THE PARADOX OF LIFE AND DEATH: A Literary Analysis of Juxtaposition Present in Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Death and the Fool

Death and the Fool – one of the most profound pieces of German literature that still sits vividly in my mind years after I first encountered it. It beautifully brings together all aspects of present, past, and future. To say I love this piece is an understatement. You can read the full play here:


The desire for existential meaning is a recurring theme in German literature during the eighteenth century. In Death and the Fool, Hugo von Hofmannsthal utilizes contrasting notions of life and death to further illustrate the universal human desire for meaning and fulfillment. Through subtle references to Nietzschean philosophy, the play addresses the paradox of pre-existence and the inevitable demise all humans face, while simultaneously serving as a critique of the aestheticism movement of the late eighteenth century. In this essay, I argue Hofmannsthal utilizes the dichotomy of life and death to conclude the necessity of forgetfulness in escaping simultaneous pre-existence in the realms of past and future.

My scope of analysis focuses primarily on Claudio’s internal dilemma, rather than that of other characters within the play. Firstly, I explore Hofmannsthal’s contrasting conceptions of “inside” and “outside” within the play, rendering further analysis of Claudio’s morbid self-detachment and inability to live authentically in the present. Secondly, I offer a reading of the play in reference to Nietzsche’s philosophy, and consequently deduce the inability to forget as a primary factor of Claudio’s deep sorrow. Lastly, I derive parallels between Hofmannsthal’s work and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, thus revealing the underlying irony and paradox of Claudio’s life through death.

The beginning of Claudio’s monologue consists of his internal longing for what is out of reach. He vividly describes the “lustrous meadows” and “wild morning wind” while describing nature as “the spring of all desires” (Hofmannsthal, 46). As Claudio fantasizes about a lifestyle beyond his attainment, he exclaims that he is “filled with longing” by the “purpose and blessing” spread before him (46). His objectification of the nomadic mountain people allows him to romanticise what is beyond reach. This is evident as he exclaims how “near to [his] heart’s desire” these people have become (47).  Hofmannsthal’s emphasis on Claudio’s longing for the outside creates a dichotomous parallel with the concept of an inside and outside. Martens argues Claudio’s placement at his window is indicative of the profound emotional border between him and the outside, which further proves Claudio’s innate discontent with his enclosure (35). His name itself is derived from the Latin word “claudere” meaning ‘to close’, as synonymous to his spatial distance from what is beyond. This is evident as Claudio’s secluded home establishes a physical barrier between him and the outside world.

A deeper reading of the text uncovers the dichotomy Claudio faces between the inside and outside realms as analogous to the human condition of constantly living in the past or future. Similar to the outside Claudio longs for, the characterization and objectification of life itself acts as a barrier to living fully in the present moment. The conception of pre-existence “renders past and present mysteriously simultaneous” therefore overcoming time (Bennett, 71). Claudio experiences life solely through past and future as supported by his claim that as “a thousand resemblances rushed/ To the mind…all happiness [is] gone” (Hofmannsthal, 47). He claims he knows nothing of human life as he merely “stood in the midst of it” and at best has merely comprehended it (47). By experiencing life solely through past memory or mere anticipation of the future, Claudio is trapped in an existentialism that is only reflective of human experience. It is “only afterwards the mind seeks out the breath of life” which further illustrates the desire for raw experience only after it has been lived (49). By existing in an abyss of past and future, Claudio is denying himself authentic participation in life, thus resulting in his intellectual detachment (Bennett, 72). He describes this entrapment from unadulterated existence as analogous to standing paralyzed “before the trellised gates of life” overpowered by “a curse which does not end” (Hofmannsthal, 56).

While Claudio understands there exists a world and a way of life different from the one he experienced, the awareness is not sufficient. Claudio’s romantic longing for emotional participation in life is not fulfilled by sheer realization of his condition. He exclaims that he has comprehended life, and thus understands his position clearly (47). Therefore, he is not a fool in the conventional sense.  In fact, Siefken argues that it is his thorough reflection of existence that has left Claudio “an over aware outsider” where reality was “destroyed through this process of analysis” (80). Hence, this renders the thesis that Hofmannsthal is not asking the reader to simply become aware of their pre-existence, but to rather to embrace a central concept of forgetting, as derived from Nietzsche’s critique of the ‘historical man’.

