Monday, March 30, 2009

Kimberly's Persepolis Analysis

This book presented an interesting personal perspective on what it was like to be Iranian during a trying time for the average citizens in Iran. Something as drastic as being able to know what it is like to have one's entire way of life turned upside down, sans recourse, must be so frightening and emotionally challenging. It is something beyond comprehension, unless one had to experience it first-hand.

I have never been to the Middle East, nor have I ever really had any friends or many acquaintances from that area. At some point when I was at boarding school, an Arabian girl lived on my floor. She was extremely private, plain to a staggering degree to an American teenager, and I wrongly suspected she was poor. Later I wanted to see where in Saudi Arabia she lived and saw in the directory that her father was a sheik.

This girl was not remotely like Marjane, and I bring her up only to point out that she was extremely isolated and that she must have felt so homesick and thrown into a completely shocking and different culture for her. Despite serious efforts on my part to communicate with her, because I was mystified by her and felt sorry for her, this Arabian girl did a sufficient enough job in pushing me away that I eventually never bothered with her anymore. Before... I went in her room sometimes during free time and she had no posters, and in fact she had nothing at all except plain white bedding and the bland furniture the school provides. Her only clothes were a few white shirts and khaki pants. I offered for her to take some of my posters and other items, as I mentioned because I had incorrectly assumed she was the poorest person I ever encountered. I was either 14 or 15 and it never even occurred to me that this was her culture/what she wanted. I finally stopped visiting her because she would always ask me to leave because she said she had to pray. At the time, I thought it was just under the guise that she had to pray, but now I understand she likely really did have to pray. She never wanted to go out, borrow clothes, do anything I, or the other students, found remotely fun. Also, I recall her making some pretty shocking statements about "your" culture and how it's basically awful. I wanted to say, then why did you come to school in Massachusetts??? Of course, I did not dare.

I think Marjane and I might have gotten along better, but I felt sorry for Marjane as she left her country. Marjane and her family's rejection of the limitations in Iran, particularly for women were brave, and admirable, but that does not mean that people should not have freedom to believe what they want. The problem is forcing others to share those beliefs and denying rights over it that is wrong. I am embarrassed for our country's role in helping the Shah come into power, and do not blame people who suffered as a result for the resulting resentment. I feel sorry for the people of Iran who were hoping for improvement and then suffered worse under the Ayatollah. I think Marjane Satrapi accomplishes her goal of showing the reader that not all people in Iran are connected "with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism."

As in Understanding Comics and Maus II, the drawings in this book enable Satrapi to really show feeling through the images of the face. She was a precious looking girl who easily captured the reader's interest and sympathy. For instance, when she was crying in the middle of page 53 and the reader just wants to give the little girl a hug. Of course at the end, there was apparent pain when she looked back and saw her mother in her father's arms, and I just could sense the culture shock that would ensue when she arrived at school overseas.

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