This creative piece is written by one of my grade 11 IB students. In his letter, the student has used Freudian psychoanalysis to analyze the characters in Marjane Satrapi’s Memoir, Persepolis. Using psychoanalysis, he shows whether or not the characters’ decisions could finally resolve the conflict between the id and the superego.
A Letter from Freud
Dear Ms. Marjane Satrapi,
I am Sigmund Freud, and you might know me as the father of psychoanalysis. I have just finished reading the graphic novel adaptation of your insightful memoir called Persepolis, and I decided to write this letter to you to express some of my thoughts and observations on your memoir.
As I was reading your exceptional story, I was struck by how much the characters’ behaviour reflected my theory of psychoanalysis. In my theory of psychoanalysis, I introduce three elements in the psychic apparatus, namely the desire-driven id, the morally-driven superego, and the mediating agent called the ego. Many of the characters in your memoir show strong signs of the conflict between their id and their superego. Even though they desire freedom in their actions and decisions, their superego constantly reminds them of the strict “social norms” and the consequences of not abiding by the government-imposed religious rules. I am amazed by the creative solutions of their ego to mediate between the two conflicting elements. Their ego helps them to not only survive the unfortunate circumstances but also find happiness and hope in their lives.
Your parents’ ego made the most pragmatic decision in order to end the conflict between their id and superego. They decide to stay in Iran and listen to their superego to save their status and wealth. However, they occasionally travel abroad to fulfil the desire of the id, such as when your mother travels to see you in Europe and even before that when they travel to Istanbul and buy you the posters and clothes that you used to love. This is the pragmatic solution of their ego. The ego succeeds in reconciling the two elements by partially trading off their freedom and happiness for status. By occasionally travelling, they satisfy their ids, temporarily experiencing some freedom and happiness.
On the other hand, your friends’ ego makes the most courageous decision, which allows them to partially break the rules and to peacefully challenge the norms. They do so without jeopardizing their safety and future, which is apparent when you mentioned that women get an extra eighth of an inch of hair shown every year. They also decide to live a life of pretense. Their ego leads them to live two lives: a public life and a private life. Even though this may seem like a wonderful decision, the disparity leads them to schizophrenia as mentioned on page 305 of the graphic novel. Since this is not a sustainable approach, they start to break the rules, which puts them in trouble. While this may be the most courageous approach, it is also the least safe and practical one.
Yet the smartest decision is made by your ego. Your ego ends the conflict between the two elements by urging you to leave the country. This happens by the end of your memoir, when you decide to go to France and leave this two-faced life, which you and your friends lived, for good. The decision made by your ego is the only one that is truly a “solution” to the fight between your id and superego. Compared to your friends and family, your ego’s solution is the best for the long term since there is no longer two conflicting forces in your mind.
The decisions made by the egos of your friends and family are not sustainable in the long run, which becomes apparent once I look at their lifestyle through the psychoanalytic lens. Whether their egos choose to listen to their id or superego, their way of living is at the cost of neglecting the other element, which is not what a mediator does. By neglecting one of the two sides in their mind, they sacrifice their own mortal desires or their personal safety. However, you, who made the wisest decision, are not alone. A lot of Iranians are leaving the country each and every day to put an end to this ongoing struggle between their id and superego.