Hofmannsthal’s play was released nearly ten years after Nietzsche’s The Madman, where he makes the famous claim that “God is dead” (16). The anti-Enlightenment movement of the eighteenth century, as championed by Frederich Nietzsche, began a wave of anti-foundational sentiment throughout Europe that exposed the hollow reality of human life. Hofmannsthal’s play showcases the universal desire for meaning and purpose in a fundamentally anti-foundational world. Claudio’s excessive self-awareness and analytical nature removes the spark from life as he enters a psychological dread where he only desires what he cannot have. According to Nietzsche, for a man to live authentically, he must possess the ability to copiously forget.  In On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life he exclaims:

“He who cannot sink down on the threshold of the moment and forget all the past, who cannot stand balanced like a goddess of victory without growing dizzy and afraid, will never know what happiness is…. Forgetting is essential to action of any kind, everything organic” (9).


Similar to Claudio, Nietzsche’s ‘historical man’ possesses no trace of the power to forget. Nietzsche asserts that “without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all” (10). Throughout his monologue, Claudio frequently refers to his “ever restless reason, unable to forget” (Hofmannsthal, 47). Claudio questions “What should [he] know of human life?” if he has “never lost [himself] to it” or if he was “never wholly unaware” (49). Evidently, Claudio is unable to forget. He claims his spirit is “buried deep, so sealed from consciousness…. Bringing only the stale flurry of remembrance” (64). In order to live life usefully and vigorously, one must therefore possess the ability to copiously forget the past and exist in the present. Through the process of forgetting, one deliberately escapes living life in a blank present – in absence between memory and anticipation (Martens, 35). Hofmannsthal’s usage of juxtaposition reemerges as Claudio is condemned to “live without knowing or to know without living” (36). I conclude, therefore, that it is Claudio’s restless reason and inability to forget that primarily contributes to his deep unhappiness.

Lastly, I focus on the play’s emphasis on life and death. Death is not experienced or created instantly, but is rather created in every moment of self-conscious existence. Claudio perpetually exudes this reality as he exclaims he “saw the sun with lifeless eyes” and “heard no longer but with lifeless ears” (Hofmannsthal, 49). Specifically, the sun represents life, energy and rebirth. For Claudio to see the sun with lifeless eyes establishes the ever-present obstacle between life and death. His active characterization of life itself causes his senses to be paralyzed and for a “senseless nameless fear” to take control of him (54). Hence, it is demonstrated that Claudio’s morbid self-detachment robs him from genuine human experience and life.

As Death encompasses Claudio, he exclaims “Since my life was death, then Death, be my life!” (Hofmannsthal, 65) This speaks to a greater philosophical ideology, as championed by Heidegger, that reflection upon death is necessary in enabling humans to live fully. Similar to Nietzschean conceptions of death, Heidegger asserts that man becomes aware of his finitude only through comprehending the reality of death. Thus, in order to live as an authentic human being, it is critical to constantly project life onto the horizon of death, which Heidegger famously labels “being towards death.” Since human existence is finite, Claudio’s confrontation with death is what allows for authenticity as he attempts to create meaning out of it. Claudio goes as far as to claim that he finally experienced life in his one-hour encounter with death in comparison to his entire life. Subsequent to his death, he exclaims that “For only as I die I feel that I am” (65).

The idea of death overwhelms Claudio “with a sense of wonder at existence” as he is “suspended between the infinite and finite aspects” of human nature (Bennett, 84). He is confronted with the awareness of death; but death, along with “an astonishing and terrifying knowledge of the unfoundedness of existence in a gaping abyss of truth”, enables Claudio to commit to human life (85). Hofmannsthal’s satire lies within the irony that it is through the process of death that Claudio is able to finally feel “alive.” The excruciating fear Claudio experiences upon encountering death doesn’t allow ample time for him to fully analyze the situation, therefore causing him to experience it.

Thus, it is through Claudio’s final encounter with death that Hofmannsthal grasps at the paradoxical human condition. Death itself is deeply embedded into the concept of life, and with each moment of existence, a paralleled presence of death persists. Consequently, death as a reality cannot merely be “understood” as an idea, but eternally endures as a mystery – a country from “which no traveler, once he has truly entered it, ever returns” (Bennett, 73). The reader, therefore is confronted with the recognition that a shallow understanding of death is utterly useless (74). Hofmannsthal’s characterization of death offers a medium of understanding to the reader, however, it also insists that true understanding is impossible at a theoretical level. It is precisely this dilemma where the unsolvable mystery of death – along with the cyclical labyrinth of human existence – is revealed within Hofmannsthal’s work.

