Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Socks | Summary

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Summary

Art school—particularly figure drawing—isn't easy under the Islamic regime. Female models are required to wear the veil and the voluminous chador, which completely obscures their bodies. The women are eventually allowed to draw male models, who can at least wear form-fitting clothing. Even that is problematic—Marjane gets in trouble for looking at a male model and is told to draw him while looking at a door.

It is 1990, and the time of grand protests has long passed. Now everyone lives in fear of imprisonment and execution. Rebellious gestures are small—makeup, sunglasses, loud laughter. Marjane is even arrested for wearing red socks under her chador. Though it seems like most of her classmates are rebelling against the regime in some small way, Marjane often forgets many are traditionalists at heart. That point is driven home when she is shunned by half her female classmates after blurting out she uses birth control so she can have sex with her boyfriend.

Half of her classmates, however, have more progressive views. Little by little they form a clique, taking turns modeling for one another in more revealing clothing and channeling their fury with the regime into raucous parties—several of which are broken up by the guardians of the Revolution. Night after night, the revelers are taken to jail until their parents can bail them out. They find all this funny until one terrible night when Farzad, trying to escape the guardians, falls to his death while jumping between rooftops. Unsure of their next move, the students do what they think best: they throw a massive party the following night. Marjane "never drank so much in [her] life."

Analysis

Like their parents before them, Marjane and her friends find themselves hiding their true natures from the prying eyes of the Islamic regime. The way they present themselves in public is nothing like they are in private, a point that is driven home by the two half-page illustrations of Marjane and her friends. In the top frame, where they are all wearing hijabs and chadors, they all look remarkably alike. Satrapi shows their entire bodies, keeping their faces purposefully small to emphasize their uniformity. The bottom frame, which is drawn as if they were posing for a photograph, allows readers a closer look at each woman. From their hairstyles to their clothing and makeup, none of them look the same. While it's great they have safe places in which they can unwind with one another, the mental stress that comes with managing two different personalities makes the women feel "schizophrenic." They know who they're supposed to be, and they're pretty sure about who they want to be, but their real selves are lost somewhere in the middle.

Satrapi's illustrations are often overlooked in discussions of her work—many people get caught up in the broader story about her life and the words she uses to tell it. However, there are places in Persepolis where the illustrations cannot be ignored. One of those instances is the raid of the party. For three pages images, not words, tell what happened to Farzad. Without words to slow the pace, readers' eyes rush through the pictures, which echo the frenetic panic that led to the end of Farzad's life. Depicted as a simple silhouette, Farzad and his actions are especially important in this sequence. Right before he falls he is literally reaching toward the moon, as if he wants to grab hold of it. He misses. The moon symbolizes his hope to escape the regime's grasp. One wrong step—and he dies.

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