Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis presents a memoir-in-comic-strips about a girl being raised during the revolutionary Iran; in ths story the author articulates the importance of family. Satrapi stresses the importance of family throughtout the memoir by using strong imagery and easy to understand language which resulted in a story that has many universal themes.
Many themes are apparent throughout the novel such as; coming of age, hybridity, identity, dealing with war, and culture shock. However, I am choosing family since this was the largest influence on Marji (the protagonist). The story begins with Marji as a child aspiring to be a prophet, yes, a prophet. It may be rather extreme for a young girl to hope to become a prophet but she was observant and because of what she observed she sought to make rules of her own “…RULE NUMBER SIX: EVERYBODY SHOULD HAVE A CAR. RULE NUMBER SEVEN: ALL MAIDS SHOULD EAT AT THE TABLE WITH THE OTHERS. RULE NUMBER EIGHT: NO OLD PERSON SHOULD HAVE TO SUFFER”(7). Her family was wealthy, however, they were caring and they had strong views. Marji wanted to be a revolusionist just like her parents at a very young age. Her mother in particular was reluctant about her daughter, Marji, participating in any protests for her well-being. In chapter Moscow, Marji learns that her father isn’t a hero… but she learns that one of her fathers brothers, her uncle Anoosh was a hero. In this chapter she shows much intrest toward him , it is apparent that she is fascinated and eager to be a revolusionist like her family.
Her family is largely supportive of her when she continuously “disrespects” her teachers by making fun of what has become of their culture and also by disagreeing with the “new information” the teachers are presenting to the children. On page 97 there are captions of Marji and her little friends cracking jokes about the war “…EVERY SITUATION OFFERED AN OPPUTRUNITY FOR LAUGHS: LIKE WHEN WE HAD TO KNIT WINTER HOODS FOR THE SOILDERS…I THINK THAT THE REASON WE WERE SO REBELLIOUS WAS THAT OUR GENERATION HAD KNOWN SECULAR SCHOOLS. OBVIOUSLY , THEY CALLED OUR PARENTS IN “(97-98). Another example is in the chapter The Dowry, “…AFTER I WAS EXPELLED, IT WAS A REAL STRUGGLE TO FIND ANOTHER SCHOOL THAT WOULD ACCEPT ME. HITTING THE PRINCIPAL WAS A VERTIABLE CRIME.BUT THANKS TO MY AUNT, WHO KNEW SOME BUREAUCRATS IN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM, THEY MANAGED TO PLACE ME IN ANOTHER SCHOOL. AND THERE…OBVIOUSLY ,THAT EVENING MY FATHER GOT A PHONE CALL…(Her father) IT WAS THE PRINICPAL OF MARJI’S SCHOOL. APPARENTLY SHE TOLD OFF THE RELIGION TEACHER. SHE GETS THAT FROM HER UNCLE. (Her mother) MAYBE YOU WOULD LIKE HER TO END UP LIKE HIM TOO? Executed? (144-145). At this point Marji’s mother tells her what happens to young girls that revolt against the new rules and Marji appears frightened she largely changes her actions. Partly because her family forces her to move to Austria… where she becomes older and very different.
In “The Elephant Vanishes,” by Huruki Murakami, the author uses postmodernism to in order to impair the readers sense of direction so that the reader thinks more about what’s really going on in the short stories. For example, in TV People, Murakami describes an ordinary man that is taunted by “little people” that randomly deliver TVs. I say he is an ordinary man because he works in “…advertising department of an electrical-appliance manufacturer. I dream up ads for toasters and washing machines and microwave ovens” (205). This quote is of importance since it reflects how in reality people dream of people we encounter or of things we occupy ourselves with. In the case of this particular man in TV People it is made clear that he is a hardworking man, the problem is that he fails to recognize other important things in his life such as his wife. Murakami uses postmodernism in this short story by disorienting the reader into believing that the protagonist is seeing “little TV people” everywhere he goes, but what is odd is that he only appears to see them.
The author’s objective is to explain reality by using concrete experiences over abstract principles. The paradox being that ultimate principals are denied and there is a lack of optimism; thus scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which explains everything for everybody is no longer applicable. He encourages the reader to understand the stories by using our own particular and personal reality; therefore, the stories are interpreted by what the world means to us individually.
TV People is a great example of using an ordinary man’s life to explain how we get so caught up in work sometimes that we forget what really matters. The common theme between all the stories is that the characters loose themselves, their minds, when they obsess themselves with things that just don’t really matter.
“…people live in the prison cells of their own tendencies”(98).
