The real Islamic invasion has come from our own government.


Ebi Satrapi, The F-14s

Marjane and Ebi hurry home to Taji after the first Iraqi bombs hit Iran. Marjane, who is 10, casts all Arabs as enemies who have been trying to take over Iran for thousands of years. She says the Arabs forced their religion on the Persians. Ebi knows better than that. Iran has been a predominantly Muslim country since the 9th century. Iraq isn't invading to force Iranians to become "more" Muslim—if anything, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein fears an uprising of fundamentalists in his own country. The strict Islamic rule Iranians are now facing comes directly from its own fundamentalist government.

7.

Of course they mean something to me! But we are still living!


Taji Satrapi, The Key

Hundreds of Iranian men are dying each day in the Iran-Iraq War, and Marjane worries her mother doesn't care about the ongoing loss of life. Taji insists that the deaths of the martyrs do matter to her but that it is more important to take care of those who are still living than to mourn the dead.

8.

Always keep your dignity and be true to yourself.


Grandmother, The Dowry

This is Marjane's grandmother's cardinal rule—be the person you are, not the person you want to be. Grandmother tells Marjane this shortly before Marjane leaves for Austria, and Marjane remembers it every time she engages in activities or behaviors that don't feel right. Her grandmother's words are a constant reminder to be proud of her heritage and how she was raised.

9.

Better that you dance at the Lido than in a hole in the wall.


Taji Satrapi, The Horse

Taji has always encouraged Marjane to be the best at everything she does. That's true even if she's doing something that would bring shame to any other family, such as becoming a professional cabaret dancer. That's why she says dancing at the Lido—a world-famous Paris nightclub and cabaret—would be preferable to dancing at a nondescript "hole in the wall." Taji and Ebi will love Marjane no matter how she chooses to spend her life as long as she is living it to the fullest.

10.

Each time that I asked my mother to pray for me, my wish was granted.


Marjane Satrapi, The Croissant

God comes to Marjane in a dream and tells her the topic of her French baccalaureate exam will be Montesquieu's "Slavery of the Negroes." Marjane and God were really good friends until the death of her Uncle Anoosh a few years before, and she hasn't talked to Him since. She needs to do well on the test, so she asks her mother to talk to God about it. This is the first baby step toward Marjane accepting God and spirituality back into her life. She's not ready to talk to God on her own—that comes during preparations for her entrance exams for art school—so she sends her mother as an intermediary. It's important to note God was the one who came to Marjane, not the other way around. He has been watching over her the whole time even if she didn't know it.

11.

I feel like I'm constantly wearing a mask.


Marjane Satrapi, Skiing

Marjane says this to one of the several therapists she visits upon returning from Austria. She feels like she has to keep the truth of what happened in Vienna a secret so as not to add even more emotional burdens to her parents' already heavy loads, but withholding the truth feels false. Keeping her secrets to herself makes her feel more isolated than ever.

12.

Is religion defending our physical integrity or is it just opposed to fashion?


Marjane Satrapi, The Convocation

Marjane isn't just rebellious—she's brave. She stands in front of the student body and asks the questions everyone else is too afraid to ask. She's not trying to be sarcastic here—she genuinely wants to know why the width of her pant legs is the business of the Islamic Republic. If there's a scripture-based reason for the administration's rules, then she will abide by it. If it's just another way of controlling women, then she won't.

13.

We nevertheless learned to draw drapes.


Marjane Satrapi, The Socks

Persepolis is a serious and sometimes heartbreaking story, but there are also lighter moments punctuated by Satrapi's dry wit, such as this one. The female models at Marjane's art school must comply with the dress code of the chador, a billowy, shapeless gown that covers the body from the neck down. The model's shape is completely obscured, which makes it impossible to practice figure drawing. That's bad news for burgeoning artists, but Satrapi makes light of it by joking it helped her and her friends learn to draw drapes—the rippling fabric of the chador. Quips such as this keep the mood of the book from veering into despair. As Marjane learns during her visit with Kia, sometimes laughter is the only way to deal with tragedy.

14.

When we're afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection.


Marjane Satrapi, The Socks

Marjane describes how the Islamic regime controls its citizens by strictly regulating personal appearance. People spend so much time worrying about their makeup, the length of their pants, and the placement of their veils that they have no time to question the actions of their government or their happiness with their own lives. Fear prevents people from fighting back against their oppressors, which is exactly what the fundamentalist government wants.

15.

We're crushed not only by the government but by the weight of our traditions!


Ebi Satrapi, The End

The traditions Ebi is talking about are the ones that apply a conservative stance to women's rights and personal relationships. Marjane and Reza married because they felt they had to—it was unheard of for unmarried men and women to live together to see if they were ready for marriage. Ebi feels traditions such as these force people into making decisions that aren't necessarily the best for their happiness. Marjane will enjoy more freedom and be happier if she leaves Iran.

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