Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Cigarette | Summary

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Summary

The Iran-Iraq War has been going on for two years. Marjane is 12, and she's hanging out with older girls at school. Two of them convince her to cut class with them so they can ogle boys at a Western diner called Kansas. Marjane is in big trouble when she gets home—the school called her mother to report Marjane's absence. Taji is furious. "Now is the time for learning. You have your whole life to have fun!" she fumes. Marjane thinks her mother is worse than a dictator.

The Iranian military retakes Khorramshahr from the Iraqis. Iraq proposes a peace settlement, and Saudi Arabia even offers to pay for reconstruction to the two war-torn countries in the name of restoring peace. Iran's Islamic Republic refuses both offers because, as it is later discovered, it needs the war to stay in power. The city's walls are plastered with the graffiti of "belligerent slogans" as the regime becomes even more controlling, and Iranians who oppose Islamic rule are sentenced to death.

Marjane, meanwhile, engages in her own act of rebellion by smoking a cigarette. "It was awful. But this was not the moment to give in," she says. Now she is officially a grown-up.

Analysis

Marjane lives in a country where the government determines the messages sent to the mainstream press. The government lies about its successes during the war to garner support for its actions and to quash any murmurings of dissent. If the Islamic Republic positions itself as winning the war, it becomes more powerful in the eyes of its people, thus gaining the freedom to enforce even stricter laws and punishments. Citizens of warring countries are likely to worry more about the actions of their enemy than the actions of their government. War is a distraction for what's really going on at home. That's why the representatives of the Islamic Republic refuse to sign a peace treaty—they believe the best way to control the citizenry is by diverting their attention. That diversion comes at a high cost—it is estimated Iran and Iraq each lost 500,000 soldiers in the war. That isn't acceptable to Satrapi, and it's one of the reasons why she wrote Persepolis. She wants the world to know the truth about the war and the so-called religious men who supported it.

Marjane quietly rebels against the regime by discussing politics during school and hanging out at Kansas, which is the local hot spot for Western food and culture. She takes a more active—and vocal—approach when it comes to rebelling against her parents. From their perspective, cutting class and then lying about it is probably the worst thing she could do. Her parents have made it abundantly clear that education is Marjane's ticket to a life outside of Iran, and to throw that away for an afternoon with the cool girls is both disrespectful and disappointing. It's not that Marjane doesn't want to go to school or get a good education—she just doesn't want to be told what to do anymore. She wants the freedom of choice that comes with adulthood, and she'll do anything to prove she deserves to have it, even if it means choking down a disgusting cigarette. She thinks doing "adult things" makes her an adult, but in the eyes of her parents, it just makes her look more childish than ever.

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