If a person were to hastily flip through the pages of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis, using only their eyes to judge, the book could easily be dismissed as just another piece of literary fluff. Their inner literary critic might utter a perplexed gasp, and their mind might reel with wonder at how they happened upon something that was surely intended for the children’s comic book section. However, upon further examination of the book’s literary content and the power of its simplified artwork, 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 drawing style. 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 content. 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 focus more on social details. Given the book’s heavy subject matter (a war of massive devastation and the metamorphosis of a girl caught in its trauma), Persepolis has a lot of information to cover. It captures the captivating 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). These concepts convey the subjective, yet still true life of Marjane Satrapi. This simplified and symbolic universe is not Iran, Austria, or France; it is Marjane’s Persepolis.
Works Cited:McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HyperCollins Publishers, 1993.
Strapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of Childhood. Paris, France: L’Association, 2003. Print.
Strapi, Marjane. Persepolis 2: The Story of Return.
Paris, France: L’Association, 2004.