Unbeknownst to some people, a graphic novel can be a very powerful vehicle for communicating a message of great seriousness and importance. In France in 2003, the Iranian-born writer and illustrator, Marjane Satrapi, published her internationally acclaimed autobiographical comic, “Persepolis.” The novel chronicles her childhood in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that were overshadowed by the displacement of the Shah’s regime, the Islamic Revolution, and war with Iraq. The French contemporary graphic novel explores, from Satrapi’s standpoint, the ways in which Iranian politics of that time disrupted everyday-life and instigated a time of tribulation and suppression for the people of Iran. By using a minimal amount of text in a black-and-white comic-strip format, she is forcing the reader to contemplate more than just the detrimental effects that her country’s troubled past and present has had on her childhood and the people of Iran. She wants the reader to assess the nature of the novel’s format and how it contributes to her depiction of Iran’s ever changing political landscape. The black-and-white comic strip illustrations signifies the void and lifelessness left by the Islamic regimes that enforced strict cultural rules to control and restrain the people.
The political landscape depicted in the novel cannot be defined by one characteristic because as more things occur in Iran, the more the political landscape is influenced, affected, and changed. Rather, Satrapi reveals a variety of characteristics at different points in the book to show how the political landscape is redefined as new problems arise and create different conditions and circumstances for the people, and responses from the people. While the Islamic revolution brought about suppression, violence, martyrdom, and conflict between fundamentalists and protesters, the Iran-Iraq war brought about fear, anxiety, panic, disruption of everyday life, death, and suffering.
The fact that power in Iran has changed hands so many times has had a huge influence on the country’s political landscape. To better understand this, we must look at the historical and religious context of the power dynamic that has shaped and reshaped the political landscape of Iran over time. When the Iranian identity changed into a more Islamic one during the Islamic revolution, it created a rift between Islamic fundamentalists and citizens who believed in a more modern practice of Islam, one in which civil liberties would not be infringed on by the Islamic theocracy. This plays into Satrapi’s depiction of the political landscape as one partly characterized by suppression and conflict between opposing sides in the revolution.
From the very beginning of the novel to the conclusion, she demonstrates traces of suppression brought on by the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which would come to be known as “The Islamic Revolution” (3). The first semblance of fundamentalism and suppression appeared in her elementary...