The graphic novel “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi presents the theme of migration and identity in a funny yet thought-provoking manner. I had read the novel a long time ago, but I decided to give it another read after I left my own country, in pursuit of a better education, and a better life. I wasn’t surprised when I could relate more to Marjane and her experience as a foreigner in Austria, far away from home and everything she had found comfort in. The crisis of searching for one’s own identity and roots in an unknown land is portrayed light-heartedly, but those panels weigh more than what meets the eye.
The novel follows the life of a young girl named Marjane as she navigates her way through a changing world, and the impact that migration has on her sense of self. The story begins with Marjane growing up in Tehran, Iran, during the 1970s, a time of relative stability and prosperity. However, as the political situation in Iran becomes more and more volatile, Marjane’s parents decide to send her to Austria to attend school. This decision represents a major turning point in Marjane’s life, as she is forced to confront the challenges of living in a foreign country and adapting to a new culture.
Marjane struggles to find a sense of belonging in Austria, as she feels alienated from both her Iranian heritage and her new Austrian surroundings. She faces racism and discrimination from her classmates, who view her as an outsider. We see how she was treated as an outsider and exploited even by people who she thought cared for her. Later, a panel shows her recalling how she was called a “dirty foreigner” by an old man in the metro. Marjane’s parents, on the other hand, try to maintain her connection to her Iranian roots by sending her care packages filled with traditional foods and clothing. This leads to a sense of confusion and dislocation for Marjane, as she struggles to reconcile her Iranian identity with her experiences in Austria.
As the story progresses, Marjane returns to Iran after the fall of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. She is initially excited to be back in her home country, as she says “…and so much for my individual and social liberties… I needed so badly to go home”, but soon realises that Iran has changed in ways that she did not expect. The strict dress codes, the suppression of women’s rights, and the violence of the Iranian regime all contribute to Marjane’s growing disillusionment with her homeland. She becomes increasingly critical of the government and its policies, and begins to see herself as a rebel and a non-conformist.
Throughout “Persepolis,” Marjane’s experiences of migration and displacement shape her sense of self and her understanding of the world around her. Her story highlights the complex ways in which identity is constructed and negotiated in the context of migration. As Marjane moves between different cultures and contexts, she is forced to confront the limitations and possibilities of her own identity, and to negotiate the tensions and contradictions that arise from her experiences of migration and displacement.
Marjane’s story highlights the challenges and opportunities that arise from migration, and the ways in which it can shape an individual’s sense of self and understanding of the world. By exploring these themes through the lens of a young girl’s experiences, Satrapi offers a unique perspective on the complexities of migration and identity, and the ways in which they intersect and shape one another.