Deconstruction of Identity in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: Blog Post by Sara Gatdula

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In Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Satrapi deconstructs the negative perception on Iranians through the way she has chosen to tell her story as a graphic novel. It allows the reader to feel the essence of individuality through this framed graphic narrative by the individual frameworks and through the way it captures a scene within it.

In Babak Elahi’s essay ‘Frames and mirrors in Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis’, he expresses the importance of Satrapi’s chosen format in which she tells her story in the style of a graphic novel due to the way it creates a sense of segmented flow within the story, allowing the reader to focus on one frame at a time and thus the individual story within it. This is further shown as Satrapi weaves different tales of both herself and other individuals which reflects and mirrors the social constraints imposed upon them and the way it moulds their identity as an individual.

This segmentation of the story, through the use of frames, mirrors the need to deconstruct ones imposed identity and to reconstruct their own. This is reflected by Satrapi’s sense of identity crisis which is a reoccurring theme within Persepolis, where in which Marji’s life becomes unbearable as she becomes homeless for two months and when she tries to commit suicide. These are key scenes as these reflects the moments where in which Marji deconstructs her own identity and in turn after these episodes, reconstructs it through the act of coming back to her home Tehran, after becoming homeless and changing herself after her failed suicide attempts.

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This especially links to Julia Kristeva’s ‘A Question of Subjectivity: An Interview’ where she speaks about the way our identity is always being ‘trialled’ and we must therefore adopt and evolve. This sense of Ideological and psychosocial framing of one’s own identity is the problem Marji has faced. From the very restricted religious ideological framework she must obey to her more modern views and need for emancipation, she must continually reconstruct her own identity in order to create a sense of balance and merge her fragmented identities into one. As mentioned, the need to deconstruct and reconstruct one’s identity, in my opinion is quite a repetitive process where in which we are subjected to constant social constraints, therefore constantly moulding one’s identity.





15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Fern on November 7, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Really liked the direction of this blog and post and the theme you have presented us with. In terms of identity, I think it also a key idea to look at mirrors in this novel. For example our narrator tells us that she “will always be true to herself”(151), which reiterates what her grandmother told her earlier in the novel, hinting that something has gone slightly wrong in her path.


  2. Posted by Georgia on November 8, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    I thought the form of the novel was really interesting, was wondering what would make the author chose to write her story as a graphic novel and what effect does this have on the narrative?


  3. Posted by Zoha Hussain on November 8, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I really enjoyed your blog. I feel this connects with what Kristeva said the sense of the subject as “incomplete, always becoming, never stable.” The use of the literary device asyndeton here reflects this idea, as instead of using ‘and’, the use of the comma suggests the “gradual and incomplete struggle to create a self” (Frames and Mirrors, 325). It is interesting to note, structurally, how the words “I will always be true to myself” come at the end ofPart 1 of the book but we know that this ‘self’ is not yet complete, as Marji’s story continues in part 2. I like how the theme of perpetual discovery of the self is reflected even in the structure of the book.


  4. Posted by Rachel Chandar on November 8, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post Sara. In terms of the segmented flow that is created by this graphic novel, it reflects Satrapi’s continued search for her identity which is continually being broken, lost and explored throughout this bildungsroman. Her gendered identity and national identity become continually entwined as she constantly feels she is ‘a westerner in Iran, an Iranian in the West’.


  5. I enjoyed reading this post and the idea of multiple identities needing to come together a one. What I like about Satrapi’s work is the way she presents the reflection throughout – there are moments when we are looking into the mirror with Marji and times where she is looking at us as the mirror. Each image depicts a different pinnacle moment for her and we are able to watch her identities form and evolve.


  6. I really enjoyed reading this post, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I found the form of Persepolis extremely refreshing, and wonder if this was Satrapi’s aim – did she present her story this way with the goal of appealing to more people, and therefore educating more people about the dark past of her country?


  7. Posted by Bronagh on November 8, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Great post Sara! I really enjoyed your comments on fragmented identity. I think that Satrapi’s use of frames within the novel is really interesting and thought provoking. I viewed the frames to represent societies attempt to restrict us. Just as the the frames borders are thick and harsh, so too are societies ‘rules’. Yet, ultimately the characters/images move into the next frame, suggesting that limits truly can be transgressed!


  8. Posted by Hannah Mitchell on November 8, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    I like what you have to say about multiple identities. The focus on how one person can have multiple identities and for this to be acceptable as society constantly groups people into specific identities. I thought it was clever how the author used frames as a way of representing this. I also thought it was interesting how these frames and borders can have such contrasting representations.


  9. Posted by Ruzina on November 8, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    I agree with your point of the social constraints imposed upon individuals shapes one’s identity. Marji is expected to conform to the more conservative dress code of Iran which is to hide most of her body and wear the veil. We see Marji landing herself into trouble as she is seen by one of the Guardians of the Revolution, wearing ‘punk shoes’ (trainers) and a denim jacket. When questioned, Marji lies that she wears it for basketball. By doing so, she hides her personal identity just to fit in with the national identity of Iran.


  10. Posted by Carmen Luis on November 8, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    Great blog Sara! I agree with what you are suggesting about the the struggle and challenges individuals face whilst pursuing their own identities.I also appreciated the fact that you used Kristeva’s interview to underpin this idea. I found it interesting in the way frames were utilised to emphasise the protagonist’s differences in relation to her appearance and ideals were in comparison to the other characters in the narrative. I would like to know whether others found that a graphic novel was the most suited form to communicate her story.


  11. I love the way you connected the set text with critical readings we have done so far, great job! I agree with your points about identity – I was reminded of the T.S. Eliot quote ‘to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet’ whilst reading this. The idea that our identity is a fluid construction that changes as we develop is really interesting, and I think our identity is also constructed by the audience we are performing it for and their needs/desires.


  12. I really enjoyed your blog entry, and agree with your statements about Marji’s struggle for identity, finding who she is when she returns back to Iran and that the graphic novel form helps to reflect this. I thought Elahi’s essay was interesting too, particularly the link with politics and how ‘frames’ are used to negatively present people; particularly Iranian people in western politics. While I agree Marji’s upsetting experience of Europe was part of her grounding her identity, I also think it could be Satrapi’s way of disturbing the ‘framing’ of Europe and the West as better than Iran.


  13. Posted by Lily Money on November 22, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    When I first read this novel I was thinking throughout, why is she using this form, what does it do? But after reading this essay it becomes clearer why the graphic novel form works better to get her story out. I think if she had written her story in a normal novel form it would be too dark in places and quite hard to follow on reading.


  14. Posted by Georgia on December 11, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    This was a really good post to read, and I think it raises a lot of good ideas especially by linking to Kristeva. I also think this could be linked to Jacqueline Rose’s ‘the subject in process’.


  15. Posted by Ella Bukbardis on January 19, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Really well written and I really liked the focus on the effects the picture frames had on the story. There is also a good use of the tropes we talked about in the seminar.


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