In conclusion, Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s dichotomous juxtaposition of life and death, inside and outside, and past and future furthers a deeper understanding of Claudio’s intellectual detachment from life. The play addresses the paradoxical reality of life towards death, whilst revealing the hollow reality of human existence.  I have presented an analysis of the primary irony between life and death, however, further literary discourse may reveal juxtaposition evident between simplicity and aestheticism, or between Claudio’s past ghosts (mother, former lover and friend) and Claudio himself (Hofmannsthal, 63). By blurring the lines between life and death, past and present, inside and outside, Hofmannsthal emphasizes the Nietzschean theory of possessing the ability to forget in order to fully experience the moment. It is presence of careless forgetfulness which allow one to live fully with no prior attachment to the past or future. Additionally, the dichotomy of an inside and outside realm, where Claudio is unable to attain what is ‘outside’ his reach, further highlights his enduring romanticization of genuine human experience. It is through the protagonist’s encounter with death where he realizes the value of the life he actively rejected. Claudio’s tragedy subsists as he grasps at life’s impermanence only when it has become far too late. Upon the climax of Claudio’s dying reflection, he exclaims “So now, in an excess of feeling, I seem to awake / From life’s dream in death’s wakefulness” (65).
















Bennett, Benjamin. Hugo Von Hofmannsthal: The Theaters of Consciousness. Cambridge University Press, 1988.



Heidegger, M., Macquarrie, J., & Robinson, E. Being and time. Malden, MA: Blackwell. 1962.



Hofmannsthal, Hugo Von. Der Tor Und Der Tod (Death and the Fool). 1893. Print.



Martens, Lorna. Shadow lines: Austrian literature from Freud to Kafka. U of Nebraska Press,       1996.



Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Gay Science; with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of       Songs. New York: Vintage Books, 1974.



Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life.”  Cambridge    University Press, Cambridge, 1997.



Siefken, Hinrich. “Hugo Von Hofmannsthal’s ‘Der Tor Und Der Tod’the Paradox Of The ‘Nahe   Ferne’.” German Life and Letters 24.1 1970.



While the question of “life” after death is one that is greatly disputed, the premise that death is the definitive destiny for all humans is universally accepted. Due to the nature of human finitude, German philosopher Martin Heidegger views death as a fate that allows one to find meaning, and thus be our most authentic self. Heidegger depicts death as closely linked to personal authenticity, and therefore selfhood. To be authentic in Heideggerean terms is to live “true” to oneself. Since Heidegger asserts that truth can be lived, and one may subsequently fail to live their truth, he therefore asserts that there is a fundamental way of being, or existence. Thus, he claims “the ‘essence’ of human beings lies in its existence” (42). He uses the term ‘Dasein’ (directly translated as “being there”) to describe the experience of being that is peculiar to humans. It describes the agent that exists towards death as their own most possibility. (This also may be interpreted as Heidegger’s technical term referring to us – not as individual human beings – in reference to a way of being of all human beings). Heidegger indirectly splits the idea of being a self and being alive as varying human experiences. He asserts that there are certain qualities, traits, and activities that represent more than what we merely enjoy doing. Therefore, when we engage in activities that do not fit our “essence”, we are living an intrinsically unauthentic life. As Dasein, life possess a structure of an accomplishment, or “wholeness”, that exists because of death. Through this understanding, he differentiates between being alive, and being an authentic self.

In order to better comprehend Heidegger’s theory, one may imagine a scenario where they only have a few days to live. Upon this discovery, if one feels deep regret on the current projection of their life, then they are living an unauthentic life. In contrast, if one expresses pure contentment at the direction of their life, despite the possibility of death around the corner, then they are being true to themselves. For Heidegger, the imaginative projection of death is essential in determining who you are. Upon realization of death as the inevitable, “one is liberated in such a way that for the first time one can authentically understand and choose among the factical possibilities lying ahead” (308).  Humans enter a state of anxiety where the endless possibilities of life become apparent, therefore our choices are guided by making these possibilities factuality. In turn, the choices we make define us, give meaning to our lives, and ultimately foster authenticity.

