The Clash of Personal and Public Worlds in To Kill a Mockingbird and Persepolis

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To Kill a Mockingbird and Persepolis both explore the clash of personal and public worlds despite their different textual forms. An understanding of personal and public worlds is enhanced by the techniques used to express the clashes when relating to education and societal conformity. Throughout the two texts there are conflictions between students and teachers as well as a a pressure to conform to the public world.

Firstly, the recurrence of the importance of education in these texts is the cause of many conflicts between personal and public worlds. In To Kill A Mockingbird, the education system in Maycomb is very contradictory and narrow minded, foreboding the next generation to be as prejudice and discriminative as the current one. The clash between both worlds is greatly emphasized when Scout is reprimanded by Miss Caroline, because her father was teaching her outside of school. This can be seen through the quote, “Now tell your father not to teach you anymore. It’s best to begin reading with a fresh mind.”

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The characterization and dialogue shows the ideologies of Maycomb’s education system and how it rejects the personal growth and learning of the students. Furthermore, it shows how the public world is forcing Scout to conform to the school’s rules, even though it is senseless. Scout later tells Atticus and he suggests to ignore her teacher and continue. Miss Caroline serves to personify the education system, which is ignorant and improperly suited to many pupils. The ineffectiveness of the school is also stated by a simile made by Scout, “the class was wriggling like a bucketful of catawba worms” which contrasts with the story Miss Caroline reads to them about cats who, “wore cunning little clothes and lived in a warm house beneath a kitchen stove.” showing the inability of the school to recognize the backgrounds of the students. Moreover, in Persepolis, Marjane’s private world in relation to education is mostly influenced by her parents, whose ideas and teachings were very different to the. This can be seen on the fourth page, where it is announced that schools would be secular, the graphic weighting from the third panel onwards is heavier and darker, with a contrasting black background to make it seem more serious and significant in comparison to the other panels. The emanata of scowl marks and the close shot of the man’s face also accentuates his emotions about the importance of the unaccustomed change. However, this public separation creates a conflict in Marjane’s personal world as she is no longer allowed to be with her friends in school and it is changing her parents primary goal of giving Marjane a secular, liberal education. Another example of a clash between personal and public worlds is on page 143, the fight Marjane has with her teacher about her teaching methods. It is illustrated by an action only panel showing a moment of just fighting with the following panel including a spiky speech bubble indicating shouting and the seriousness of her actions. This page shows the clash between personal and public views, as the teacher, representing the public world is not allowing her to wear what she wants, whereas Marjane who is expressing how she wants to have the freedom to wear what she desires. These graphic techniques help to express the clash of Marjane’s personal views against the education system and teachers. Ultimately, both protagonists value education in their personal worlds but b while in school are expected to obey and not question the teachers who blame their parents for the child learning abilities or lack thereof.

Furthermore, societal conformity creates many clashes throughout the two novels as the public world is very commanding and institutes many rules to control people’s personal lives. In the fictional town of Maycomb, people conform to what society believes they should be instead of what they are. People conform to the stereotypes left by their ancestors. They do not change their habits in order to be accepted in society and by conforming to what society wants them people often please others but not themselves. The clash of personal and public worlds when conforming to society can be displayed by Scout and Aunt Alexandra. As a lady of Maycomb’s society, Aunt Alexandra adheres to a certain way of dressing and is fanatical that Scout should act and look less like herself and more like the rest of the girls in her town. This can be identified in the quote, “Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to be doing things that required pants.” Aunt Alexandra continually criticizes Scout for her tomboy personality throughout the novel and even buys her items to encourage Scout to act more like a lady to prepare her for a life of docile domesticity. Despite this, Scout resents her aunt's insistence that she behave like a female and continues to wear overalls and continue acting the way she does. Another character that does not conform to societal expectation is Daphus Raymond who is jaded by the hypocrisy of white society and not accepted because he is viewed with contempt by his neighbors because he openly associates with black citizens and has several biracial children, which is taboo in the racist community. Raymond conforms to society as he feigns alcoholism by sipping Coca-Cola out of a brown paper bag so that citizens of Maycomb will have an explanation for his behavior. “When I come to town.. if I weave a little and drink out of this sack, folks can say Dolphus Raymond's in the clutches of whiskey — that's why he won't change his ways. He can't help himself, that's why he lives the way he does Raymus shows the personal compromises people have to make in order to live in communities where they aren’t accepted.

Additionally, persepolis includes many graphic techniques to symbolize the characters transitions to the state of public conformity. One of the most recognized symbols to illustrate conformity is the veil. For some, it is ritualistic, necessary compliance with the Qur’an. Whilst for others, it signifies conforming into faceless obscurity. Satrapi uses it to show the constriction of personal freedom that accompanies the revolution. As a reader we are confronted by the conformity to the veil at the start of the novel. The first panel depicts a somber Marjane, looking like a silent prisoner crying for help, with her arms tightly folded as if to physically close her body off from the world. This is further elaborated in the next panel, where the caption reads, “I’m sitting on the far left so you don’t see me.” She has been deliberately cropped out from the class photo, with just her left arm showing, to stress the idea that they all look identical and insignificant as each other so it simply wouldn’t matter if she was in the photo of not. Marjane also does not want to associate herself with the regime or adopt any of its principles. She does not want her class photo to be of her wearing a symbol of conformity and obedience. Despite Marjane negatively associating with the vail, the Iranian government saw women wearing the veil as an embodiment of cultural authenticity. In continuation, all of Marjane’s classmates hold different, subdued facial expressions conveys to the reader that although the veil is physically and metaphorically weighing them down, showing how underneath the veil they are individuals that should have their own right.

Furthermore, on page 96 the third panel depicts how the girl’s eyes are wide open, eventhough the public’s eyes are closed, showing their unwavering support and allegiance to the religious ceremonies. There is also an emanata of the question marks which symbolise how confused the girls are and shows that they do not understand what they are doing and why they are doing it but are only doing it because they were instructed to, this shows how the public does not take into account their personal values and make them conform the teacher’s values.

In comparison, both novel’s main characters are enforced to conform their appearance to society, preventing freedom in identity to suit the ways of the public. They are both independent and stubborn about extinguishing their personal identity.

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