Genaidaliz Claudio is a writer at BHSEC, Cleveland-West.
We all try to fit in, but is it really for the better? Do we have to fit in with society? We as individuals let society define what is normal and what is not. We are sometimes afraid of being different or shunned, especially by the ones we love. Losing others can lead to us losing a part of ourselves. The graphic novel Persepolis, written by Marjane Satrapi, conveys this crucial topic. In Persepolis, the main character Marji goes through a series of events that causes her to lose her faith and interest in her culture, but these hard times also lead her to lose herself.
Sometimes we don’t get to decide what lives we live. Instead, life is planned out for us. At times we get to write our own stories, but that’s not the case for some people. In this case, Marji is raised and is growing up in Iran where there were wars, and numerous amounts of people being killed. She was growing up in darkness, and she wanted to be the source of light. Marji was trying to change how things were, but due to her growing up in a close-minded society, she couldn’t do that. Marji had her heart set on breaking the social norms by becoming a prophet. She states, “I was the last prophet” (6). Marji has a figure of the sun around her head, symbolizing that she wants to be the light for other people to follow. She wants to be a guide to people who are lost, while she may be lost herself. Marji then starts to doubt her dreams of being a prophet because this role isn’t what some consider appropriate. While Marji is in school her teacher asks her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (8). Marji confidently responds, “I’ll be a prophet.” Her response makes her classmates laugh, which shows that they take her aspirations of wanting to be a prophet as a joke. Her parents then come to the school and defend their daughter’s dreams and will not let them be crushed or taken as a joke. Marji’s dad asks her, “So tell me, my child, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Marji has a thought bubble above her head that says, “A prophet.” But then she says, “I want to be a doctor” (9). Marji lies to her parents so they would not have to worry about her being unusual and how she has to hide her real aspiration since her culture is shutting out her vision of change and determination.
Yet Marji’s bond with God seems unbreakable. God is like her best friend as a child. She tells him everything and he never leaves her side — until Marji begins to lose sight of her dream. She starts dressing up as other people instead of being herself. This disguising herself causes God to walk out the door (16). She then asks, “God where are you?” Marji asks this after she gets into a disagreement with her parents, which shows how God is her only way of comfort. And even this comfort leaves her: “That night” God “didn’t come” (17). Since God didn’t come that night, Marji lays in her bed with tears coming down her face as a symbol of her not wanting to lose her faith or her best friend. She’s crying because she does not want to lose God due to her questioning the dream that he wants her to pursue.
On top of Marji questioning if God was with her, she also has to put up with the social classes that her culture assimilates. She tries to help her maid, whose name was Mehri, build a relationship with the neighbor by writing love letters for her. Marji writes love letters for Mehri because Mehri is illiterate. Mehri’s sister is jealous of her love life and spreads rumors that get to Marji’s dad. He tells the young man that Mehri is a maid, and the young man quickly loses interest. Marji’s dad then explains to Marji that social classes must be respected. Marji then gets really upset and states, “But is it her fault that she was born where she was born?” (37). This statement shows how Marji, like a prophet, questions her culture. Like a prophet, she wants equality; she does not agree with the inequality that her society insinuates.
Later in the story, Marji meets a kind of prophet, her hero of an uncle. Her uncle’s name is Anoosh, and Marji looks up to him. Anoosh is arrested in the past, and his past, later on, becomes a reality. He requests to see Marji, and sadly that is the last time she sees him. Before, when God leaves her, Marji lays on her bed with tears coming down her face. She does this again when her uncle dies, signalling his prophet-like place in the novel, his association with a god-like figure. God asks, “Marji what seems to be the problem?” She yells, “Shut up you! Get out of my life!!! I never want to see you again!” (70). Marji yells at her beloved friend thinking that he could’ve done something, so she wouldn’t have to feel this deep sadness. God then respects her wishes, leaves, and never comes back. She is lost in her own thought because the one person she starts to build a relationship with is drastically taken away from her which leads her to losing another relationship. Marji loses the people closest to her heart, and that leads to her heart breaking. Prophets have sensitive hearts.
Tough times are inevitable; they come out of nowhere. These difficult times that individuals face either make us or break us. The hard times Marji faces breaks her faith. Losing loved ones causes her to lose herself. Before Marji loses her relationship with God she states, “God, give me some more time. I am not quite ready” (8). She is confused with what she wants to be; society has her questioning her dreams. Marji isn’t getting close to who she truly is because she has lost sight of what she truly wants. As soon as Marji loses her uncle she becomes internally miserable: “And so I was lost, without any bearings . . . what could be worse than that?” (71). Marjane makes this the only frame on this page, symbolizing how alone she feels. Yet Marji floats in space with other things God creates which shows that God’s presence is still accessible. This feeling of being overwhelmed causes her to “float” off into space. Satrapi illustrates space as a dark place, and this symbolizes that light isn’t available. She doesn’t feel the presence of God.
Our surroundings, including our loved ones, cause us to question who we are. Then we start to question our surroundings. Individuals base their lives on what others think, and that gives us less room to think for ourselves. Satrapi conveys her idea of identity crisis by telling us her story. The events that occur in her story are similar to what a lot of us go through. We all go through hard times where we give up on God, others, and ourselves. Pushing ourselves towards happiness is the goal in the end, and why would someone be truly happy if they never had to struggle? Struggling lets us appreciate our success, and our success makes us feel happier as people.