Sunday, October 30, 2011

Self-Conscious Narration and Persepolis

The idea of self-conscious narrators in Booth's article seems particularly interesting to me as it applies to Satrapi's Persepolis. Booth states that self-conscious narrators are "aware of themselves as writers" as opposed to those narrators "who seem unaware that they are writing, thinking, speaking, or 'reflecting' a literary work" (155). It seems to me that Marji is a generally self-conscious narrator. There are several instances in the text when she turns directly to the audience and speaks not to somebody within the frame, but (presumably) to her readers outside of the frame.

This self-conscious narration is an effective tool because it makes Satrapi's protagonist seem all the more real. While Marji's simplified appearance allows the reader to better place himself into the story according to McCloud, having this character speak directly to the audience makes her appear not like a passive element in a story the reader is watching unfold, but like an active and very much living person in a story that the reader is invited to interact with as well. This narration style is particularly useful in a story like Persepolis because it forces the reader to identify with the protagonist even if she is not someone whose life characteristics are similar to that of the reader.


  1. Booth's focus on the self-conscious narrator helped me with Satrapi's "Persepolis" as well. You mention in your post that in the graphic memoir, the author seems to be aware of herself as more than a narrator, but as a writer as well. This is an important function of the memoir, one that Satrapi seems to have down pat. First and foremost, I think we must approach the graphic memoir, or any other such autobiography (there are a lot of types within this genre!)by understanding that the writer is always self-conscious for a reason. You note that Satrapi's style in Persepolis is useful due to the fact that it "forces the reader to identify with the protagonist." I agree, and many aspects of this particular graphic novel work to achieve this effect in the reader. However, I think it is also important to also note how the author uses the memoir and self-conscious narration for a purpose. I know, I know, we have debated whether or not we should consider authorial intention when discussing literature, but I honestly think that you have to consider it when discussing this particular genre. Like all other forms of writing, the graphic memoir of autobiography can be approached in terms of its rhetoric. Thus, the intention of a writer, such as Satrapi, is to persuade its readers in some fashion. I think this is where your discussion of identification with the author is important because through Satrapi's use of self-conscious narration, she is better able to connect with and thus persuade her audience.

  2. Miranda, I completely agree with your claims about the presence of a self-conscious narrator. With that being said, I think there is also evidence of other major areas. Marji, the narrator of the story, fits well into Mr. Booth’s description of the ‘Self-Conscious Narrator.’ Booth describes this form of narration as being people who “[are] aware of themselves as writers” (Booth 155). In Satrapi’s piece, Marji accounts the events of her life from a young age up throughout the revolution. She offers detailed explanations of what she believes to be happening in the world to the best of her ability. As Satrapi writes, she must take into account Marji’s childlike innocence and desire to know the events taking place around her.

    In addition to the ‘Self-Conscious Narrator’, aspects of the technique of ‘Person’ also appear in “Persepolis”. The story is told in Marji’s perspective, the first person, but Booth says that unless “we become more precise and describe how the particular qualities of the narrators relate to specific effects” the point of view is unimportant (Booth 150). This is relative because Satrapi is accounting the life of Marji in order to expose daily life during the Islamic Revolution from a child’s point of view.

    Wayne C. Booth’s different techniques of narration found in Persepolis aid in the understanding the story being told.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.