The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami is a book full of many unique short stories. Most of the stories are confusing since they appear to begin and end at a random point. However, it appears that the authors purpose is to tell the lives of middle aged adults, whom at this point in their lives have careers, perhaps kids, and/or a loved one. The reason this is important, people at this age live a life full of routines.Young adults typically are in college and are experimenting, feeling a little more free in life than when they were teenagers. Elderly people have the joy of spreading their wisdom with their grandchildren and quite simply preparing for death. On the other hand, middle aged people aren’t able to be as free as they once were and their busy taking care of their new home, new career,&possibly children of their own. This means that everything these people(characters) who are middle aged, have developed as much as they have allowed themselves to. Meaning, they (characters)live life with many routines because they have become accustomed to their new home, careers, and loved ones. It’s almost as though middle aged people settle for what they’ve made of their lives yet they are truly prisoners of their own tendencies. These people(characters) dislike the routines and seek something different because it makes them feel in control of their lives. Nonetheless, these people always had control of their tendencies but it’s when their plates become full of responsibilites that they realize what they’ve done with their lives, then is when these people want to break free of their tendencies.The problem, it’s kinda to late for them to break free of the tendencies that make them feel imprisoned. They have urges to do things differently but the harsh reality is that what’s done is done, no matter what they do differently now, at this age they can never be as free as they once were.
Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi, is an Egyptian creative non-fiction novel about Firdaus, a young prostitue who murders her pimp. More importanly, Firdaus was raised in a poor enviornment, therefore her opportunities were limited and she had to work extremely hard for anything she wanted. For this reason the novel is universal, money equals power thus money can dictate how lives will be lived. Firdaus was decieved by every person in her life. Unfortunately the deception began with her parents, “…when I used to look into her eyes I could feel she was not my mother. They were not the eyes that held me up each time I was at the point of falling…I sensed he was not my father. Nobody told me and I was not really aware of the fact. I could just feel it deep down inside me”(17-18). After the death of her parents her uncle took over her well being and he supported her obtaining an education. Firdaus felt more love from him than she did from her dad. However, her uncle ends up marrying and the couple decides that Firdaus should leave the house, thus forcing her to marry a man who can support her needs. Sheikh Mahmaud,her husband, treated her like a slave and constantly beat her. Firdaus chose to leave the house one day, she went to her uncles thinking she could find comfort. Before lunch is even placed on the table he takes her back to her husband. Sheikh coldly says, “Couldn’t he bear to feed you for a few days? Now you will realize I’m the only person who can put up with you and who is prepared to feed you”(47). Firdaus left her violent and disgusting husband. Shortly after Firdaus finds comfort in another man, Bayoumi, “I ended up sleeping in his bed throughout the winter and the following summer. He never raised a hand to strike me, and never looked at my plate while I was eating”(51). Firdaus feels safe at his side, she appreciates that Bayoumi took her in but she seeks to make money on her own and asks him for work. For the first time Bayoumi who was expected to be understanding and supportive of Firdaus, beats her… “I now slept on the floor in the other room. He would come back in the middle of the night, pull the cover away from me, slap my face, and then bear down on me with all his weight. I kept my eyes closed and abandoned my body. It lay there under him without movement, emptied of all desire, or pleasure, or even pain feeling nothing”(53). Bayoumi locked Firdaus in a room and not only did he rape her, he invited his friends over to do the same. A neighbour seen her weeping in the roomed and helped Firdaus by calling a carpenter to force down the door. Firdaus immediately ran out the room and she encounters a woman named Sharifa. Sharifa gives Firdaus a shoukder to cry on, she feels like Sharifa truly understands the abuse she’s been experiencing and Firdaus decides to move in with her. “I became a young novice in Sharifas hands. She opened my eyes to life, to events in my past, in my childhood, wich had remained hidden to my mind. She probed with a searching light revealing obscure areas of myself,unseen features of my face and body, making me become aware of them, understand them, see them for the first time”(58). Firdaus becomes a prostitue like Sharifa but Firdaus is younger therefore considered “high” quality. One day Firdaus asks, “Why don’t I feel anything? ‘We work, Firdaus, we just don’t mix feeling with work’ ‘But I want to feel, Sharifa’(60). Firdaus learns that her feelings don’t concern Sharifa, Sharifa like everyone else deceived. Firdaus. Simply,she wanted to profit off of Firdaus. Living with Sharifa taught Firdaus she is valuable. She runs away from Sharifa and prostitutes herself. Yet again, someone sees that Firdaus is lonely and Marzuk attempts to persuade Firdaus into becoming his prostitute. She refuses, she even took it to the police but there she discovers his connections are greater than her own. Therefore, he continues to hassle her, she says ” I want to choose the work I’m going to do…I don’t want to be anybody’s slave”(103). He is persistent in controlling her, since he is standing in the way of her independence…Firdaus kills him. Firdaus grew up in a poor enviornment, she wasn’t educated about sex, money, or morality. She knew what she had observed, being abuse&inequality. She desparately wanted love, she wanted to feel cared about. Everytime she felt weak she was easily decieved by people and she fell victim to their lies. She accepted that she’d never find someone who’d love her, everything she did was for survival. But why would one want to live if one doesn’t feel loved or isn’t in love? She had nothing to loose when she decided to kill Marzuk. Firdaus recieved the death penalty for murdering the pimp, at this point it was understandable that her mentality was ” I hope for nothing I want nothing I fear nothing I am free”(95).
