Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Joke | Summary



Marjane is worried everyone knows about her "failure" in Europe, but she can't avoid her friends, neighbors, and family forever. A parade of relatives drifts through her parents' house, but the only person she wants to see is her grandmother, who is the same as she has always been. Then Marjane reconnects with her closest girlfriends from school. That may have been a mistake. They all look like "heroines of American TV series, ready to get married at the drop of a hat" and think she looks like a nun. Upon seeing their shocked expressions when they learn she didn't frequent nightclubs in Vienna, Marjane wonders why they were ever friends in the first place.

Feeling "terribly alone," Marjane has her mother get the contact information for Kia, her old childhood friend who was badly injured in the war. Marjane is initially shocked by Kia's appearance—he's missing an arm and a leg and confined to a wheelchair. Marjane feels uncomfortable, but then Kia breaks the ice with a bawdy joke. They talk for hours and keep in touch even after he moves to the United States.


Marjane is constantly worried people will learn about her "European failure" when in fact she didn't fail at all. She managed to survive on her own for four years, which is a huge accomplishment for someone only in high school. Yet she believes she let her parents down by coming home again. She doesn't see the only person disappointed in her is herself. Getting together with Kia helps her put things into perspective. "We can only feel sorry for ourselves when our misfortunes are still supportable," she reflects. Kia has arguably endured more hardships than Marjane, but he's able to laugh and joke around and plan for his future. He doesn't wallow in self-pity or self-loathing, which is a lesson Marjane takes to heart.

Marjane feels a kinship with Kia that is missing in her relationship with her girlfriends. "We were the same age, which should make it easier to connect," she says, when in fact their ages probably make it harder for them to understand one another. While Marjane imagined everyone and everything in Iran staying as she left it, her girlfriends assumed she was living out the dreams of every Iranian teenager eager for freedom from Islamic rule. They don't understand the reality of living on one's own in the West just as she doesn't understand their makeup and clothes are "an act of resistance on their part." She connects more with Kia because they both have endured traumatic experiences. Her girlfriends haven't.

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