The beginning of Chapter 5 in Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud asks a question regarding comics and the images. He asks the readers, “Can emotions be made visible?” (McCloud, 118). That question is answered in Persepolis, the graphic autobiography about a young woman growing up in the revolutionary Iran.
The text uses visuals to evoke certain emotions and can use the images to contrast with the message of the caption. Satrapi utilizes cultural values and beliefs that make corruption in government power that influence the people to take incautious decisions, and the conflicts that lead to problems that deal with poor protection and great danger in society.
Before analyzing Satrapi’s work, it’s important to understand how graphic narratives are able to communicate emotions via visuals. McCloud outlines the effects and structure can have on the reader, and how those lines are able to depict certain emotions. He states, “The invisible world of senses and emotions can also portray between or within panels” (McCloud 121). McCloud explains how the texts emotions and mood can be communicated through images, even through the way the images are constructed. McCloud emphasizes the importance of lines on emotions and mood when they all hold “expressive potential” (124).
He proves his point by showing a series of different kinds of lines. A straight line can be “passive and timeless,” while a curved line can be “warm and gentle,” and a rigid line in a 90-degree angle is “rational and conservative” (McCloud 125). The use of lines is an important piece of emotions in graphic narratives and is a concept that’s present throughout Persepolis. In these figures, Satrapi uses the panels to show certain emotions, these emotions often contrast within the way that the visuals are built.
The irony that Satrapi creates in Figure 1, a scene after a bombing, when Marji’s family and neighbors are trying to assess the damage. The two panels run parallel with one another. The first panel portrays anonymous figures running up zig-zagging stairs, while the second panel shows the busts of the family and neighbors making phone calls to loved one (Satrapi, 104).
The structures of both panels contain similar shapes and are drawn in an organized pattern. The rigid lines that build the visual of the ascending staircase are structures, or how McCloud would describe, could imply rationality and reason (125). However, in this case, the caption and the completed visual suggest a different emotion. Marji narrates the first panel by saying “And once it was over…” (Satrapi, 104).
The ellipse, combined with the mystery of the words, portrays the worry and stress that the characters are grappling with. The message is ominous and portrays the emotion of dread that Marji and her family must feel as they’re hurrying to see the damage that the attack has caused. The lines that Satrapi uses in her visual directly contrast with the message and emotion of the panel. The structure of the visual communicates a different message than the panels/ message of chaos, tension and fear.
This comparison continues in Figure 1 with the second panel, where Satrapi uses curved lines to create the images of Marji, her family, and their neighbors calling their loved ones (104). The curved lines provoke the emotion of calmness and tranquility, but the caption again clashes with the visual’s construction. Marji refers to the death and cost of the attack by saying “After the bombs and the instinctive fear of death, you’d think of the victims and another of anxiety seized you” (Satrapi, 104).
The dread and tension that the caption provoked from the reader directly contrast with the panels structure. The mood from the lines are different from the caption and this contrast creates irony. The clash between the caption and the text reflects the gernal chaos that the family is feeling as they search for their friends and loved ones. The irony that these panels create manages to emphasize the tension that the characters are experiencing. The contrast between the visuals construction and the emotional message reflects the confusion nature of the characters in the panels.
From what I’ve read, a full page with one or two panels is an often technique used in comics and graphic novels to emphasize the impact, like an explosive or extreme. That’s the impact on page 102 of Persepolis, the mixed feeling of an exploding sadness and joy.
The page was divided into top and bottom. The top is illustrating the numerous young men dying on the battlefield with gold keys tied to their necks that are supposed to be the access to heaven. The bottom part is the first part Marji has ever been too with people dancing with joy and smiling from ear to ear. It seems like the people at the party jumping into the explosion happening to the top panel. The extreme contrast of the both panels gives the whole picture really powerful emotions and accurate illustration of Marji’s life, liberated minds confined into the traditions and rules.
This panel (satrapi, 99) is one of the scenes that was better portrayed in pictures than words. I find the meaning of the “gold keys” devasting when they were used to encourage young kids to fight for the country in a hopeless way. Following the previous page (satrapi, 101) where the maid of Marji’s family started crying about how she raised her children, the explosion on the second page is already scary but worsens with the plastic keys flying into the sky like the lies government gave to the country.
The golden key scene caught my attention, I cant quite grasp the concept of authoritative figures shoving propaganda down the throats of their students but such is the life of an Iranian citizen at the time. Marji’s mother understood what was happening and attempted to explain to one of the boys, showing different beliefs that exist between the communists and those who subscribed to the ideals of the government. The sad part of the scene is the propaganda that continues to be forced fed to the citizens of Iran. The tangible issue expressed in the graphic novel speak to a much larger psychology and ethical dilemma the government and citizens face in Iran.
Satrapis choice of black and white panels give the reader room to interpret the text using mood (due to psychology of colors) something that the addition of color would already dictate and control. The psychology of the colors is interpreted along the lines of modern-day American culture. Color interpretations are bound to change due to the time periods, countries and religions. Black and white within the book:
- Black and white represents complete opposites within artistic elements of art but looking at the graphic novel, there are various examples of complete opposites. Black and white assist the interpretation of opposites within the novel.
- The artistic decision paints out the “good” and “bad” forces of the novel but doesn’t include symbolism and psychology behind colors which can evoke mood.
This panel is the last of the chapter where Maryjane sees Baba Levas house bombed and destroyed and when she notices the bracelet let in the ruins. This all during time of war and violence (black represents). It represents Maryjanes feelings after finding the destroyed out. This is the only panel that consists of all black, so we can how powerful war can be, how it drains the peace and security (white) out of people’s lives. the impact of the Iranian war stole some of her innocence, represented in complete black screen.
Black (power, death, authority, mystery, evil)
- Total absorption (mix of all colors)
- “Absence of light”
- “Perception of weight and seriousness
White (light, goodness, innocence, purity, clarity)
- Total reflection
- Gives a heightened perception of space
- Day and night (light and dark)
- Yin and yang
- Good and bad
Satrapi uses graphic weight to show that she lives in country of black and white. If you don’t believe in what they tell you to, you deserve punishment. If you question one thing, you are automatically a communist. There’s no in between. Her drawings might seem childlike, but it conveys the views that a child would have on a world like this. The terrors and excitement of so much going on around a young child are exaggerated in the illustrations very accurately.
She chose to express the story using both pictures and images to more easily show how she saw things as a child. The pictures made the story more relatable and understandable and they also helped express the emotions of the story better than words alone could have. The words provide an explanation for what is happening in the pictures, while the pictures show what Maryjane is seeing and what is happening.
I found the ending of Persepolis to be abrupt. I really believed there would be some sort of closure as it involves to Marji escaping the political and social turmoil that exists within her country. I was shocked to see that the graphic novel ended with Marji just leaving her parents behind at the airport. It was perceptive representation of how life in Irana operates; certain rules and regulations force people into making decisions without taking into account personal relatiosnhips or opinions. Satrapis drawings are simple but complex enough to capture the emotions she felt throughout the story. This style helps the reader interact better with the story and allows them to see the emotion behind the words. Even though all pictures are in black and white they still capture the reader’s attention and send a bold message as if they were in color.