Persepolis

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.
Nationalism, Heroism, and Martyrdom Theme Icon

When the Revolution comes, Marjane, like her family, rejoices. After decades under the despotic American-backed Shah, she and her family believe that this moment will ensure that the Iranian people will finally be free to decide for themselves who will lead their country and how. Put another way, Marjane is an Iranian patriot and a nationalist, in the sense that she believes profoundly in the value and need for an independent Iran ruled by Iranians. Marjane’s love for her country and belief that it should be free is so great that she feels the urge to fight for it, and glorifies those who do fight for it—particularly those people who die in the name of the cause: martyrs. Marjane, just a child at this time, thinks of heroism in romantic terms, and sees martyrdom especially as extremely positive and desirable. In fact, Marjane hopes her own family members will be heroes and she is disappointed that her father is not a hero. She is ecstatic when it turns out that Anoosh, her uncle, has had to flee to the USSR to protect himself from the Shah’s government against which he was fighting.

Yet as Marjane starts to come to grips with the actual consequences of martyrdom and heroism—Anoosh, for example, gets executed by the new regime because of his former political activities—her positive feelings about heroism and martyrdom begin to fade. Even more importantly, as the Revolution results in a new regime even more oppressive than the Shah’s, and an Iran ruled by Iranians turns out to be no better and in many ways worse than an Iran ruled by foreign powers, Marjane is forced to grapple with the very notion of nationalism. What country or which people should be the object of her nationalism? Though before and just after the Revolution she complains that her father is “no patriot” because of his pessimism, as she grows up and sees the actions and impact of the Islamic Republic she begins to recognize her own country’s stubborn foreign policy and ideologically-driven warmongering for what they are. She realizes that the boys sent off to war as martyrs are being brainwashed and used, their lives wasted, in service to nationalism. She sees that just as nationalism can overthrow a dictator, so it can also be used to prop up a dictator. And yet, at the same time, when she hears the Iranian National Anthem, Marjane is “overwhelmed” with emotion. Facing this conundrum in her feelings about her country, Marjane begins to understand that she can both love her country and hate it at the same time. She begins to understand that a country is not one monolithic culture, one monolithic religion (her neighbors are Jewish, for example), nor one monolithic people: she sees how the people in Tehran make fun of southern Iranians, how the country is very much divided, and how there are many competing narratives about Iran’s past, present, and especially future. Much of the book’s aim, as Marjane explains in her preface, is to give readers at least one narrative about Iran: her own.

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Nationalism, Heroism, and Martyrdom ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Persepolis related to the theme of Nationalism, Heroism, and Martyrdom.
The Bicycle Quotes

“The Revolution is like a bicycle. When the wheels don’t turn, it falls.”

Related Characters: Marjane Satrapi (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Water Cell Quotes

As for me, I love the King, he was chosen by God.

Related Characters: Marjane Satrapi (speaker)
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

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Persepolis Quotes

“You know, my child, since the dawn of time, dynasties have succeeded each other but the kings always kept their promises. The Shah kept none.”

Related Characters: Marjane’s Grandmother (speaker), Marjane Satrapi
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

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“All the country’s money went into ridiculous celebrations of the 2500 years of dynasty and other frivolities…all of this to impress heads of state; the population couldn’t have cared less.”

Related Characters: Marjane’s Grandmother (speaker), Marjane Satrapi
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Party Quotes

“As long as there is oil in the middle east we will never have peace.”

Related Characters: Marjane’s Parents (Mother and Father) (speaker)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Heroes Quotes

My father was not a hero, my mother wanted to kill people…so I went out to play in the street.

Related Characters: Marjane Satrapi (speaker), Marjane’s Parents (Mother and Father), Siamak Jari
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Trip Quotes

It wasn’t only the government that changed. Ordinary people changed too.

Related Characters: Marjane Satrapi (speaker)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

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The F-14s Quotes

“The real Islamic invasion has come from our own government.”

Related Characters: Marjane’s Parents (Mother and Father) (speaker), Marjane Satrapi
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

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“I wish he were alive and in jail rather than dead and a hero.”

Related Characters: Paradisse (speaker), Marjane Satrapi
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Jewels Quotes

“To have the Iraqis attack, and to lose in an instant everything you had built over a lifetime, that’s one thing…but to be spat upon by your own kind, it is intolerable!”

Related Characters: Mali (speaker), Marjane Satrapi, Marjane’s Parents (Mother and Father)
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

The Key Quotes

“Our country has always known war and martyrs, so, like my father said: ‘When a big wave comes, lower your head and let it pass!’”

Related Characters: Marjane’s Parents (Mother and Father) (speaker), Marjane Satrapi
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Cigarette Quotes

“To die a martyr is to inject blood into the veins of society.”

Related Characters: Marjane Satrapi
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.