She Is Still the Marji, She Is Always the Marji
As people grow into adults, they probably hear their old friends saying, “You have changed so much, my dear!” or “You were not like this when I knew you, I can barely recognize you right now!” Often, however, these comments are not accurate. Indeed, many things may vary throughout people’s lifetimes, such as their appearance, their favorite things and their clothing styles. In contrast, people’s character does not tend to change radically.
While people may disguise their “true selves” when they are in an unfamiliar environment, the inherent character traits remain. In the book Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Marji is such a confident and outspoken girl when she is a child, while as she grows up and goes to Austria, she seems to become another person who is rebellious and a maverick. Despite some “horrible” behaviors of Marji in Austria, she regains her qualities as a just and independent person. Although Marji’s stubbornness as a child is sometimes problematic, her kindness and righteousness are definitely notable. At the very beginning of the book, Marji is hoping to become a prophet and writes her own holy book, stating “Everybody should have a car … All maids should eat at the table with the others,” and “No old person should have to suffer” (Satrapi,7, Frame 5). In this frame, Marji is earnestly holding her own “holy book” and reading her own “rules,” probably in a firm tone, to her grandmother sitting on the couch while knitting a hat.
Grandma is obviously bigger than Marji, indicating that Marji is young. Marji appears to be very serious about her “rules”; also, Marji’s grandmother’s seems pleased, evidenced by her smile and loving look. The background is filled with a light color, conveying positive power from little Marji. Another panel revealing Marji’s sense of justice, shows little Marji sitting on her parents’ bed, facing and telling them that she wants “[t]o demonstrate on the street” (17, Frame 1). Marji’s parents are depicted as larger than Marji indicating her young age.
They are clearly dismayed: their corners of the mouth are both pointed downward because they realize how dangerous it would be to let their child demonstrate in the street. The dark background suggests the seriousness of Marji’s thoughts and the concern of Marji’s parents. Both frames show Marji’s integrity and sense of responsibility. Despite acting recklessly at times in Austria, Marji does not lose her inherently righteous character. When Mother Superior in the boarding home blames Marji for eating food with a pot using really harsh words such as, “It is true what they say about Iranians.
They have no education” (177, frame 5) and even pointing her finger at Marji, she stands up for herself and her country. In the panel, Mother Superior is much bigger than Marji, indicating that Mother Superior is in charge. As a result, Marji appears angry as she stares at her. The dark background also indicates Marji’s extreme animosity towards her because of her lack of respect for Marji’s nation and culture. Additionally, the image illustrates how the cultural differences and misunderstandings Marji faces ultimately lead to her brave defense of her country. Marji defends her heritage again when she hears others gossiping that Marji has not revealed her origin because she is ashamed of it.
Marji shouts loudly towards those people: “You are going to shut up or I am going to make you! I am Iranian and proud of it!” (197, Frame 1).The face and words of Marji together take up half of the space in this panel, minimizing the importance of the three women slanting backward on the left side. Marji’s face shows her extreme anger with slanting eyebrows, widening eyes, and a large open mouth. Given the large font, the reader knows that she is shouting and using a sharp tone. More importantly, the light background demonstrates that Marji finally has found her authentic self again. These two big moments reveal that Marji has not completely lost herself even in Austria evidenced by Marji defending herself and her heritage.
Even though Marji still experiences confusion and even trauma upon her return to Iran, she ultimately finds the independent Marji again. Following her ill-advised marriage and subsequent depression, Marji decides to educate herself again: “Pushed by my parents, encouraged by Dr. M and his friends, and also a little thanks to myself, I changed my life” (327, Frame 5). Marji stands upright with her hands in the front, looking determined to educate herself again. Marji is the only person in the panel, with a light, hopeful background. Both indicate she has found the “real Marji”- a mature and independent woman.
Demonstrating her regained confidence, Marji decides to divorce her husband after a long struggle. She realizes later that “My grandma was right: I had taken my time, and I never regretted what I said” (338, Frame 8). Marji stands straight with her hands at her back, uttering her words with a firm tone and a serious facial expression.She is alone in the panel, demonstrating that she realizes what she wants and is capable of making her own decision. The two panels show Marji as an educated, curious, independent and mature person. Once again, surely Marji has endured a lot of uncommon and unacceptable things, and has changed a lot in terms of habits and preferences-she starts to drink, smoke, and dress differently as she grows up.
But these are just her efforts to conform to an unfamiliar environment. Therefore, despite Marji’s experimenting during her adolescence, she reclaims her true qualities: her indignation at injustices and her independence. She demonstrates that even though challenging events test one’s conviction, one must strive to remain true to oneself.