Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Makeup | Summary



Marjane and Reza's relationship becomes official once they are both accepted into university. Most of their time together is spent indoors, as it is illegal for unmarried men and women to be seen together in public. When they do venture out, they do it carefully.

The closer Marjane and Reza get, the more they nitpick at each other. Marjane thinks Reza is too much of a homebody, and Reza doesn't think Marjane is glamorous enough. She decides to "make an effort" one day by wearing more makeup than usual. Waiting for him outside a shopping center, she panics when a guardians of the Revolution vehicle pulls up. Marjane is sure she will be arrested if she's spotted wearing lipstick. Thinking quickly, she tells one of the guardians, "There's a guy who said something indecent to me," and then points to a man sitting alone on the steps of a building. The man protests his innocence, but Marjane insists he harassed her. The man is hauled into the van.

Marjane locates Reza, who saw the man being taken away, and tells him what she did. To her surprise, he laughs. "That's too cool! What an instinct for survival!" he says. Marjane wonders what awaits the man at the guardians' headquarters, and Reza says he'll probably be slapped or whipped, though, knowing the guardians, he could very well be hanged instead. Reza tells Marjane a story about two friends accused of being gay by the guardians. Both were injured in the encounter but survived. Reza considers them lucky, since by law homosexuality is an offense punishable by death.

Marjane finds her grandmother waiting for her at home. Laughing, she tells her how she accused a man of a crime to save herself. Grandmother responds by calling her a "selfish bitch." "Have you forgotten who your grandfather was?" she asks and then goes on, "'Integrity'!!! Does this word mean anything to you?" It is the first time her grandmother has yelled at her, and Marjane promises herself it will also be the last.


Falsely accusing the man on the steps of harassment is probably one of the worst things Marjane has ever done in her life. She knows it, too, which is why she's so surprised about Reza's reaction. His praise of Marjane's "instinct for survival" may come from his experience as a soldier in the war. He knows the value of relying on one's wits to get out of tough situations. It can be argued those who aren't smart enough to avoid capture deserve it. But Marjane isn't on the battlefield—she's in the middle of Tehran.

While Reza has no empathy for the victim of Marjane's lie, Marjane can't stop thinking about what will happen to him. Her family has made a point of teaching her about fairness and kindness, traits they don't often see exhibited in the ruling regime. When she arrives home she runs into her grandmother—someone whose opinion carries much more weight than Reza's. Grandmother's disappointment in Marjane isn't that she lied to protect herself. Her fury comes from Marjane's dismissal of another human's worth. Framing the bystander for acts he didn't commit is an indication Marjane thinks she is better than him and more deserving of freedom, and Grandmother finds that attitude despicable. Her disgust with Marjane's behavior has a pronounced effect on Marjane, who would rather not exist than live with the guilt of disappointing her grandmother.

Reza's callous reaction to the man's plight is an early indicator that he and Marjane aren't a good romantic match. Their relationship is new, but there are already cracks in its foundation. They each have a laundry list of things they want to change about one another, yet they stay together instead of splitting up and finding other people to date. That's in part because of the restrictive rules of the Islamic regime. It's hard to date when unmarried men and women aren't allowed to be seen in public together, and it's even harder to meet someone who's a good match. Reza and Marjane are happy enough, and they haven't been able to spend enough time together in private to figure out this relationship might not be destined for the long term. Reza's laughter at Marjane's story should be a red flag, but she takes it as a sign of his admiration and affection.

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