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Persepolis 2

In Persepolis, Marjane’s live becomes very turbulent at times, causing her and her family to experience a great deal of culture shock.  For example, in the story “The Pill,” Marji is lying in bed and talking with her friend Julie, and the subject of sex comes up.  As Julie describes “Oh, you’re the pure, timid, innocent virgin who does her homework.  I’m not like that.  I’ve been having sex for five years.  I’ve already slept with eighteen guys: Fabrice, Olivier, Laurent, Luc, Jean-Marc, another Laurent, Sebastien…(p. 182).” Marji thinks to herself “I was shocked.  In my country, even when you had sex before marriage, you hid it (p. 182).”  In the comic, Marji’s face when she hears Julie talk about having already slept with eighteen guys is a look of complete shock.  Marji begins to see the world differently after this

Another point where a character experiences culture shock is in the story “The Horse,” when Marji’s mom comes to visit from Iran for the first time in a year and a half.  By this time, Marji is living in a new place, and her mom comes to stay with her for a few weeks.  When they arrive at Marji’s for the first time, her mom sees that she is the only girl living with eight other men.  This predicament is shocking to her mother, who becomes even more shocked when Marji tells her “Don’t worry Mom!  They’re all homosexuals (p. 201).”  As Marji explains to us “I had told her that to reassure her and I think that, despite the shock, she was appeased (p. 201).”  This shows how different Marji views the world now because she is living in a more Western culture while in Europe, and it differs significantly from the one she came from in Iran.  Marji’s mom practically jumps out of her seat when she hears this because she comes from such a more conservative and sheltered culture in Iran.

Another example where Marji experiences culture shock is when she is with her new boyfriend Enrique.  He takes her to an “Anarchist Party.”  She envisions it being like the battles of her childhood in Iran.  The comic image shows her mind imagining people burning flags and throwing rocks and explosives and revolting against the government.  But when it comes to the “Anarchist Party,” she is very disappointed to see that it’s nothing like what she expected.  Instead they play tag, hide-and-seek, and volleyball, and sing songs around a campfire.  At the beginning, Marji says “What a disappointment… my enthusiasm was quickly replaced by a feeling of disgust and profound contempt (p. 210).”  Marji says that initially her love for Enrique suffered a devastating blow at the sight of this, but as the night comes to a close and they are all surrounding the campfire singing songs, she says “The sausages and the music were good… I was in love again (p. 210).”  Marji’s emotions may have been determined by being a hormonal teenager, but they were also affected by the fact that she still has yet to fully adjust to the new culture she’s living in.  There may never come a time when Marji becomes fully adjusted to this culture because everything that she believes in was ingrained in her way of life when she was a young girl in Iran.

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In “Persepolis”, Satrapi makes good use of the comics, particularly when she shows Marji thinking to herself.  For example, after Marji visits her Uncle Anoosh in prison, then learns later that he was executed for being labeled a Russian spy, she is lying in bed and God comes to visit her.  Before he can really say anything, Marji screams at him to get out and she never wants to see him again.  After this, she is shown floating in space among the stars and galaxies, thinking “And I was so lost, without any bearings… What could be worse than that? (p. 71)”  Satrapi shows Marji lost in space without any sense of what is going on in her life.  She is confused, scared, and feels very isolated from others.

Another part of the book where Satrapi uses the comics to express something with more depth than only words could do is in “The Party,” when “Black Friday” has resulted in the deaths of many civilian protestors.  She opens with “After Black Friday, there was one massacre after another.  Many people were killed (p. 40).”  The first comic she uses is an image of more than forty faces of dead people from the massacres.  They are lined up in rows and columns, and we are unable to distinguish one from another, or if some are female or male.  This shows that the dead people were so unimportant to the shah and his rule.  The people were just a mass of nameless face after nameless face, and if they stood in the way of his authority, they became worthless to him.

The Elephant Vanishes 3

I believe that Murakami is a post-modern writer because he writes with such commitment to lack of clarity in many of his stories.  For example, the story “Sleep,” where he writes a story about a woman who goes weeks on end without sleeping at all.  But he doesn’t feel the need to end the story with any specific event that will conclude the character’s journey.  Instead, the reader is left confused and wondering about what is happening to the character and what will happen to her in the future.  This style of writing can be very frustrating to some readers, while others will get pleasure out of its weird visions.

In the story, the main character becomes an insomniac after having a terrifying nightmare.  For some reason, she doesn’t seek a doctor’s advice because she says “So I didn’t see a doctor, and I didn’t say anything to my parents of friends, because I knew that that was exactly what they would tell me to do (p. 74).”  The fact that Murakami would write a character like this shows his dedication to keeping the story interesting. 

