Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classical fiction novel located in a small southern town amidst the Great Depression

Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classical fiction novel located in a small southern town amidst the Great Depression, whereas Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” is a modern graphic novel exploring the real life experience of a young girl during and after the Islamic Revolution. Lee and Satrapi employs techniques appropriate for their distinct forms, novel and graphic novel, to enhance the reader’s understanding of the similar clash of the main character’s values in comparison to the society around them. Femineity, and the conflict of what being a woman means, is shown through Satrapi’s illustrations and Lee’s characterisation. The unequal social class structure viewed through a child’s first perspective is highlighted by Lee and Satrapi’s.
Lee’s use of characterisation and Satrapi’s use of visual representation of the characters blatantly displays the conflict concerning femineity between the protagonists and society. In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the views of Scout towards femineity greatly differs to the other women around her, in particular Aunt Alexandra. Scout is characterized as a tomboy and not traditionally ‘feminine’ whilst Aunt Alexandra is represented as a stereotypical southern woman. The contrast between the two characterizations show the conflict presented in Scout’s personal and public world. “Aunty Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches.” The use of the two contradicting characterizations presented in Scout and Aunt Alexandra challenges the view of femineity that is generally accepted in Maycomb society. The similar theme is revealed through the illustrations in Satrapi’s “Persepolis”. The veil is symbolised used to represent the stereotype of femineity. We are confronted by Marji’s opposition and discontent in wearing the veil through the illustrations of her emotions at the beginning of the book. She drawn wearing a black veil with a sombre expression. This contrast of the black veil with the white background and her solemn look makes obvious her reluctance in wearing a veil, thus showing conflict between her personal values and the public’s opinion on femineity. Marji sees this as an issue that women can only be feminine when abiding to this strict rule and tries to resist against this rule. Later in the book, she is illustrated wearing foreign clothes, which are white to once again contrast with the veil and the guardians of the revolution who are covered head to toe in the black veil. Lee explores the theme of femineity in personal and public worlds through conflicting characters compared to Satrapi who uses illustration that mainly includes the veil and it’s contrast to the scene surrounding it to enhance the clash of personal and public worlds regarding femineity.
A child’s first person perspective employed by both Lee and Satrapi challenges the social class structure in the public world. Marji’s narration throughout the book allows the audience to receive a deeper understanding of her attitude on the problematic class structure as she becomes more involved with the revolution. The first person perspective allows the readers to further relate to Marji who at a young age wanted to mend the oppression arising from the social class structure despite the resistance in her public world. Being part of a wealthy middle- class family, she begins to feel bashful and ashamed of her position on the social ladder as the revolution went on. “I finally understood why I felt ashamed to sit in my father’s Cadillac… The reason for my shame and for the revolution is the same: The difference between social classes.” This quote shows that Marji begins to think that the class division in Iran is part of the problem. Furthermore, this theme of social class structure is likewise emphasized in “To Kill a Mockingbird” as the readers are able to experience Scout’s genuine views towards people of different class. An example of this is the black community. Scout never held prejudice beliefs against people of colour despite growing up in a community where racism was prominent. Scout’s progressive views on the African American community and her ability to perceive them as equals is shown in her attitude towards Calpurnia, an African American maid, through her first person perspective. “She was always ordering me out of the kitchen, asking me why I couldn’t behave as well as Jem when she knew he was older, and calling me home when I wasn’t ready to come.” Her innocence is portrayed in this quote as her annoyance of Calpurnia stemmed from being told off for doing the wrong thing, as child would to a mother which contrasts the public view of black people. Although Lee and Satrapi both use first person perspective to explore the social class structure, Satrapi’s more succinct manner of portrayal in graphic form stronger emphasizes the conflict regarding the social class structure.
Through techniques suitable to their distinct forms, Lee and Satrapi displays the conflict surrounding personal and public values. By characterising the protagonist differently to the society norm, Lee is able to more strongly emphasize the conflict of femineity. On the other hand, Satrapi’s use of first person perspective in graphical form allows her to concisely display the contrasting values on social class structure between the protagonist and society.