Growing up in wartime

This is my second or third time working with Persepolis. I had seen the movie before I ever read the novel. I was immediately drawn into the format (though my first foray into graphic novels came in the form of Maus by Art Spiegelman in 2004).

I love that in reading Persepolis again, I’ve noticed completely different things about it this time. This time I noticed the way in which she has chosen to write – from her perspective, but from her perspective as a child. There are various moments throughout the novel that show just how young Marjane is. I remember being young and curious about things, so naturally I would ask my parents to explain them. The problem with having adults explain things to children is that they don’t know exactly where the child is coming from or what they are asking because kids don’t necessarily have the language to articulate what they want to know. For example, I went to a Catholic school when I was in Kindergarten. I remember the teacher telling us about a soul, but she was speaking from an adult’s perspective so pieces were missing for me. I remember thinking that a soul was a kidney shaped object wrapped up like a mummy that floated to heaven on sunbeams when you died (yeah, I know). I imagine this is a similar situation for Marjane. She asks many questions and her imagination goes off in all sorts of directions after her family answers her.

I think one of the most poignant moments comes on page 51. Marjane’s family is discussing the torture and execution of Ahmadi. Marjane tells us “They burned him with an iron.” She goes on to say, looking back at a standard iron “I never imagined that you could use that appliance for torture.” This moment is a sort of loss of innocence. Yes, Marjane has grown up in war, but this is sort of a turning point. Something that should be harmless and used just to make clothing look nice and crisp has become an instrument of torture. What does this say about other household items?

Here’s a video of another telling of growing up in wartime. I think the contrast in the telling is different. Despite the fact that Satrapi is writing as an adult about her childhood, she writes from a child-like perspective. John F. Jones, as seen in the video speaks as an adult looking back on his life in wartime. I wonder if the differences in age or gender have much to do with the telling of each.

Works Cited:

Growing up with war. 2008. Video. Youtube, Web. 28 Mar 2012.

Satrapi, Marjane. The complete Persepolis. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007. Print.

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One thought on “Growing up in wartime

  1. I hadn’t quite fully realized the full impact of Satrapi’s story as a child. I think you’re perfectly right about her as a little child wanting to know what’s going on but still subject to a child’s lack of experience and an adults lack of innocence. We do get a little humor from her childhood self’s misinterpretation of things her parents try to explain to her as well as an increase in Satrapi’s humanist portrayal of Iran. Marjane’s confusion and misinterpretation of the events and explanation is so quintessentially child-like that we as readers sympathize that much more with the Iranian side, shedding more and more ignorance we may have had previously to reading this.

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