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Themes and Colors
Religion, Repression, and Modernity Theme Icon
Nationalism, Heroism, and Martyrdom Theme Icon
Violence, Forgiveness, and Justice Theme Icon
Children, War, and Growing Up Theme Icon
The Personal vs. the Political Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Persepolis, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Gender Theme Icon

Persepolis opens at the moment in Iranian history when it becomes obligatory for women to wear the veil and schools become segregated by gender. The Revolution brings many changes to Tehran, but the changes imposed on women and men in how they dress and look—women must cover their heads, men must cover their arms and not wear a necktie—might be the most immediately relevant and personally frustrating. Over the course of the graphic novel, Marjane begins to understand that to be a woman in her new society is to be subjugated to a lesser role than the one she expected to have in her younger years. As a child, she imagines herself a to be the last prophet, explicitly despite the fact that all the other prophets were men. However, as the graphic novel progresses, she realizes that though she “wanted to be an educated, liberate woman” this “dream went up in smoke” with the Revolution. Though she had once wanted to be like the celebrated scientist Marie Curie, she thinks that “at the age that Marie Curie first went to France to study [chemistry], I’ll probably have ten children.”

Marjane comes to understand that her destiny as a woman is dependent on the state’s allowance or disallowance of women’s freedom. Early in the days after the imposition of the veil, Marjane’s mother gets assaulted for not wearing a veil, and at a demonstration against the veil Marjane sees women getting beaten up and even a woman getting stabbed. Though her mother thinks earlier that she “should start learning to defend her rights as a woman right now,” Marjane understands this to be impractical and dangerous, so she resigns herself instead to committing small acts of disobedience, like improperly wearing her veil. However, she continues to speak out against the contradictions and unfairness she notices around her, which gets her expelled from school. Soon after her parents reveal to her the extent to which the state believes it has a right to control women’s bodies—it is against the law to kill a virgin woman, so before executions of virgin women a prison guard will rape the condemned prisoner. The situation appears both completely hopeless and dangerous to an outspoken girl like Marjane, and so her parents decide to send her out of the country, to Vienna, where she will have the freedom to be and grow as pleases and befits her as an independent woman, an independent person.

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Gender ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Gender appears in each section of Persepolis. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Gender Quotes in Persepolis

Below you will find the important quotes in Persepolis related to the theme of Gender.
The Veil Quotes

We found ourselves veiled and separated from our friends.

Related Characters: Marjane Satrapi (speaker)
Related Symbols: Veil
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

After the westernized Shah of Iran is overthrown by the Islamic Republic in 1979, Iranian women and girls are suddenly forced to wear a veil in public. The Revolution also led to the abolition of bilingual schools, such as the French-Iranian school that Marjane attends as a child, due to the government's belief that they are a symbol of "decadence." Thus, Marjane is forced to switch into a single-language, single-gendered school. 

In this quote, Marjane refers to the veil as a method of separation not just from the public and a woman's body, but also between different groups of people and culture. Though she enjoyed a co-educational, secular and bilingual education prior to the Revolution, after Islamic Law was put into place, her world became much smaller as she was forced into a dogmatically-religious, single-gender and monolingual education. The reference to the veil here serves to represent not only the opression of woman, but also a curtain of sorts between Iran and the rest of the modern world after the Revolution of 1979. Iran, like Marjane, was veiled and separated from its "friends" (other modernized nations) after the Revolution.


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I really didn’t know what to think about the veil. Deep down I was very religious but as a family we were very modern and avant-garde.

Related Characters: Marjane Satrapi (speaker)
Related Symbols: Veil
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Though Marjane's family is religious, her home life is not as devout as her school life becomes after the Revolution. This leads to tensions within herself as she grows up and hears one thing at home and another in school. Though she feels strongly about the religion she learns at school, it conflicts with her parents' views, two people whom she loves and respects above anything. In this quote, Marjane notes that she is unsure how to feel about the imposition of the veil in 1980. She has previously been religious in her heart, but feels oppressed when she is suddenly forced to wear the external trappings of religion--showing how counterintuitive any real state-sponsored or nationalistic religion is (since true religious faith is always a personal choice, not a government rule).

This quote is representative of Marjane's larger feelings about Iran as she grows up. While she knows logically that the sociopolitical situation in Iran is grim, she cannot help but feel deep love and allegiance to her homeland. Even when her parents help her escape the repressive regime by sending her to Vienna, she cannot bear to shed her "true" self in order to assimilate to Viennese culture, and she ultimately returns to Tehran. Marjane will grapple with her innate love but logical problems with Iran for years to come.

The Trip Quotes

I wanted to be an educated, liberated woman…and so another dream went up in smoke.

Related Characters: Marjane Satrapi (speaker)
Related Symbols: Veil
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

After the success of the Revolution, the fundamentalist regime that takes over the Iranian government decides to close the universities for the time being, since that kind of education was thought to be too "decadent," leading students away from the "true path of Islam." As an educated woman, Marjane is crushed--she had dreams of studying chemistry at university, like her hero Marie Curie. 

In this quote, Marjane notes that her dream of becoming a famous chemist like Marie Curie has gone "up in smoke," just like her dream of moving to America prior to the fundamentalist student take-over of the American Embassy in Iran. Though the Revolution has succeeded, Marjane's family and other supporters of the Revolution are slowly realizing that this was not the outcome they had intended. Though the Shah was corrupt and oppressive, he had at least supported a modern Iran; the new regime serves to impose a fundamentalist version of Islamic law onto Iranians, which rendered women as second-class citizens to men. Without the chance to continue her education, Marjane realizes that the prospect of becoming a housewife with many children is far more likely than is a career as an educated scientist.