If a person were to hastily flip through the pages of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic
novel Persepolis, using only eyes to judge, the book could easily be put off as just
another piece of literary fluff. Their inner literary critic might utter a perplexed gasp and
their mind might reel with the wonder at how they happened upon something that was
surely intended for the children’s comic book section. With any further examination of
the book’s literary content and the power of its simplified artwork, however, such an easy
to assume accusation shows through as fatally incorrect. Persepolis is the memoir of a
young woman growing up in the decimating national conflicts of 1970s Iran depicted
alongside an unexpectedly, simplified artwork style. At first it may appear that this is
done only for the sake of unique marketability or because it is merely Satrapi’s natural
A deeper examination, however, will reveal that “…a form of
amplification through simplification” (McCloud, 30) is achieved and visual support is
given to the text in a manner that realistic or more “serious” art could not accomplish.
Though simplified in its artistic approach, Persepolis is anything but simplified in
When a writer chooses to include illustrations in a piece of literature, the first task
is to decide the level of abstraction/ realism the art will present. In Persepolis’ case, a
simplified art style works best, as it amplifies only the primary features of the text, unlike
realism which would be far more focused on social details. Given the book’s heavy
subject matter (of both a war beyond massive devastation and the metamorphosis of a girl
caught in its trauma), Persepolis has a great deal of information to cover in t. .
and personally significant aspects of her experience. Through generality and a lack of
explicit realism, Satrapi invigorates the book’s deeper messages in a manner that extends
beyond the written word and into conceptual imagery. “By de-emphasizing the
appearance of the physical world…the cartoon places itself in the world of concepts”
(McCloud 41), concepts that convey the subjective, but still far too true life of Marjane
Satrapi. This simplified and symbolic universe is not Iran or Austria or France; it is Marjane’s Persepolis.
McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.
New York: HyperCollins
Publishers, 1993. Print
Strapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of Childhood. Paris, France: L’Association, 2003. Print.
Persepolis 2: The Story of Return. Paris, France: L’Association, 2004.Print