Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The End | Summary



It is June 1993, and Marjane and Reza are nearing the completion of their art studies. Their situation changes significantly when the head of the visual communications department asks them to design a theme park based on Persian mythology. "The subject was so extraordinary that we forgot our conflicts," Marjane writes. They work tirelessly for seven months and don't argue once. The head of their department is so delighted with the final product he arranges for Marjane to present it to the mayor of Tehran, who says it's a nice idea but "the government couldn't care less about mythology. What they want are religious symbols." The project that brought Marjane and Reza back together is deemed "unachievable."

Marjane knows the end of the project means the end of her marriage to Reza. Farnaz, a childhood friend, cautions it might just be easier to stay married. Divorced women in Iran are the subject of leers and jeers from men who think the loss of a woman's virginity means she'll sleep with anyone who asks. Marjane then consults her grandmother, who has been divorced. She assures Marjane she had "always told [herself] that [she] would be happier alone than with a shitmaker!!" Grandmother advises Marjane to think it over and tell Reza when the time feels right.

Marjane takes a job as an illustrator at an economics magazine. She likes her work, but it's also dangerous. The government is targeting artists, including Marjane's coworkers, and it takes action against individuals who demonstrate even a bit of disrespect to Islam in their work. Her friend Behzad is one of those arrested. Marjane thinks him heroic for standing up to the regime. However, when she and the graphic designer Gila visit Behzad at home, they soon see he is patronizing toward his wife, which dismays them. She decides it's time to leave Iran for good. When she gets home that night, Marjane tells Reza she wants a divorce.

A few days later Marjane tells her parents she's getting divorced and moving to France. They're delighted. "You weren't made to live here," her father says. She makes a brief visit to France in June 1994 to take an entrance exam for the School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg and then returns home to get a student visa. After two months doing the things she loves with the people she loves, she finds herself at the airport again. "This time, you're leaving for good. You are a free woman," Taji says. Marjane returns just once before Grandmother's death in 1996. Her freedom, she writes, "had a price."


Marjane and Reza get along so well during their project because they are functioning more as coworkers than marital partners. Concentrating on their common goal overrides the friction they had experienced in their daily married life. Marjane is a high achiever, and where school is concerned she does everything in her power to achieve the best result possible. She's much lazier when it comes to her personal life. When relationships go awry, Marjane shuts down completely. That's how she ended up homeless in Austria and why she tried to kill herself after returning to Iran. Solving complex math problems and designing entire theme parks are easy for Marjane, but relationships are hard.

The relationship between two other people is the tipping point for Marjane and her own marriage. Seeing the way Behzad treats his wife confirms what she and her parents have always known: Iran is not the place for a strong, independent woman such as herself. Behzad's wife had a career of her own before marrying Behzad, and she was probably able to speak for herself too. Now Behzad answers questions directed toward any woman, whether she's his wife or not. His behavior is indicative of what Marjane feels to be the mindset of the typical Iranian man—he is the focus of the household, and everyone else supports him. Reza doesn't act like this, but he's the exception to the rule. Even if Marjane did stay with Reza, she would still encounter patronizing or misogynistic men at work and in her social life. She doesn't want to live in a place where she isn't valued as much as her husband, nor where a woman becomes less of a person after getting married. It's time for her to go.

Marjane's departure from Iran is much easier this time around, but that doesn't mean it isn't painful. She understands she won't be coming back to Iran anytime soon, and if she does, it will most likely be only for a visit. She fulfills her parents' dreams for her, but to do so she has to leave her family, the heart and soul of her life, behind. Taking charge of her own life means missing valuable time and crucial moments with her most beloved family members. Persepolis's bittersweet ending hints at Satrapi's lingering guilt for missing the last years of her grandmother's life. Every choice comes with a price, and losing time with Grandmother is hers.
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