Different readers interpret different texts differently. This discrepancy of interpretation is a frequent phenomenon in literature, no two readers interpret the same piece of work alike. Interpretation is influenced by the context in which the reader reads the piece of literature. The interpretation of a text is greatly influenced by the social, economic and communal context of the readers in different time periods.
The surroundings in which a reader is reading the text can also affect their reception to a significant extent. ‘Persepolis’ by Marjane Satrapi gives a detailed exploration of neo-colonization and white supremacy, the conflation of modernism with westernism, and people in countries with a largely conservative ideology looking to the west and romanticizing ‘modern values’. It gives an autobiographical account of the alienation that one feels when denied selfhood both, by their own country and by the west which advertises itself as an alternative.Persepolis is set in the city of Tehran, the capital of Iran during the late 1970’s when Iran was undergoing major political changes that would permanently change the political and social landscape of the nation, this was known as the Iranian Revolution. This is the story of the journey that Marjane undergoes, as a young adult living in Iran. How she moved to Vienna, due to the war and chaos in Iran, but returns home after several years as a grown woman. During her stay in Vienna, she interacts with different people, belonging to different cultures and countries. It explores the intersection of religion and modernity while exploring the repercussions for those who conduct these religious practices.
The Islamic Republic of Iran passed laws that rigorously systemized all conduct under strict religious grounds and prohibited utilization of or interaction with essentially anything seen as Western from American music to clothing.On initially reaching Vienna, Marjane forbids indulgence in any form of “western decadence” (page 158) when Zozo’s daughter Shirin offers her some pearly pink lipstick and raspberry scented pen. This is in sharp contrast to indulgence in western culture when she gave herself a haircut and started smoking joints. Reader A, being modern would be able to justify this as Marjane’s way of fitting in but to reader B this would be a betrayal of the Iranian heritage, culture and origins. Especially when Marjane tells Marc that she is French to impress him (page 197).
The backwardness of the Islamic regime and ideologies is clearly portrayed when Marjane confesses to her friends that she was not a virgin (page 272). The real traditionalists hidden underneath all the outward appearance of being modern is revealed, as her friends call her a whore. To a traditionalist like reader A, loss of chastity before marriage is disgraceful a sin to their religion. If viewed by the present-day reader, it will also acknowledge the progress made in society since the 1970’s and be opposed to stereotyping a grown 19-year-old woman for making a choice she has full liberty to make, a whore. Islam is presented in a very backward and inferior way.
Born and brought up in the modern, liberal and avant-garde family, Marjane was never isolated from the Iranian social, cultural and moral values by her parents. She was always given freedom and choice to maintain her cultural identity as Iranian women. Marjane’s open-minded approach is seen when questions the equality between men and women because of the strict moral conduct made for women in contrast to the complete absence of such obscene laws for men. Any present-day reader would agree to Marjane views because in today’s world men and women are treated equally and the Quran calls for both men and women to ‘cover and be modest’. Imposing such laws only on women is objectifying them into objects whose sole purpose in life is to excite men. When Marjane asks Reza if they could tell people about them being a couple (page 294) Reza says “Are you crazy? Not on your life.
If the administration discovers our relationship, we’ll be kicked out! To them, we’re breaking the law.” This echoes orthodoxy in Islam as a religion, where two individuals in any sort of intimate relationship are frowned upon. A reader of the 1970’s would agree to this, because according to Islamic beliefs,