Why the Emphasis on Setting?

            Marjane Satrapi wrote Persepolis, a graphic novel about her life between 1979 and 1994 in Iran and Austria. Uniquely expressing her story, Satrapi discusses very personal elements of her life, ranging from drug use to losing her virginity to attempting suicide, alongside the very public Iran-Iraq War. Satrapi wrote and illustrated these topics with utmost honesty and sincerity, revealing to the reader her true emotions, thoughts, and intentions. Some readers may be more interested in her personal life while some may be reading to learn about the Iran-Iraq War. During my time reading this novel, I realized that, above all, Persepolis is about Marjane Satrapi’s perspective; both her personal life and the public life in Iran affected how she grew up and formed a perspective.

            A large quantity of books I have read, including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, include large excerpts on personal lives of characters and separate large excerpts on setting the time, place, and culture of the storyline. Whenever I read books that put a large emphasis setting, I tend to skim over such excerpts in order to get to the characters’ personal plot lines. I did not understand just how important the setting is until I read Satrapi’s Persepolis. The setting creates the characters’ perspectives. Marjane’s immersion in a country at war affected how she viewed herself – evident when she feels like she cannot explain herself to her friends in Austria. The setting she grew up in – a war-stricken Iran – helped to define her identity, and, therefore, the lens through which she sees the world. Had she not grown up in 1980s Iran, she may not have had trouble adapting to the (relatively) carefree people of Austria. The details about the setting are Satrapi’s perspective; they serve to explain to readers why she developed to be the woman she is today. Image

Photo from: http://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/marjane-satrapi-chicken-with-plums

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One thought on “Why the Emphasis on Setting?

  1. I completely agree that Marjane Satrapi was shaped by her experiences with the war going on in her country. Had it not been for those wars she would not have grown up to be the person she is today. The war gave her insight on death and loss, the likes of which her French friends could not grasp. It affected the path she took both mentally and physically by exposing her to horrors at a young age and having her sent to another country without her parents. Even once she left it continued to affect the person she was by how she interacted with those around her. Her friends were fascinated with her heritage thus helping her to gain friends. I liked how you mentioned other works that have a strong emphasis on setting even if not as obvious as Persepolis. It was a good read and had lots of insight to offer into the life of an Iranian child from the 1980’s.

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