A graphic novel belongs to the number of genres that allow people to demonstrate their talents of writers and artists simultaneously. Graphic novels present fictional stories that are told with the help of the combination of verbal and graphical means. Even though it is widely accepted that a format of a graphic novel can be regarded as an effective way to make a story more interesting and illustrative, in some cases, the reaction of the community can depend upon the topic touched upon in the book.
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Some topics are discussed in a cautious manner, as there are many people who can regard the unusual representation of ideas that shape their values as a personal affront. For instance, many people tend to identify themselves with their religious beliefs. The world of Persepolis, invented by Marjane Satrapi, tells the readers about the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran that became a part of her childhood.
There is a range of elements that are interconnected with the theme of the book, and the use of color emphasizes the idea of the revolution. In terms of visual presentation of the work by Satrapi, it needs to be noted that the graphic novel format provides the author with an opportunity to use a wider range of expressive means to highlight the feelings that children (especially girls) had when the new order was established. When it comes to the unique style of Satrapi, she uses only black and white and does not pay enough attention to half-tones helping to make images smoother.
The use of only two colors acts as a means of expression, helping the author to create more expressive images and even put double meanings into them. For instance, the title of the first chapter (The Veil) is presented as a picture with white letters and a strange geometric figure that turns out to be the protagonist’s face (Satrapi 3).
With the help of this picture, the author demonstrates that girls and women who are urged to wear veil tend to “blend” into their surroundings and become less visible and respected as a social group. Also, the use of black and white helps the author to distinguish between positive and negative symbols. For example, the Islamic Revolution cannot be separated from the notion of God, but the author depicts her own God whose image is in contrast with the surrounding darkness and symbolizes support and hope (Satrapi 8).
Any graphic novel is simple and complicated at the same time because the graphic representation of concepts requires authors to use any shapes and means but make any reader with any knowledge level understand the key ideas. In the case of Persepolis, the author uses shape to demonstrate her attitude towards common people in her native country and the forces of Ayatollah Khomeini (Beeman 141). In reference to the brightest examples illustrating this use of graphic means, it is necessary to pay attention to the way that the author depicts the faces of her classmates in the first chapter and the police during the accident in the Rex Cinema (Rahbaran 7).
The girls are urged to wear veils, and the latter is supposed to make them look the same. Nevertheless, the author uses a range of graphic means to demonstrate that each of them is unique, and their individuality cannot disappear. Depicting the police, she uses the opposite approach as all policemen look the same, and their faces express nothing but anger.
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The Islamic Revolution is depicted in cartoon format, and some people may find it inappropriate considering the character of the events described in the book. In fact, the graphic novel by Satrapi aims to show everything as it is. The way to represent violence that the author utilizes cannot be called too extreme as she tends to focus on the emotions of characters rather than on physical damages. At the same time, there are numerous graphic novels that represent violence in an explicit manner; for instance, the authors of From Hell stick to the naturalistic representation of violence even though the story is also based on real events.
Using the cartoon format to tell the readers the story of her life, the author makes a very important choice as the format is strictly connected with the way that the community understands a story. Children are known to have a luxuriant imagination, and the format of cartoon allowing authors to depict the world of their emotions in its true colors can act as a factor drawing the link between the author and representatives of younger generations who know a little about the Islamic Revolution.
In the end, the format of a graphic novel involves numerous advantages or authors, especially when it comes to sensitive issues such as the Islamic Revolution. Using pictures to tell the story of her life, Satrapi manages to attract the attention of people whose lives were not affected by the discussed events. The chosen format also provides the author with an opportunity to use color and contrast to highlight the key points. Therefore, the influence of the genre on perceptions of readers cannot be overstated.
Beeman, William O. “Iran, and the United States: An Insider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace by Seyed Hossein Mousavian with Shahir Shahidsaless.” The Middle East Journal, vol. 69, no. 1, 2015, pp. 141-142.
Rahbaran, Shiva. Iranian Cinema Uncensored: Contemporary Film-Makers since the Islamic Revolution. Tauris, 2016.
Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. Black & White, 2007.