“Who was I?Who was my father?Was I going to spend my life sweeping the dung out from under the animals, carrying manure on my head, kneading dough, and baking bread?” (15).
Firdaus seems unsure about a lot of things in life. She seeks pride but because of how her life began it’s hard for her to rise to the top. Her childhood started with her having a mother and father, although, she never had the chance to really know them. She doesn’t understand men, she doesn’t understand why sometimes parts of her body feel good when she is touched by a man. However Firdaus does know that she has been hurt by a man, and even though she felt like hitting him she couldn’t because she is a woman. Her anger was so strong that she would go as far as spitting on pictures of princes, kings, and rulers. One can only imagine how confusing life can be without having parental guidance, because as we’ve seen with Firdaus in this story, she’s had others look after her but no one has givien her the support that only her parents could’ve given her. She doesn’t want to live with people that will take advantage of her, she doesn’t want to be obligated to do things, what she wants is to be educated. The biggest problem for Firdaus is that she has grown up in a low class enviornment, thus her options are limited and she has to do some things that she would rather not but she HAS to inorder to survive. Firdaus looks for her parents when times get rough, she hopes to see her parents in people she meets, but really she longs for a lifestyle where she can be with people who care about her. Time after time in this story, Firdaus is taken advantage of and her feelings don’t seem to matter to anyone. I’d expect that what she wants out of life is to matter to somebody.
Our grandparents largely influence the decisions our parents made thus affecting the decisions we make. In “Nervous Conditions” by Tsitsi Dangarembga, the protagonist, Zambu is largely affected by her culture in Zimbabwe. She recalls a time that she’s in the fields working with her grandmother, her grandmother is telling her how her son Babamukuru became successful. The message is certainly clear to Zambu, “…endure and obey, for there is no other way”(19). Although her grandmother is speaking of Babamukuru, this particular quote exemplifies the culture in Zimbabwe .It’s evident that there is a gender discrepancy in the culture, women are expected to do the cleaning, cooking, and also need to be supportive of their husbands. On the other hand, men are superior and have the final say in everything. Zambu has certainly endured, she has undergone a lot of suffering and has continued to move foward, she never gives up. However, she doesn’t necessarily obey; Zambu is headstrong and will achieve anything she sets her mind to. Although some people in her family don’t agree that she should seek a high education, Zambu knows what is best for her and is finding another way to live.
In “The White Tiger” by Aravind Adiga, the main character;Balram, is sympathetic due to his personal life experiences. His grandmother sent him a young family memeber to take care of, and just when you’d expect Balram to fail being a good influence he becomes an amazing role model for Dharam. Also, when Balram manages his own buisness he has true respect for his employees. Even though Balram acted immoral at times, he tried to give back in some ways.
One day Blaram takes Dharam to the zoo, he “…made sure Dharam appreciated the gorgeous rise and fall of the fort’s outline-the way its loopholes filled up with blue sky-the way old stones glittered in the light…Let animals live like animals; let humans live like humans”(237). Balram explains how only some can see the beauty in life and that some servants can’t see the beauty in life because they are far to accepting of the little life has given them. Balram is different from such servants because he has ambition, he wants to experience more than what has been offered to him, he stirves for better and seeks to influence Dharam to have the same ambition. After visiting the zoo, “That evening, Dharam and I sat on the floor in my room, and I spread a blue letter before him. I put a pen in his hands.”“I’m going to see how good a letter-writer you are,Dharam” (238). Balram attempts to make Dharam literate, he wants to provide Dharam with all of his own knowledge. Balram is a good role model because he wants to show Dharam that life has a lot to offer, it’s a matter of doing whatever is neccessary to be successful. Perhaps Balrams’ bribery with politicians and policemen isn’t morally correct, however, realistically that’s how matters get settled in India. “In my hand I had the red bag. Iacted like an important man, and made sure the policemen saw the red bag, by swinging it a lot, and gave them a business card I had just had printed. Then I insisted on seeing the big man there, the inspector. At last they let me into his office-the red bag had done the trick…Two days later, I called up the nice woman at the Internet company who had turned me down, and heard a shocking tale. Her taxi service has been disrupted. A police raid had discovered that most of the drivers did not have licenses…”“I’m so sorry, madam,” I said. “”I offer you my sympathies.In addition, I offer you my company.White Tiger Drivers…And that was how I got my own-as they say in English-“”start-up”“(258). Although Balram was extremely maliputative in getting what he wanted he was successful in obtaining any goal he set out for himself. He knew that bribery would get him further in life because his masters were always doing such things, they too bought people to get to the top, nontheless, Balram learned from this and did so himself.
