Marjane’s grandmother comes over to the house, and Marjane asks her about the times Marjane’s grandfather was in jail. Her grandmother speaks of how poor she was back then. At times she pretended to cook food she did not have just to keep up appearances for the neighbors who could see her through the window. She then says that the Shah was even “ten times worse” than the Father of the Shah. He was extremely wasteful and bombastic and kept none of his promises, unlike the other historical kings of Iran. At his coronation the Shah visited the grave of Cyrus the Great, who once “ruled over the ancient world.” Then Marjane’s grandmother describes how, during his rule, “all the country’s money went into ridiculous celebrations of the 2500 years of dynasty and other frivolities” but none of this benefited the people, who couldn’t care less. She claims that the Shah did this only “to impress heads of state.” Marjane’s grandmother then expresses her happiness “that there is finally a revolution.” She does not directly speak of Marjane’s grandfather throughout the conversation, even though Marjane had originally asked about her grandfather at the start.
Marjane looks towards all of her family members to describe and explain the confusing facets of the rise of the Shah and the subsequent revolution – both how it happened, and also how her family is connected to it. Instead of answering Marjane’s question about her grandfather, Marjane’s grandmother avoids talking about his torture by talking about other difficult but less traumatizing subjects. She describes the way the Shah wasted enormous amounts of money on propaganda when the people of Iran were suffering from poverty and hunger. She highlights the great distance between the Shah and the common people, though this also more generally indicates the ways that rulers often try to control rather than serve those whom they rule.
Each day, Marjane’s father goes to take photographs of the continuing demonstrations during the revolution, despite this activity being strictly prohibited. The family waits anxiously for his return, as his activities can get him into a lot of trouble. When, one day, he is late getting home – much to everyone’s terror – he finally returns and then describes how he had gone to the hospital where a group of people were “carrying the body of a young man killed by the army.” Marjane’s father describes how the people “honored [the young man] like a martyr.” When another dead body, this time of an old man, was carried out of the hospital, the people crowded around and also called the old man a “hero,” just as they had called the first man. Yet, when Marjane’s father questions the old man’s widow about his death, it turns out he died of cancer—he was not a martyr at all. Still, at the crowd’s insistence, the old widow actually joins in their demonstration honoring the dead old man and defiling the Shah. Together they shout: “the king is a killer!” The whole family laughs, except for Marjane, who does not understand how this story of “cadaver, cancer, death, [and] murderer” can lead to laughter. Finally she laughs, though still not understanding, and she decides to read as much as she can so that she will understand.
Marjane’s father, an avid detractor of the current regime, here tells an ironic story about the way that fact and fiction get confused in the turmoil and passion of the revolution. Though the old man, unlike the young man, did not lose his life in the fight against the regime, he still gets celebrated as an equal martyr. People are so wound up in their ideals and their struggles that they project these ideas and struggles onto any situation they see. In this sense they are a bit blinded by their own fervor, and this is the reason that Marjane’s family laughs: everything, including natural deaths, gets tied up with the revolution, even if during regular times people would consider it a part of normal life. Marjane cannot understand the irony because she cannot see the nuances, the grey areas, or even the funny absurd parts about what is going on around her. She is still too young and still sees everything as right or wrong, good or bad. In a way, Marjane is similar to the revolutionaries – both have a rather simple, childish view of the world.