As a graphic novel, Persepolis is an innovative approach to the traditional bildungsroman, or coming-of-age narrative. Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical tale weaves Iran's complicated history and political turmoil with young Marji's personal experiences growing up in an increasingly hostile country.

The comic strip format uses illustrations that facilitate a deeper understanding and empathy for people living in the Middle East during times of war and extremism. Satrapi translates the complex political and religious elements of the story into concepts students will be able to grasp, but it might be helpful for the teacher to set aside time for additional discussion about factors leading to turmoil in Iran and in surrounding countries.

Furthermore, it is important to discuss the significance of the graphic novel as both a piece of literature and as a piece of art. Encourage students to consider how images and text work together to form a narrative. Provide context for Satrapi's work by discussing other influential graphic novels, and discuss why she chose this format to convey serious subject matter, such as war, torture, and social oppression.

Summary of Persepolis

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Length: 341 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 380
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9-10

Persepolis tells the story of Marji, a young girl growing up in revolutionary Iran, where the threat of violence, arrest, and torture are everyday fears. As the child of progressive, politically-active parents, Marji comes of age in a household where she is encouraged to voice her opinion, which leads her into trouble in the world outside of her home.

This text is essential to any discussion about the genre of the graphic novel and provides a keen insight into a world that many young readers today cannot fathom. Satrapi makes faraway and confusing elements of the modern conflict in the Middle East accessible and understandable to readers worldwide.

Content Warning: Persepolis depicts moments of violence, murder, and torture and contains discussions of sexual assault, political extremism, and religious extremism.

What Your Students Will Love About Persepolis

  • The graphic novel format of the story
  • Learning more about Iran's history
  • Relatable situations, characters, and pop culture references

Potential Student Struggles With Persepolis

  • Understanding Iran's complex political history
  • Depictions of intense violence and torture

Learning Objectives for Persepolis

  • Discuss why and how the graphic novel form is used to convey the story's difficult subject matter.
  • Analyze how the novel's images and text create a compelling narrative.
  • Analyze how Marji's perspectives about religion and politics change over time.
  • Trace the political and religious regimes that take hold of Iran, and explain how they influence the actions of Marji and her family.
  • Determine how Marji's identity is shaped by her life experiences.

Literary Elements in Persepolis

  • Allusion
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Comic Strip Format
  • Foreshadowing
  • Imagery
  • Metaphor
  • Symbolism
  • Theme
  • And more!

Major Themes in Persepolis

Parent/Teen Relationships — Marji's relationship with her parents is essential to the formation of her identity as someone who is allowed to voice her opinions.

Related Works:

Tradition vs. Modernity — The religious leaders of 1980s Iran favor Islamic tradition over Western influence and change.

Related Works:

Bildungsroman — This novel depicts Marji's coming of age during a turbulent time of revolution and war.

Related Works:

Other Resources for Persepolis

Order Persepolis Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
Persepolis Paperback Student Edition

This free guide was originally posted in September 2016. It has been updated as of July 2020.