The Power of Religion Compared in Persepolis and the Sound of Waves

For some, religion is just another part of their daily routine. For others, it’s a way of life. In Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis Marjane finds herself able to express herself in the eyes of God. Within these conversations, Marjane sees the cracks within her own religion and undertakes the ambitious task of writing her own book of religion. Only one other person is granted with the privilege of reading her book — Marjane’s Grandma. With the help of her grandma and God, Marjane begins to understand the unfairness in her world. Eventually, due to the overwhelming harshness of the Iranian revolution, Marjane gives up on religion and says goodbye to God. In Yukio Mishima’s the sound of waves, Shinji, a young man at the brink of adulthood, allows religion to shape the events of his life. A young woman by the name of Hatsue arrives in Shinji’s small village, stealing his heart and shoving him into a state of confused sickness — Shinji has fallen in love for the very first time. As Hatsue and Shinji become close friends, another young woman, is overcome with a jealousy of Hatsue. The woman begins to spread exaggerated rumours of the the relationship throughout the village. These dreadful lies find themselves in the ears of Hatsue’s wealthy father. Outraged, the man forbids Hatsue to see Shinji. Shinji is thrown into a state of depression, yet he still struggles to sneak time with Hatsue. After many weeks, Hatsue’s father asks Shinji to work on a freighter for him. In a great show of strength Shinji proves to her father that Shinji will be an exceptional husband and he gives Shinji permission to marry Hatsue. Both texts contain prominent characters who find comfort and advice by consulting religion; Persepolis uses this concept to communicate how young Marjane has a greater trust with God, than with her own parents; and The Sound of Waves uses this image to highlight Shinji’s earnest reliance upon his religious beliefs in times of struggle.

Marjane’s relationship with God is used to display how religion is a place where Marjane feels safe and can speak her thoughts. From time to time, God appears in her bedroom and they talk about whatever Marjane wants (8). God is a “person” she feels is trustworthy enough she can confess her secrets. One night, Marjane tells God, that she wants to be a prophet (8). Her goal is a strange one, because all of the prior prophets have been men; however, God is open-minded and allows Marjane to fantasize this unusual thought. While many picture God as “all-powerful”, Marjane is commanding over God (13). The only place Marjane feels any sort of power is within her religion. Buried within the protective arms of God, Marjane speaks of the security she feels with her friend. “The only place I felt safe was in the arms of [God],” (53). In contrast to The Sound of Waves Marjane feels the world is the atrocious and gives up on religion altogether (70). When speaking to God for the very last time, she yells “Shut up you! Get out of my life!!! I never want to see you again!” (70). Marjane feels that religion is not strong enough to fix the horrible tragedies occurring in Iran, so she must try to change herself or nothing will ever get better. After that incident, Marjane has no one to console in; she is on her own — she is alone. Religion gave Marjane happiness and hope for a better time; but now, she is burning in the light of reality.

Shinji’s life revolves around the religion of his village — if a positive event occurs, he thanks the Gods, and worries the Gods will be angered if he is selfish or dishonest. The day Shinji’s eyes cross the path of Hatsue, Shinji hikes to a shrine and prays to the gods that he will one day marry, Hatsue; however he is also anxious that “the gods may punish [him] for such a selfish prayer,” (25). Whether or not Shinji marries the love of his life depends on the will of the gods. Shinji and his mother pray for the safe travels of his brother, Hiroshi, after a storm had passed (83). Without their belief of the safety of the gods, the family might be worried sick for Hiroshi. The entire population of the village constantly prays; they pray for safety, assistance, permission, and more. In a letter written by Hatsue, she states that she will be praying for not only the safety of her family, but the safety of Shinji as well (111). While Marjane gives up on religion, Shinji and Hatsue “never doubted the providence of the gods,” (178). Shinji-san remains loyal to his religion and continues to live a pleasant life, thanks to the divine power of the gods.

Ultimately, Persepolis and The Sound of Waves both communicate the idea in which religion is a source of consolation, that allows those who are in a state of confusion or any others who are in need of assistance. Religion is a place where secrets can be told and questions can be answered. If desired, it can be the basis of how life functions. Marjane converses with God as a wonderful friend and Shinji lets his life be a puppet of the gods. This system of beliefs will bring love, compassion, and serenity if one merely desires it.

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