Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | Skiing | Summary

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Summary

Marjane is depressed. She decides to give her family a brief overview of what happened in Vienna, but they are only capable of pity, not understanding. None of them had "known the confusion of being a third-worlder, they had always had a home," she muses. Her mother convinces her to go on a ski trip with her friends. At first it's great—she enjoys the mountain air and sunshine—but things turn sour when she admits she not only has had sex, but has had more than one partner. "So, what's the difference between you and a whore???" one of her friends asks. Shocked, Marjane realizes underneath their "outward appearance of being modern women," her friends are actually very traditional. She returns home more depressed than ever.

Taking her mother's advice, Marjane sees a string of therapists. One prescribes her antidepressants, which leave her in a foggy daze. When they wear off, she feels worse than before. "My calamity could be summarized in one sentence: I was nothing," she writes. She decides to commit suicide while her parents are on vacation. Neither attempt—a fruit knife to the wrist and taking all her pills at once—works. "I inferred from this that I was not made to die," she says. She decides to take control of her life by waxing, perming, and toning her body. She gets a new wardrobe, wears makeup, and starts teaching aerobics—determined to "meet [her] new destiny."

Analysis

The differences between the public self and private self are an important theme in Persepolis. In most cases people hide their Western beliefs and activities behind closed doors so as not to attract the attention of the guardians of the Revolution. Marjane's girlfriends are different. They present a "Western" exterior to the outside world—styled hair, noticeable makeup, conversations about boys and clubbing—that belies their traditional values. They aren't as rebellious as they want people to think they are.

Marjane's admission of having multiple sexual partners causes an even greater divide between her and her friends. Already suffering from low self-esteem, she takes their condemnation as further confirmation of her perceived worthlessness. She can't confess her problems to anyone else she knows for fear of further judgment, but the therapists she sees—all men—aren't able to relate to her either. Her increasing sense of isolation and failure are what push her to attempt suicide.

Marjane takes her therapist's admission that she should have died from taking all those pills as a sign that God doesn't want her to die. Even if no one else believes in her, He does. That's enough to make her "tak[e] [her]self in hand" and take control of her life. She doesn't want to be sad Western Marjane anymore—she wants to be happy Iranian Marjane. It is fitting that she alters her appearance to look even more Western than before. She's reverting to who she was before she moved to Austria—Western on the outside but Iranian within.

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