Women and Rebellion in Graphic Novels

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Though graphic novels are not recognized as literature by many literary critics, they have the distinction of communicating with pictures in a way that may not be possible with words alone. Themes that would be lost if they were merely sentences on a page are highlighted when set to a graphic novel’s illustration, and graphic novels can connect deeply with the reader through images of war and suffering, such as in the graphic novels Persepolis and Fables.

Marjane Satrapi’s autobiography Persepolis takes place in Tehran, Iran during and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, during which the people of Iran overthrew Mohammad Reza Pah-lavi, known simply as “the Shah.” The Islamic Regime was founded in its wake, and Marjane spent her early
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She asserts her independence not with loud demonstrations, but with quiet and inconspicuous dress code violations. Satrapi explains her reasoning on page 302:

The regime understood that one person leaving her house while [worrying about her wardrobe] no longer asks herself [about policies or human rights]. It’s only natural! Our fear paralyzes us.… [It] has always been the driving force behind all dictators’ repression. Showing your hair and putting on makeup logically became acts of rebellion (panels 6-8).

Rebelling against the government is important to Marjane because of her family history and her heritage. When she is young, Marjane’s father tells her grandfather was a Prince of Persia whose father was pushed out by the Shah’s father. Marjane’s grandfather then became a Communist and a rebel who was repeatedly thrown in jail for “defending some innocents” (291, panel 6). Later on, after the Revolution but before the formation of the Republic, Marjane meets her Uncle Anoosh, a former political prisoner and Communist . “Our family history must not be lost,” he tells her. “Even if it’s not easy for you, even if you don’t understand it all” (60, panel 7). He is soon arrested and executed by the Islamic Republic, but not before he waters the seed of rebellion in Marjane.

This example of rebellion contrasts with Snow White’s tight grip on the authority she up-holds. She sees the Fabletown government as a fragile thing, explaining her thinking
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