Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Jewels | Summary



Marjane and her mother go grocery shopping. The supermarket shelves are nearly empty. Marjane's mother says people should only take as much as they absolutely need but then decides she and Marjane should go to the store across the street to stock up just in case of an emergency. Later, Marjane's father wants to purchase a few extra cans of gas. The gas station attendant won't fill their cans because "otherwise there won't be enough for everyone." He tells the Satrapis that Iraqi forces bombed an oil refinery in Abadan.

Marjane's mother panics. Abadan is the home of her best friend, Mali. She tries to call Mali and then Mali's mother, but nobody answers the phone. That night Mali, her husband, and their two sons show up at the Satrapis' door. Mali's husband managed to save a few family jewels, but that was it. Everything else they owned was destroyed.

Mali's family stays with the Satrapis for a week while they sell the jewelry and find a new place to live. One day at the grocery store, Marjane, her mother, Mali, and Mali's sons overhear two local women complaining about the influx of refugees in Tehran. "They take everything," one of the women says. The other agrees, adding that most refugee women are "sluts" who prostitute themselves. Mali is humiliated. Marjane feels terrible for her and ashamed for thinking that Mali's children were brats.


War brings out the best and worst in people. The Satrapis are at their best when they show concern for their friends, taking them in without a second thought, and they're at their worst when wanting to hoard goods after looking down on others for doing the same thing. Satrapi doesn't always depict herself or her parents in the most flattering ways. Doing so would defeat the purpose of sharing her story. She wants readers to understand the difficulties of war and how even moral and upstanding citizens can become selfish when their way of life is threatened. During war the self comes first, followed by family, and then community. This mindset—not the war itself—is what causes the supermarket shelves to be empty during the early days of fighting.

War can also create ugly prejudices. The women in the grocery store who make disparaging remarks about refugees act as if they are superior to those who are suddenly homeless. It doesn't matter if the refugees are educated or wealthy or even if they share the same nationality. Because they are in need of assistance, many look down upon them. Others are threatened by the presence of outsiders who will now increase the competition for food, shelter, and companionship. Putting down the refugees makes the women in the grocery store feel better about themselves and more secure in their own lives. Underneath their callous exteriors, they probably fear a similar fate for themselves.

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