Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Veil (2) | Summary



Marjane is crushed by her breakup with Markus. In her eyes, she has lost "her emotional support, the only person who cared for [her]" and the only person to whom she was attached—though she will later realize he was using her for money and access to drugs. With no friends or family in Austria, she feels completely alone. While she is grieving, Dr. Heller accuses her of stealing a brooch. Fed up and tired of seeing reminders of Markus in her room, Marjane packs, grabs her passport, and leaves the boarding house. She is now homeless.

Marjane spends the winter of 1988–89 living on the streets, riding trams during the day for warmth and sleeping on benches at night. After three months of this she comes down with a severe cough that won't go away. She spits up blood and passes out and then wakes up later in the hospital. She has bronchitis. The doctor tells her to stop smoking and asks where she lives. She says Iran. He releases her and allows her to make a phone call to Zozo, who owes Marjane's mother some money.

When Marjane arrives at Zozo's house, Zozo tells her that Uncle Massoud had come from Germany to look for her. "He moved heaven and earth to find you!" Zozo says. Marjane's parents keep calling, too. As if on cue, the phone rings. It's Marjane's parents. She asks to come home, and they immediately say yes, even promising not to ask her anything about the past three months. After a brief stop at Dr. Heller's house to pick up what was left of her things, Marjane spends the next five days in a cheap hotel. On the day of her flight she looks in the mirror and puts on her veil. "So much for my individual and social liberties ... I needed so badly to go home," she writes.


This is the second chapter in the Persepolis series named "The Veil." The veil in this chapter represents the defeat Marjane feels for not being able to live successfully on her own in Austria. Her feelings of failure are unwarranted—she was dealt a difficult hand from the moment she arrived in Europe. Nevertheless she fears her parents may accuse her of not trying her best. Despite her inclination to rebel against those who try to control her life, Marjane feels a deep responsibility to fulfill her parents' desires for her. The last thing she wants to do is disappoint them, which is why she makes them promise not to ask her any questions about where she's been. She knows they would be heartsick to learn she had been living on the streets and scrounging for food in dumpsters. It used to be Ebi and Taji's job to protect Marjane, but Marjane's time in Austria has reversed their roles. Now it is she who has to protect them.

Marjane left Iran thinking she was ready to be an adult and returns home feeling less grown-up than ever. This is partly because when she still lived with her parents she didn't truly understand what it meant to be an adult. She was only 14, after all. She never had to manage money, do her own shopping, or even cook for herself. From a child's perspective being an adult seems fun and relatively easy. It isn't until individuals are given the "freedom" to take care of themselves that they realize how stressful and difficult it really is.

The stresses of Marjane's final months in Austria nearly kill her. It is a stroke of luck—or perhaps even an act of God—that she passes out during daylight hours. If she had fainted at night, "the glacial cold would surely have prevented [her] from fulfilling [her] destiny." She understands she wasn't meant to die—an idea that is emphasized again in "Skiing"—but she doesn't know what she's supposed to be doing instead. She'll have to go home to find out.

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