A very interesting turn in the story comes when she has a nightmare about a man standing at the foot of her bed.  She is terrified, but is unable to scream or move, and when she awakes, she is so startled that she’s unable to go back to sleep.  She decides to have a glass of brandy and read a book she had read a while back, which becomes a habit night after night when she is still unable to sleep.  As this continues on, she chooses not to tell anyone, even her husband, and instead takes the nighttime as her personal time.  She reads her books, drinks her brandy, and occasionally goes out to buy chocolate, which she hadn’t really eaten since before she was married.  Every night, she lies awake until her husband falls asleep, and sneaks out.  “After ten minutes of lying near him, I would get out of bed.  I would go to the living room, turn on the floor lamp, and pour myself a glass of brandy.  Then I would sit on the sofa and read my book, taking tiny sips of brandy and letting the smooth liquid glide over my tongue….My days became just as regulated (p. 95.).”

At the end of the story, the woman has driven her car to a dark road to rest, and two men begin rocking her car back and forth, which frightens her.  She has slowly been drifting out of reality because of the insomnia that has plagued her for weeks.  Throughout the whole story, she believed that she was maintaining her sanity despite her problem, until she finally breaks down at the end.  “I fall back against the seat, cover my face with my hands.  I’m crying.  All I can do is cry.  The tears keep pouring out.  Locked inside this little box, I can’t go anywhere.  It’s the middle of the night.  The men keep rocking the car back and forth.  They’re going to turn it over (p. 109).”  She has lost her sanity, although it’s hard to distinguish the meaning of the two men.  Murakami has left the story very much open to the readers opinions and beliefs, and leaves no doubt that the story can be interpreted in many different ways.

The Elephant Vanishes 2

In “The Elephant Vanishes,” Murakami often writes his stories around characters that are trapped in their own minds and are disconnected with the outside world.  For example, in the story “Sleep,” the main character is suffering from an extreme case of insomnia, already not have slept for seventeen days by the time the story starts.  She describes how she hasn’t told anyone about her problem, even her husband and son.  She says “Neither my husband nor my son has noticed that I’m not sleeping.  And I haven’t mentioned it to them.  I don’t want to be told to see a doctor.  I know it wouldn’t do any good.  I just know.  Like before.  This is something I have to deal with myself (p.76).”  A normal person would clearly see a doctor and most likely tell their spouse, which makes it interesting that Murakami shows her behaving so bizarrely.

Another story in which the main character is follows a strange mental process is in “The Kangaroo Communique,” where the character writes a response letter to a customer complaining to the company he works for.  He describes how he was thinking about kangaroos and that it gave him the urge to write the letter.  He says “Thirty-six intricate procedural steps, followed one by one in just the right order, led me from the kangaroos to you- that’s it.  To attempt to explain each and every one of these steps would surely try your powers of comprehension, but more than that, I doubt I can even remember them all (p. 53).”  The main character obviously doesn’t realize just how weird that is that he’s writing this letter.  He even goes as far as to record his letter on tape and wait outside the woman’s door that he was trying to reach, a woman he has never met nor been in contact with before.

A third time where Murakami writes about a character  trapped in their thoughts is in “TV People,” where the main character sits in his house one day when people barge in and start setting up a television set while not a word is said between anyone.  The character sees the TV people a number of times throughout the story, but doesn’t really understand who they are.  Near the end of the story, one of the TV people finally says to him “Shame about your wife (p. 214),” which confuses the main character.  He repeats the saying in his head and thinks “I can’t grasp the context.  Cause had effect by the tail and is about to swallow it whole.”  He begins to think that his wife has left him and isn’t coming home, which scares him because although he realizes they weren’t the perfect couple, but they were always able to talk things out.  The “TV people” are in his head, and they have blinded him from the truth of what was going on in the real world right before his eyes, which seemed that he and his wife were slowly disconnecting from each other, until it reached a tipping point.

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The quote that stood out most to me was the man’s observation at the end of the Bakery Attack story, in which he says “Alone now, I leaned over the edge of my bat and looked down to the bottom of the sea.  The volcano was gone.  The water’s calm surface reflected the blue of the sky… I stretched out in the bottom of the boat and closed my eyes, waiting for the rising tide to carry me where I belonged (p. 49).”

In the story, the man had been having a vision where he was sitting in a boat, and a volcano was rising up underneath him.  I felt like this represented the pressures he was feeling from a curse that he believed was upon him.  Several times throughout the story, he observes how each time he looks down, the volcano has risen higher.  Finally he and his wife hold up a McDonald’s in order to break the curse over them, which seems to work.  While he and his wife are eating the burgers they get, he observes how the volcano has gone away.  It’s as if the pressure has been lifted that he felt from the curse upon him, and he recognizes that.  At this point, I felt that he was in a dream, because he just described how he and his wife took 30 Big Macs from McDonalds because they were so hungry.  But either way, he finally feels at ease with his situation, and is able to stretch out his legs and be at peace with his life.

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