Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Return | Summary



Marjane arrives in Iran and immediately feels the "repressive air of [her] country." She is chastised for not wearing her veil properly, her bag is searched for contraband, and there are reminders of the war on every corner. Every other street is named after a martyr, and she feels haunted "by the victims of a war [she] fled." Things aren't much better at home. Conversations with her parents are strained. Even her bedroom doesn't feel like it belongs to her—the desk is too small, she has no clothes, and the punk drawings sketched on her walls don't match her current persona. Upon learning her mother gave away her favorite tapes, Marjane decides to make a fresh start and scrubs the drawings into oblivion.

Marjane isn't ready to talk to anyone—not even her former best friends—but she is curious about the war. Despite her mother's protests, her father tells her how Iran was nearly liberated from the Islamic Republic by the mujahideen, Iranian combatants who opposed the ruling regime. Supported by Saddam Hussein, they entered the country from Iraq. Locals mistook them for Iraqis and hid in their houses while the guardians of the Revolution fought them off.

The uprising, though not successful, scared the regime. They decided to protect their position of power by putting pressure on Iranian political prisoners—many of whom were the country's top scholars and the "legitimate heirs of the revolution." Prisoners were given a choice: they could renounce their revolutionary ideals and promise loyalty to the regime, or they could be executed. Tens of thousands chose execution. Possibly a million more Iranian citizens died during the war, and thousands were left widows, orphans, and refugees.

"All that is behind us ... We must go forward now. We must rebuild everything," Marjane's father says. Yet his tone is one of resignation, not conviction. Marjane goes to bed determined her parents will not suffer anymore. She will never tell them about what happened in Austria.


Marjane has returned home to a broken country. Reminders of the war and the sacrifices made to keep it going only add to the air of oppression under the Islamic regime. Marjane was used to the heavy feeling of government control before she moved to Austria four years ago, but now she finds it suffocating. Coming home has made Marjane realize she really doesn't fit in anywhere. Struggling to assimilate to life in the West was one thing—she was a foreigner, so she expected a certain amount of adjustment. Since Iran is her home, returning there should have been like slipping into a favorite pair of jeans—both comfortable and comforting. However, Marjane has grown not only in size but in maturity—and what was once familiar now doesn't fit.

The disappearance of her belongings from her bedroom—particularly her Kim Wilde tapes—is a reminder of Marjane's failure to thrive in Austria. She wasn't meant to come back home—though her parents adore her, they want her to have the best life possible—and they know that will happen only if she leaves Iran. Taji really thought Marjane was gone for good when she gave the tapes to a friend's daughter. That doesn't mean Taji would be upset if Marjane came back home—she and Ebi would both gladly welcome their daughter home. Marjane's bedroom is evidence of that. Her parents could have easily converted her room into an office or guest room, but they instead kept it exactly as she left it. Marjane will always have a special place in her parents' hearts and home no matter where she goes or what she does.

The parents to whom Marjane returns are noticeably different from the parents she left behind. As Ebi and Taji dealt with the grief of sending their daughter to an unknown land, they watched the destruction of their country from both the outside and from within. If family is the most important thing to Ebi and Taji, country is a close second. Knowing how close they came to liberation at the hands of the mujahideen is heartbreaking, as are the deaths of so many people they admired and supported. Even Ebi can't muster his usual optimism about Iran's future. His words say one thing, but his lack of conviction in them says another.

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