Alana Johns is a writer at BHSEC, Cleveland-West.
Children mimic adults in their lives as a step to forming their own beliefs and priorities. Childhood is a developmental stage in which individuals are taught what is wrong and what is right but also the time when human beings are most impressionable. In Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Marjane seems very mature as a child: she expresses her defiant nature as she strives to fight for her freedom and liberty. But she is also an impressionable child, following in the footsteps of her parents, uncle, and other influential people in her life. In a time of war and disharmony — such the Iranian Revolution Satrapi narrates — children are exposed to harsh aspects of the world which affect their development. As resilient and mature as a child may be, her mind is still a fragile and fairly ignorant entity. Thus, Satrapi narrates the ways war influences not just politics but also a child’s life.
Due to the war, Marjane acts as if she is an adult who must ensure the wellbeing of those she cares for. Her greatest desire is to make the lives of her loved ones joyous and carefree during political tumult. She believes it is her responsibility to give them this fantasized life. Marjane wishes to embody “justice,” “love,” and the “wrath of God” as a prophet of the Lord so that she may accomplish her goal of bettering the world for her family and friends (9). Witnessing firsthand the cruelty of the world, Marjane prepares to carry its weight on her shoulders. Her drive is especially shown when Iran is invaded by the Arabs. Marjane’s first thought is to “fight” (79). Marjane wants to be an “educated, liberated woman” and believes that to identify as such, she must participate in political fights to protect her future (73). Marjane does not want to wait to join the fight because she feels a purpose greater than herself. She is a strong-willed child who is on a mission to better the world.
While Marjane is mature for her age, Satrapi reminds us that she is only a child. As a child, she is impressionable and naive. Marjane is exposed to the casualties that war can cause. She hears about the torture that revolutionists experience in prison. Neither of her parents, who are “too shocked” themselves, do anything to protect her from that traumatizing truth (51). Marjane is not spared “the experience” of hearing the gruesome details of men being nearly murdered by authorities for their beliefs (51). She is a child who is learning from those around her, just as all humans do. But she grows up in a time of war and disharmony, so she learns to resist authority from a young age. As her uncle, Anoosh, states, Marjane is only a “child who repeats what she hears” (62). Marjane is just as upset by the state of her country as the adults in her life are even though she is incapable of knowing the full gravity of what is happening around her. If Marjane were raised in a different home, would she still have the same fighting spirit? It may be true that she feels ready to fight for the freedom her political environment threatens to take away from her, but was this only a trait that she learned from her environment? Even if her fighting spirit comes as much from her environment as it does from within herself, this circumstance does not undermine any of her efforts.
Children come into this world ignorant of much and are expected to be raised by the conflicting ideals of the masses. Mankind must do better to ensure the purity of children’s minds. No child should feel obligated to fight in a war or to become a prophet so they can help the people they care about. Unfortunately, this is a world where children have to carry these burdens, a world where their liberty and rights as humans are constantly questioned. As strong as they may want to be, children should not have to be strong for others.