Persepolis

Persepolis The Letter Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Marjane likes to read books by the Kurdish writer Ali Ashraf Darvishian, “a kind of local Charles Dickens,” and with her mother attends his clandestine book signings, which are secret because his books are not supported by the Shah’s regime. In his stories, she reads of impoverished children, and “finally understood why I felt ashamed to sit in my father’s Cadillac.” She expresses that “the reason for my shame and for the revolution is the same: the difference between social classes.”
Darvishian’s books are frowned up by the Shah because he does not want people thinking about any issues within the country. The more Marjane reads, the more she begins to understand about parts of the world that she has no direct access to, particularly the plights of other people. The stories of poor children help Marjane to see how she is different from other people economically, something she has felt before but never quite realized. By feeling sympathetic to other people and understanding their problems, she begins to realize why individual people might participate in revolution. At the same time, Marjane’s thoughts here will come to have an ironic sense to them as the book continues: poor people will continue to get the short end of the stick even after the successful revolution against the Shah.
Themes
Violence, Forgiveness, and Justice Theme Icon
Children, War, and Growing Up Theme Icon
The Personal vs. the Political Theme Icon
Pondering further her place in Iranian society, Marjane remembers her maid Mehri. Mehri became the Satrapi’s maid after Mehri’s parents gave Mehri to the Satrapi family, understanding that their daughter would be better fed in the Satrapi household than in their own, crowded and poor as it was with fifteen children. Mehri and Marjane are very close, and when a neighbor boy named Hossein sends Mehri a love letter, the illiterate Mehri asks Marjane to read her the letter and write a response based on Mehri’s dictation. Eventually the whole family finds out about the budding epistolary love affair, and Marjane’s father speaks to Hossein, revealing to him that Mehri is not his daughter but in fact his maid, a revelation which abruptly ends the relationship. Marjane’s father explains to Marjane that she “must understand that their love was impossible…because in this country you must stay within your own social class.” Marjane bemoans that one’s birth determines one’s social class, though she is happy at least that she and Mehri can still share the same bed.
Mehri comes to Marjane’s mind because she is the closest person Marjane knows who resembles the people in the books she reads. Understanding the cause for Mehri’s presence in her home, and feeling sympathetic, allows Marjane to connect with the illiterate Mehri and aid her in her romantic pursuits. However, this episode becomes for Marjane a lesson in the gap between the social classes, and how this gap is hard or even impossible to close. In Iranian society, everyone remains firmly footed in the class one is born into. Though Marjane can sympathize with Mehri, and though she can even spend a lot of time with her, she cannot change the way that society functions or what is expected. Marjane’s family both want to overthrow the Shah and continue to have a kind of complacency about class structure, and Marjane herself shows a selfish complacency in focusing on what she gets from Mehri as opposed to the ways that Mehri is oppressed by Iranian society because of her class.
Themes
Children, War, and Growing Up Theme Icon
The Personal vs. the Political Theme Icon
Understanding the differences in social classes as the source of the revolution, Marjane decides the next day to go out with Mehri and demonstrate in the streets—without her parents’ knowledge. When they come home late at night, Marjane’s mother slaps both of them, angry particularly because they had gone out on one of the most notoriously dreadful days up to then, called “Black Friday,” when many people died. There are many rumors about who ordered or devised the killings, including rumors that Israel initiated the massacre, but Marjane knows that, as in other instances of death and massacre, “It was really our own who had attacked us.”
Despite social divides, Marjane attempts to be in solidarity with Mehri by demonstrating with her—this act also indicates one step further towards adulthood, as she tries to mimic her parents but without their even being involved. Marjane demonstrates further maturity in her being able to spot misinformation and come to more likely conclusions about the source of the violence. At the same time, Marjane’s decision to go protest without telling her parents is incredibly immature and reckless, and again demonstrates just how little she understands of the actual dangers. She wants to be like her parents, but she is still a child, and her judgment about safety is not as refined as her parents’.
Themes
Violence, Forgiveness, and Justice Theme Icon
Children, War, and Growing Up Theme Icon
The Personal vs. the Political Theme Icon