Literary Devices In Persepolis

Introduction of Persepolis

Persepolis has been penned by the renowned writer namely Marjane Satrapi. She tells her own story of growing up in Iran. She lived through the Islamic Revolution and the years after. “Persepolis” is an old, famous city from Persian history – Satrapi chose this name to connect her personal tale to the larger culture and past of Iran.

In striking black-and-white art and prose, Satrapi shows what life was like for a girl coming of age at a turbulent time. We get a uniquely intimate view inside a world most Western readers know little about. Satrapi invites us to connect across cultures through her warm, truthful narrative.

As Marji – Satrapi’s nickname as a child – goes through teenage rebellion, loves, losses and struggles with identity, many universal themes emerge that resonate beyond the specific setting. Satrapi’s personal lens captures the human stories within a landscape of political drama and cultural upheaval in a way that informs, moves and stays with the reader.

Summary of Persepolis

Satrapi splits “Persepolis” into two main sections. The first shows Marji growing up in Tehran, from a girl of six to her teens, during a time of enormous change. We see through a child’s eyes as the Shah is overthrown, the Islamic Revolution happens, and war breaks out with Iraq. How Marji’s family and community are affected as freedoms disappear and the veil becomes compulsory.

In the second part, Marji is sent to Europe as a young woman. Far from home, she faces new challenges – trying to find her identity in exile, dealing with isolation and judgement. Years later Marji returns, but her Iran has been deepened by further repression and conflict.

At its core, “Persepolis” charts Marji’s personal journey to understand herself against the shifting backdrop of her country’s history. Satrapi uses the graphic novel format to immerse us directly into experiences that reveal Iran’s upheavals through one woman’s unique story.

Themes and Major Characters of Persepolis


Growing Up and Finding Herself: Marji’s story charts her inner journey of self-discovery as she comes of age. We see her evolve in her sense of identity – as an Iranian woman, amidst the cultural clash between East and West, and ultimately as an individual finding her own voice and place in the world.

Freedom Versus Oppression: Through Persepolis, Satrapi gives us an inside perspective on living under an authoritarian government like Iran’s Islamic Republic. We see the constant tension between the desire for human freedoms and the reality of an oppressive state. Young Marji’s story shows us how dissent and civil liberties were brutally suppressed by regimes that demand total control. Yet Satrapi also conveys the hope and resilience of Iran’s people – despite the repression, the yearning for freedom and rights could not be completely crushed. Marji’s coming-of-age mirrors her country’s struggles – her evolution to independent thought paralleling the innate longing for liberty that persists despite the regime’s efforts.

Culture Clash: The novel thoughtfully depicts the conflicts between modern Western culture and values compared to traditional Iranian society. Marji has one foot in each world, allowing us an intimate lens into issues around civil liberties, gender equality, relationships, family, and everyday life.

Impact of War: The traumatic impact of the grinding Iran-Iraq war features heavily, with air raids, bloody urban battles, injustice and economic suffering becoming a distressing backdrop to Marji’s coming-of-age. We witness how war often disproportionately affects the innocent.

Major Characters

Marjane (Marji): As the defiant, intelligent and questioning protagonist, Marji’s evolution from girl to woman is the beating heart that drives this bildungsroman.

Taji (Marjane’s Mother): Marji’s fiercely independent, supportive mother represents the progressive liberal ideals of pre-Revolution Iran, which become increasingly threatened. She models resistance.

Ebi (Marjane’s Father): Marji’s affectionate father offers threads of gentleness and reason amidst the chaos. Despite increasing hardships, he provides grounding in Persian culture and enduring family ties.

Uncle Anoosh: This uncle powerfully links Iran’s past democratic hopes with new generations like Marji. His wrenching treatment cements Marji’s political consciousness and pain over Iran’s lost democratic dreams.

Literary Devices in Persepolis



Satrapi uses visual symbols throughout “Persepolis” to convey complex themes. For instance, the veil symbolizes the repression of women and the loss of personal freedoms under the new regime.

“The year after the revolution, the veil was made compulsory for women in Iran. We resisted as long as possible. But the day came that we had to wear it. We took our scarves and tore them in two. We put the two halves in our school bags. Once in the street, we put our scarves over our hair…In the afternoon, as soon as we’d leave school, we would take off our scarves. This small gesture was our way of opposing the veil.”

