Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Dowry | Summary

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Summary

Marjane becomes even more rebellious after the Baba-Levys' deaths. She is expelled from her French-language school for punching the principal during an argument about Marjane's Western clothes and jewelry. Her aunt is able to get her enrolled in a new school, but Marjane causes problems there, too. Her father seems proud of Marjane's willingness to stand up for the truth, but her mother is angry. "You know what they do to the young girls they arrest?" she asks Marjane. Marjane doesn't. In Iran, it is illegal to kill a virgin. Before young women are executed, they are forcibly married to a guardian of the Revolution, who then takes their virginity and sends their families a small amount of money as a dowry. That's what happened to Niloufar, the communist girl Khosro was hiding. Marjane is shocked.

A week later, Marjane's parents tell her she will be leaving Iran to finish her education in Vienna, Austria. "Considering the person [she is] and the education [she has] received," they think life outside Iran will be much safer for her. She will live with Taji's best friend and go to a French-language school. Although they don't say it explicitly, Marjane understands her parents won't be joining her.

Marjane is heartbroken about leaving her friends and family. She spends her last night in Iran sleeping in her grandmother's arms. The next morning, her parents take her to the airport. There are scores of people in line to leave the country, especially young boys whose families are trying to save them from being drafted into the army. Marjane says goodbye to her parents. When she turns around for one more look, she sees her father carrying her mother, who has fainted.

Analysis

"The Dowry" is the final chapter in Book 2 of the original Persepolis four-part series and the final chapter in the English-language compilation Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. This is a fitting finale for a book about childhood, as Marjane's departure from Iran signals the end of her own. There have been several times throughout the story where Marjane mentally distances herself from childhood—cutting class with older friends, fighting with her mother, smoking a stolen cigarette—but she always has the safety net of her parents' physical proximity if something goes wrong. In Vienna she will have no one to rely on except herself. Forced independence is much less enticing than Marjane's fantasies of adulthood. Now that she's given the chance to take care of herself, she doesn't really want it. She realizes this isn't just the end of her childhood, but the end of life as she knows it. Her parents might visit her in Vienna, but they will never live together as a family again. Family—especially the relationship with her parents—is extremely important to teenage Marjane. Her family's morals and values shaped her into the person she is, and she's not sure who she will be without them.

Ebi and Taji have always known their daughter wasn't meant to stay in Iran. That's why they sent her to a French-language school, and it's why they encouraged her to read books, watch movies, and have discussions beyond her years. Their goal has always been for Marjane to become an independent thinker who questions authority and stands up for her beliefs. Though Ebi and Taji are proud of the way they raised Marjane, the values they instill in her are detrimental to her survival in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Sending Marjane away breaks her parents' hearts, but it is also the greatest demonstration of their love for her.

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