Although Jean-Paul Sartre follows a similar line of reason, he has a slightly different perception on the meaning of death. Both Sartre and Heidegger assert that the choices we make define us. Sartre’s work echoes Heidegger’s when he claims “man is nothing else but what he makes of himself” (28). Therefore, his works represent the firm viewpoint that existence precedes essence. Our collective actions and decisions illustrate who we are as humans, and thus we are ultimately responsible for how we conduct ourselves in this world. To acknowledge the freedom of choice – and the consequent responsibility we face – is to live an authentic life. Sartre argues that Heidegger’s view gives too much power to death in shaping the direction of one’s life. Since death is the end of us, it is the end of our freedom to give meaning in our lives. Far from Heidegger’s premise that death allows for meaning, he concludes that death takes this very meaning away. Similar to Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir views death as a pall over the meaning of our lives, and goes as far to claim death as an “unjust violation” (106). After death, Sartre believes that the meaning of one’s life is merely what others make of it, and therefore we sacrifice control in affecting that meaning. Therefore, we cannot wait for death to occur “not because death does not limit my freedom, but because freedom never encounters this limit” (Sartre, 700). Death is not an event to dread and ponder because it deems insignificant while one is alive. Thus, upon further analysis of Sartre’s text, the dichotomy between Heidegger and Sartre becomes ever clear.

In finality, I will argue that Sartre overlooks the importance of death in realizing life’s meaning. Sartre illustrates death as an entirely independent event that has no existential repercussions on how one should lead life. In contrast, Heidegger claims that humans exist towards death as their ‘ownmost possibility.’ We exist as agents capable of recognizing and striving for meaning by recognizing our undeniable mortality. Hence, Dasein is confronted with death as a possibility of being, and it “stands before itself in its ownmost potentiality-of-being” (Heidegger, 232). By recognizing the potential of death, we illuminate the meaning of alternate possibilities because they exist within the constraints of our mortality. Similar to Heidegger, I assert that it is our mortality that allows for such meaning. The possibility of death, which lingers indefinitely throughout our lives, imposes a sense of urgency and anxiety on the choices we make. Sartre fails to address the significance of death because he views it as a contingent occurrence, while Heidegger uncovers the underlying reason why our freedom matters to us in the first place. The significance Heidegger places on death is valid because our time on Earth is limited, and the choices we make are solely our responsibility.  Through awareness on our mortality, Heidegger claims that ‘being-towards-death’ grounds the temporality of Dasein. Thus, this very temporality is foundational for the meaning we give our lives. We can imagine an immortal life where one possesses the possibility of infinitely repeatable choices and pleasures. The immortal may pursue infinite endeavors throughout their life, as their time on Earth is infinite. The contrasting mortal cannot afford to do so. Thus, it is through the recognition of our mortality where one is able to comprehend the temporality of their existence, and therefore the weight of their decisions.

Following my personal confrontation with death, I copiously comprehended the fragility of existence. Heidegger’s notion of ‘being-towards-death’ outlines the life I led subsequent to my final trip to the cosmos. While Sartre’s emphasis on personal responsibility and freedom deem fruitful at first, it is the finitude of death in itself the underlies the condition needed for meaning. The limited time I have on this planet dictates the choices I make, and thus the life I choose to manifest. As death is the final “ownmost possibility”, it becomes apparent that the most suitable way to lead my life is to make decisions based on my personal desire, rather that of others around me. While my young days exemplified a deeply complex desire for acceptance, I soon realized my contentment with life is manifested from within the Self, and not through acceptance of the Other. By becoming face to face with death, I grasped the finitude of my being and the fact that all of life’s possibilities will never be fully actualized. There exists something outstanding beyond my existence. The potential of death allows me to grasp my existence in its totality and thus focus my existence as it belongs to me (the individual) rather than the inauthentic “they” (the other). Though confrontation with my grandfather’s death was a deeply personal grievance that greatly altered my life, it was still the death of another human being. Experiencing his death, although an excruciating painful experience, was still ‘objective’ in the sense that I was still avoiding confrontation with my own mortality. Heidegger claims when death is faced as an individual, a possibility which is Dasein’s own is recognized.  The external world, which acquires meaning based in Others is eclipsed, and one may overcome absorption into others. Thus, facing mortality allows human existence to focus fully on itself as its own Self. Martin Heidegger’s work has become analogous to my personal confrontation with the fragile temporality of life. It has served as an existential awakening – surging a desire for meaning in a fundamentally hollow world.