In the excerpt, the tearing of the scarves represents the unwillingness of Marjane and her classmates to accept the veil being forced upon them. It’s a symbolic act of quiet defiance and protest against the loss of their freedom to choose. Even while being compelled to physically wear the veil, they resist its meaning by splitting the scarf in half – fulfilling the letter of the law while rebelling against its spirit of control over women. The donning and removing of the torn scarves becomes a symbolic daily ritual reasserting their opposition. Through this vivid symbolic act, Satrapi illustrates the tensions over Iranian women’s rights and freedoms in the early days of the regime.



The graphic novel format allows Satrapi to place contrasting images side by side, highlighting the two opposing political groups.

“While fundamentalists kept increasing their demands, the Marxists, who still occupied an important place in public opinion, lost ground. The regime found an ideal opportunity to finish them off. The universities were closed for two years while the Cultural Revolution took over the education system.”

In this passage, Satrapi juxtaposes two opposing political groups – the fundamentalists and the Marxists. She explains how as the fundamentalists became more extreme in their demands, the Marxists, representing more progressive leftist ideas, lost influence. This sets up a juxtaposition highlighting the stark ideological differences between these two factions.



Satrapi employs flashbacks to provide background on Marjane’s uncle Anoosh.

“One day as usual I came home around 4:00 p.m. My parents were not home. I opened the front door, and I found my grandma sitting in the dark. I turned on the light. She had her veil in her hands, and she was crying. She told me that my uncle Anoosh had been executed. My uncle was a kind man with broad shoulders that inspired trust and respect.”

After initially mentioning that her grandmother told Marjane that Anoosh had been executed, Satrapi then includes descriptive details about Anoosh’s appearance and demeanor through Marjane’s childhood memories of him. This quickly establishes an emotional connection and illustrates why his death is so painful, before returning to the scene of learning the tragic news from her grandmother.

The brief flashback to happier times is a compelling literary technique that brings the reader into Marjane’s experience of initially hearing about her beloved uncle’s execution. By departing from the chronological narrative for a paragraph to highlight memories of Anoosh, Satrapi underscores the shock and grief of this revelation before continuing with the story. The contrast between Marjane’s nostalgic vision of her uncle and the awful fact of his state-ordered death also implicitly criticizes the injustice of the regime. This further demonstrates the power of flashbacks to enrich and enhance a narrative.



Satrapi often uses irony to underscore the absurdities and contradictions in political and social situations, such as the humorous yet poignant scenes of Marjane and her friends trying to procure banned Western music and clothing.

“The year after the revolution, the veil was made compulsory for women in Iran. We resisted as long as possible. But the day came that we had to wear it. We took our scarves and tore them in two. We put the two halves in our school bags. Once in the street, we put our scarves over our hair…In the afternoon, as soon as we’d leave school, we would take off our scarves. This small gesture was our way of opposing the veil.”

The irony here is that although the girls are compelled to physically wear veils, they resist and rebel against its meaning by tearing their scarves in half. They technically comply by covering their hair with torn scarves, thus fulfilling the superficial letter of the law demanding women wear veils. However, by willfully damaging their scarves, they also subvert the spirit and intent of this law that aims to control women and deny them the freedom of choice over their attire.



“Persepolis” uses satire to critique both the Shah’s regime and the fundamentalist Islamic government that followed, as well as Western perceptions of Iran. She criticizes the Iranian government regarding its dealing with Iraq during the war.

“In 1980, Iraq took advantage of the chaos in Iran to attack us. We were not prepared at all. While the army was trying to organize, the radio announced they needed volunteers at the front. So, a lot of young boys enrolled. Our neighbor’s son died at the front at age fourteen. His mother was devastated. She used to cry all day. The public gardens were filled with mothers crying for their dead sons. Other mothers knitted socks and packed food and cigarettes for the soldiers at the front. And the fathers were congratulating each other on the honor of sacrificing their sons for the country.”

This passage uses satirical elements to criticize the Iranian government’s handling of the war with Iraq. By dryly stating that “a lot of young boys enrolled” after hearing a radio call for army volunteers, Satrapi highlights the absurdity and horror of children being sent off to fight. The devastating image of public gardens filled with grieving mothers whose young sons have been killed further drives home the critique.

Literary Devices In Persepolis
Literary Devices In Persepolis

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