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The Character Development of Uncle Anoosh in Persepolis

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The character of Anoosh in Persepolis is an important person in Marji’s childhood. Throughout the time that he is present in the book there are a few key scenes which develop and define his character and his relationship with the young Marji. Anoosh’s character is developed through him telling stories to Marji, giving her the bread swans and Marji listening to him discuss politics with her parents. The loss of Anoosh had a lasting impact on Marji and her opinions on the world in which she lived.

Marji was desperate for a heroic figure in her family, so much that she fabricated stories about her father to tell her friends. This is why she idolised Anoosh from the beginning. She adored him for all the things he’d suffered – finally she had ‘a hero in [her] family’. Satrapi made this adoration clear from the very first time Anoosh is shown. The first time we see Anoosh, he’s looking directly at the reader with a neutral expression, comparable to a criminal mugshot. However, Satrapi has included a halo around his head with beams of light emanating from him, which makes him seem like a religious figure. It was inevitable that Marji would admire him.

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Anoosh appreciates Marji from the beginning too, as the first time we see them in the same panel they are sitting next to each other. He likes that Marji is interested in him and offers to tell her stories. Before Anoosh even finishes the first sentence of his story, marji has already exclaimed, ‘wow!’. Anoosh’s story proves that he is extremely resilient and very determined to fight for what he believes is right. First, he defies his father and when his uncle is arrested he travels through snow and mountains to get back home, and was ‘nearly dead’ when he arrived. Even when Anoosh is ‘nearly dead’ he still believes in himself and his ideas.

Anoosh is an optimistic person, even throughout political turmoil. He states ‘everything will turn out fine’ and that ‘this is just a transitional period’. Anoosh is making an effort to stay optimistic even in the face of danger and tragedy, as when Marji’s parents find out someone they knew had been drowned, Anoosh still says, ‘everything will be alright!’. However, he looks unsure as he’s no longer smiling and his eyes are looking downwards. At the end of the next page, Anoosh repeats ‘everything will be alright…’. Anoosh looks even more forlorn than on the previous page. Satrapi wanted to show that even someone as optimistic and resilient as Anoosh can be affected by the regime so much that even he seems to be losing hope and faith in his own promise of everything turning out alright. However, it seems that on page 69 his optimism has returned as he tells Marji that ‘one day the proletariat will rule!’ – although Anoosh could be pretending so as not to scare or worry Marji on her last visit to him. Anoosh was a big influence on Marji, as she mirrors his optimism after finding out about his death by telling herself that ‘everything will be alright’ even though she’s crying.

Anoosh and Marji’s parents often discuss politics. Anoosh has very strong political beliefs. When telling Marji his story, Anoosh is impressed by her knowledge. Satrapi shows this through his expression. Anoosh is speechless which shows how impressed he is, as he only responds with ‘?’. he stated that he has a degree in Marxist-Leninism, so we know he is well-learned when it comes to politics. When Marji brings up dialectic materialism He is passionate about politics too as can be seen in the middle-left panel on page 62 where he has his fist raised. While talking with Marji’s parents, he’s consistently calm. When Marji’s father responds angrily to her “opinion” on page 62, Anoosh is the one who tells him to ‘calm down’.

Although we learn a lot about Anoosh, there are parts of his story that make him seem mysterious. He omits sections of his story, such as the details on his ex-wife and his children. His ex-wife and his children are never explained in the book but they seem to have affected Anoosh and his character a lot, as can be seen by the sad expression on his face when he tells Marji he is divorced. Also, Anoosh’s ex-wife’s head was scratched out in the photo he has of her and his children. This implies that he went through a painful experience with his ex-wife that he would rather forget, which makes it odd that he still carries around a photo that reminds him of her, even if her face is covered. The scene where Anoosh mentions his ex-wife is also one of the only times that he breaks eye contact with Marji. Anoosh informs Marji that his ex-wife was Russian, and tells her that ‘they don’t know how to love’. This is the only time in Anoosh’s story that tears can be seen in his eyes. Anoosh seems to have suffered more from the separation with his wife rather than his 9 years in prison. When Marji brings up torture, Anoosh replies with, ‘what my wife made me suffer was much worse’. Anoosh can easily talk about his time in prison, but has difficulty and even avoids talking about what happened between him and his ex-wife. The topic of his wife and children are not revisited until Marji visits Anoosh in prison, where he states that Marji is ‘the little girl I always wanted to have’. From this we know that Anoosh misses his own children, and that he valued his time with Marji and her interest in him.

Marji is picked up by her parents one day to find out that Anoosh ‘went back to Moscow’. Marji later finds out that he was arrested. Anoosh chooses Marji to be his one visitor, which shows that Anoosh and Marji grew very close during the short time that they had together. Anoosh tells Marji that he is ‘honoured’ by her visit. Marji’s expression tells us that she doesn’t quite understand what he means as she looks a little surprised. He tells Marji that she is the ‘star of [his] life’. Marji was always happy to see him and listen to his stories, and he found great happiness in being with Marji as well. Anoosh gives Marji the second bread swan, saying it’s the ‘uncle of the first one’. The first bread swan was Anoosh’s way of remembering the hard times he had suffered in prison. He made the second bread swan so that Marji would remember the happiness that she and Anoosh shared during their time together.

Anoosh had a very big impact on Marji, even after she learned of his execution. An important scene in the book is when Marji tells God to ‘shut up’ and ‘get out of [her] life!!!’, when previously she had prayed ‘God, don’t let him be dead’. She tells God to ‘get out’ because of the death of Anoosh. Anoosh came into Marji’s life at just the right moment, as many of her friends and family members were either being executed or were fleeing the country. Anoosh had acted as a counterbalance to all of the distressing events that were happening in Marji’s life. Marji had depended on Anoosh to care for her and she adored him for his kindness, optimism and his interesting stories. When Anoosh was killed Marji felt like her only outlet and escape into happiness had been taken away from her.

Anoosh was very important to Marji during her childhood. They became close very quickly and found happiness in each other. Anoosh’s character was developed thoroughly even though he was only present for 17 pages of the book. Anoosh was shown from Marji’s perspective and it is clear that she idolised him. The stories he told Marji, his political beliefs, and the final scene before his execution were important to the development of his character and how the reader understands Anoosh and the effect he had on Marji and her childhood.

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