Beauvoir, Simone de. 1965. A Very Easy Death. Trans. Patrick O’Brian. Pantheon 102 Books:      New York.


Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and Time. Trans. Joan Stambaugh. State University of New           York Press: Albany.


Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1956. Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel E. Barnes. Washington Square         Press: New York.


Sigrist, Michael J. Death and the meaning of life. Philosophical Papers 44.1 (2015): 83-102.

Persepolis: An Analysis of the Role of Identity During the Iranian Revolution

Although cinema is often seen as entertainment rather than a work of art, Marjane Satrapi’s film Persepolis beautifully captures the rhetoric of the Iranian revolution in an artistic demeanour. Her comic-inspired film follows the life of Marjan, a young girl struggling for truth during an era where the lines between human sincerity and strict government policy are blurred. The aim of the movie, however, can be argued to be the unification of the Western and Eastern public ideology regarding Iran – based on the fundamental issues of assimilation. Members of the Iranian diaspora can deeply resonate with Persepolis as a whole, but more specifically relate with Marjan’s personal endeavour for meaning in a binary world of culture. In addition to this, the movie drew a deep parallel with Marjan’s struggle with truth, and the journey for the entire nation of Iran in a society of deeply rooted political conflict. Although a wide variety of the film’s themes and ideas are solely rooted from Marjan’s personal identity, it should also be noted that a wide variety of the sub themes follow the socio-political conditions in Iran, such as women’s issues, social constructs and Western intervention. Therefore, this essay aims to explore Marjan’s emphasis on self identity, in addition to the storytelling of Iranian history and conflict. I will use Saparti’s choice of animation as aid for my thesis with an emphasis on imagery juxtaposition.

         Firstly, I will trace the origins of the root of the title and meaning behind Saparti’s choice to call the film Persepolis. Beginning with the analysis of the film title, the world Persepolis quite literally means the ancient land of the Persians. The Persian Empire was found by Cyrus the Great and was renown at the time for its strong reign.[1] Once Alexander the Great took over the capital, the people were left impoverished and their country in ruins.[2] I argue that Satrapi chose the title Persepolis as a parallel to the events that occurred during the era. The merciless overthrow of the government combined with the excruciating torture that many Iranians felt at the time are both parallels with the film.  Before the war in both circumstances, it can be argued that Iran was prosperous and free-spirited. Saparti aimed to show how dictatorship can dangerously harm a society that was once so well reputable. Throughout Persepolis it was evident that the political strain can affect nearly all interpersonal levels of Iranians throughout the revolution. This is evident in the way the Iranian revolution shaped the path of Marjane’s life; from her personal relationships to her drive for life. Furthermore, the powerful state before the war was a symbol for the utopia that the Iranians thought they were going to have. For many Iranians, the revolution was meant to be an event that altered their state for the better; to free them from the chains of totalitarian regime. However, this was clearly not the case.

         I will lay out the framework to further prove that using animation in Persepolis was a tool for Saparti in order to create an artistic portrayal. The use of animation meant an acceptance of the impossibility of perfect representation of such traumatic events. In other words, it became an accessible means of dealing with difficult content of Saparti’s life. The issues that Saparti aims to explore are often ‘grey’ and not black-and-white. This allows surplus room for the viewer to self-interpret the complex emotion that Saparti aims to express. Although it can be counter argued that animation lacks a particular element of realism, it immerses the viewer in narrative and aesthetic art. In this way, the use of animation offers a medium where memory, dream, and fantasy can be intertwined; without the burden of realist depiction. In a way, the lack of clarity and realism leaves furthermore to the imagination, which allows the viewer to grapple with meaning to the point of resolution.

