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Persepolis | Symbols

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Veil

The hijab, which is a veil worn by Muslim women, plays a large part in Marjane's adolescence and early adulthood. Many devout Muslim women chose to wear the veil prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as a symbol of their religious belief. When the new Islamic regime came into power in 1980, the veil was suddenly mandatory for every woman venturing into public. Marjane first wears a veil when she is 10. She and her friends aren't quite sure what to make of their new accessories, but the more the wearing of the veil is enforced, the more Marjane begins to resent it. It is a constant reminder of the Islamic government's ever-tightening grip over her life and the lives of those she loves. It symbolizes the oppression she feels in her homeland under the Islamic Republic.

Golden Key

In "The Key," 14-year-old poverty-stricken schoolboys in Iran are given golden keys by the government as propaganda to encourage them to join the army. Meant to be worn around the neck during battle, the keys supposedly open the gates to heaven for fallen soldiers. Heaven is a glorious place full of riches, food, "houses made of gold," and virginal women. The government's promises of martyrdom are just like the golden keys themselves: cheap plastic trinkets in a cosmetic covering of gold paint—they are beautiful, aspirational, and fake. The keys make the boys feel special even though their purpose in the war is to be another warm body on the field.

Red Socks

The clothing women wear in Iran during Marjane's 20s is very specific. In addition to the hijab, they must also wear a chador, which is a long, flowing gown that hides the shape of the body. Meant to protect a woman's modesty and prevent men viewing the outlines of her body, the garment offers little opportunity for expressing personal style. Women can wear what they want at home, but deviations from the dress code in public can lead to arrest or physical punishment. That doesn't mean everyone complies. Marjane and her classmates are known to add a bit of flair to their outfits—jewelry, nail polish, lipstick—as a little jab at the repressive regulations. One day Marjane wears red socks underneath her gown. Maybe she did it on purpose, or maybe she just forgot she was wearing them before she left the house. In any case, someone sees them, and she is arrested for violating the dress code. Marjane's red socks symbolize the small, possibly subconscious acts of rebellion Marjane and her friends engage in under the Islamic regime.

Moon

Marjane and her art school friends party a lot to let off steam from the pressures of schoolwork and the Islamic Republic. The parties are often raided by the guardians of the Revolution. During one raid Marjane's friend Farzad falls to his death from the top of an apartment building. Satrapi tells this part of the story entirely in pictures. As Farzad and the other men at the party escape by jumping from one rooftop to the next, the crescent moon hangs low in the sky behind the tall buildings. In one frame Farzad is seen reaching toward the moon as if he wants to grab hold of it. In the next frame he is falling to his death on the street below. This tragic story is a metaphor for life within the Islamic Republic. The moon represents the desire for personal freedom. Farzad, like many residents of the Islamic Republic, is so close to reaching it, but then he missteps and falls. Every time the progressives think they're going to come out on top—as in the Iranian Revolution or the mujahideens' attempted liberation of the country—the fundamentalists get the upper hand.

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