Persepolis | Study Guide

Marjane Satrapi

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Persepolis | The Wine | Summary

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Summary

Tehran soon becomes the target of Iraq's bombs. The Satrapis and their neighbors create a bomb shelter in the basement of their apartment building to protect themselves during air raids. Their apartments change, too. Marjane's mother covers the windows with masking tape to prevent flying glass in case of a bomb and with black curtains to prevent some neighbors' prying eyes. "[Seeing] what goes on in our house would be enough for [the neighbors] to denounce us!" she says. She's referring to the weekly card games and parties the Satrapis host for friends and family. Parties and alcohol are strictly forbidden, but people keep having them because "without them [life] wouldn't be psychologically bearable."

Marjane's uncle hosts a party to celebrate the birth of his child. The power goes out, and sirens start to wail. Marjane's aunt, the baby's mother, shoves the baby at Marjane and runs to safety. When the alert ends and everyone returns, Marjane and her family go home. They are stopped by the local patrol, who accuse Marjane's father of drinking. One of the patrol says he's going to follow the Satrapis home to see what they're hiding. They arrive at the apartment building, and Marjane and her grandmother run ahead to flush all the alcohol down the toilet. They finish just in time and then find out the patrol took a bribe from Marjane's father and won't be searching the apartment after all. Ebi is disappointed all the alcohol is gone.

Analysis

Family is of the utmost importance in Persepolis, and after the Islamic government takes charge it appears as if family members are the only people one can trust. Marjane and her family were once friendly with their neighbors, but now they live in fear that their illicit practices will be discovered. They are always on guard. That doesn't change their habits or beliefs, however. The parties they have behind closed doors are the few times they're able to let loose and relax. According to one relative, "[they] might as well bury [them]selves now" if the parties were to stop. To them, having fun and engaging in illicit practices such as drinking alcohol and dancing are worth the risk of punishment. They present themselves as law-abiding citizens in public, but in private they celebrate as they did before the revolution.

Drinking and dancing in the Islamic Republic are a lot more dangerous than many Westerners can understand. Perpetrators don't just pay a fine and go on their way—they can be imprisoned, beaten, and even killed for tiny infractions against Islamic law. It all depends on the mood of the arresting officer and the influence and reputation of the person who is arrested. That is why Marjane's aunt has such a strong reaction when she hears the sirens. Her natural instinct is to protect herself at all costs, even if it means abandoning her newborn baby. It's not a flattering portrayal, but it's the reality of living in constant fear of one's government and its officers. Another reality is how law enforcers do not necessarily uphold the law. Marjane's father is able to bribe the patrol because the patrol is more interested in private gain than in enforcing the rules of the republic.

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