One of Balrams’ employees accidentatly murders a man by running him over on his bike while on the job, although Balram uses money to take his employee and himself out of the situation he also does something very sympathetic. Earlier in the novel Balram was accused of murdering a man while driving when it was really his masters wife who had caused the accident so his personal experience taught him better than to just blame his employee and to live on like nothing occured. He took his employee out of the situation and went to the families house of the boy who had been murdered and gave them money for the loss and offered another one of their soons a job at his work. This isn’t typical of people in charge, however, Balram is sympathetic and chooses to help verses forgetting about what occured and leaving it on the hands of others. He states that he won’t treat his employees poorly, that he will also “…start a school-an English language school-for poor children in Bangalore. A school where you won’t be able to corrupt anyone’s head with prayers and stories about God or Gandhi-nothing but the facts of life for these kids. A school full of White Tigers, unleashed on Bangalore!”(275). Balrams’ life experiences were hard ones, he wasn’t born into a eutopia, quite frankly no one is and he learned from those that he could and sought the best for himself. His ambition took him to the top, out of the darkness and into the light. His sympathy in turn helped those around him, like his cousin and employess. He wants people in the darkness to rise like he has. He is willing to help.
The novel The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga exemplifies how America is glorified in parts of India. The American companies, english liquor, and shopping malls are some of the major aspects of America that India longs for. The narrator Balram explains, “…in this country we have two kinds of men: “Indian” liquor men and “English” liquor men. “Indian” liquor was for village boys like me-toddy, arrack, country hooch. “English”liquor, naturally, is for the rich. Rum, wiskey, beer, gin-anything the Engish left behind”(62). The masters of the servants would demand that the servants purchase the most expensive American liquor since it is first-class. Balram explains how the servant one position above him acts after purchasing a bottle for their master, “He jus wanted to hold the bottle. He wanted to hold the full, virgin bottle of first-class whiskey in his hand. He wanted to imagine that he was buying it for himself. Then he would slide the bottle back into the cardboard box and return to the house, me behind him, my eyes still dazzled by the sight of so much English liquor” (64). Something as simple as English liquor separates the Indian culture between caste.
One of Balrams masters is married to an American woman and his master compromises in order to have her content with staying in India, for a while. Mr. Ashok says, “She’ll be happy in Gurgaon, it’s the most American part of the city…Ten years ago, they say, there was nothing in Gurgaon, just water buffaloes and fat Punjabi farmers. Today it’s the modernest suburb of Delhi. American Express, Microsoft, all the big American companies have offices there. The main road is full of shopping malls-each mall has a cinema inside! So if Pinky Madam missed America, this was the best place to bring her”(101). Some of America’s advancements are some of America’s future setbacks. America has large corporations and is one of the largest producers. Moreso, America is also one of the largest consumers and is a large contributor to gobal warming, poor economic stance, and child labor all because of the large corporations and our ability to produce and consume as we please. The fact that China and America are two of the most advanced nations and that many other nations seek to have what we’ve accomplished is frightening. Simply, the world is becoming greedy and losing sight of protecting the earth’s foundation and America is sorta setting a bad example because of what we “let slide”.
Mr. Ashok, one of the masters says, “The way things are changing in India now, this place is going to be like America in ten years. Plus, I like it better here.We’ve got people to take care of us here-our drivers, our watchmen, our masseurs. Where in New York will you find someone to bring you tea and sweet biscuits while you’re still lying in bed, the way Ram Bahdaur does for us?”(77). Furthermore, “We need more boys to come back and build India into a superpower”(87). Thus, not only is America setting an example but if other cultures decide to follow our lead some of their own culture will be incorporated and for India it means having the luxuries we have in America such as big companies to get rich and having servants to feel absolutely first-class. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have the best things in life, however, everything comes at a price and EVERYONE no matter what nation one derives from, needs to be aware of the consequences because if we as a world drive ourselves into destruction then no one will be able to experience some of the wonderful things life has to offer.
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