Saparti monochromatic palette beautifully uses the juxtaposition of light and dark in her film. The contrast aims to represent the innate emotions and experience of each character within the film, whilst outlining their inner motivations. The gloomy silhouettes represented the lives of sorrow that the Iranian people felt, while the bright lights aimed to signify the sense of hope they felt as they clung onto the memory of freedom. A beautiful example is when Marjane learns that her Uncle Anoosh was re-arrested by the regime troops, and she is seen in front of a texture-less background with no sense of depth. The outline of her black hair and clothing contrast within frame as her figure is seen hovering through a vacant, black void. This image, although animated, depicts the sense of deep isolation and resentment Marjane faced towards the revolution. Furthermore, the use of dense black frames is used during the scene of the bombing occurring in Iran. The dark silhouette of the stairs combined with the black empty screen during the bombing ignite a sense of fear and mystery within the viewer. This is used many times throughout the film, most notably when depicting the false dream that the Iranian government sold to young men embarking off to the war. Saparti was able to, once again, draw a parallel between the young men of Iran fighting in the Iraqi war (often promised the “key to paradise”), causing the viewer to ask if these young men are any different than the youth of the American wars. In this way, Saparti uses universalization to appeal to both Iranian and Western viewers.

As the film commences, it is evident from the very opening scene that Marjane is dissatisfied with her contrasting cultures. This scene was one of the very few in colour; further punctuating the film. Marjane is seen in solitude waiting at the Paris airport in a familiar flashback. She shines a look of disapproval upon putting on a head scarf before her arrival in Tehran whilst smoking a cigarette. Immediately, we see that the complex and deeply rooted themes of identity, exile and return emerge in the introduction. Throughout the movie, the recurring theme of solitude and identity emerge as thousands of Iranians left Iran during the revolution. The relocation to another country left colossal gaps in the streams of identity amongst those individuals. Furthermore, Persepolis captures the sense of loss when Marjane’s family members dwell on the question of whether they too should leave or stay behind. In this way, the film depicts the struggles of those individuals that choose to stay, whilst placing emphasis on the severed ties with those that choose to stay behind. An example is Marjan’s Uncle Anoosh, where the theme of exile is embodied in his character’s decisions. His exile to Russia and attempt to sneak into his homeland signified his deeply rooted ties to his Iranian identity. Although he was a revolutionary that fought against the ordeals of the Shah, Uncle Anoosh served as a role model for Marjane; embodying hope, strength, and passion. He shares his stories of imprisonment with Marjan, which serve as a medium for inspiration. In addition, the toy swans carved out of the prison bread serve as a symbol for hope. Upon Anoosh’s execution, the white swans are surrounded by black water – once again the use of dark and light to represent Marjan’s deep feelings of loss and hopelessness. In this way, the perceptive genius used by Saparti illustrates the anguish Marjane faces as she is also ‘exiled’ to Vienna during her youth.

Upon moving to Vienna, we see a stark contrast with the quaint depiction of Tehran. Although in Western eyes, Iran is often seen as the foregin ‘other’; in this turn around of events, Vienna was depicted in the light of “otherness”, with Viennese tams and sidewalk cafes, along with ringing church bells. In this way, the viewer was placed directly in Marjane’s perspective; engulfed in a sense of wonder and foreignism. An overarching scene in which consumerism and Western industrialism is well depicted in one where Marjane is in the bounds of a modern-day grocery store – shining with branded product. This generates a stark contrast with the poverty that many Iranians faced during the revolution, and due to this a fundamental and underlying guilt is developed in Marjane. While her family is faced with the darkness of war, Marjane is blessed with the Western opportunities and frivolous life. Unable to live with the guilt and lack of external support from her friends in Vienna, Marjane is later diagnosed with depression. There is uneasiness with her friends’ ease of philosophy and the dark realities of war that Marjane faced. This internal struggle aims to show how the revolution creates deeply embedded memories in the Iranian diaspora, in which it is carried with them throughout all their experiences. The internal struggle within Marjan also runs parallel with the struggles of Iranian across the globe, which further attributes to the universality of the film. In addition to her struggle into assimilation, Marjan also experiences various romantic relationships that also contribute to her shaping of her adolescent identity.

As the attempts to find understanding and sympathy in her friendships, the same is apparent in her strive for love. As she strives to find meaning in these relationships, Marjane loses a piece of herself. In a scene where she lies about being French from fear of being seen as a “barbaric” Iranian, Marjane imagines her grandmother following her trail and catching her in her lie. Through the act of dishonesty, it is clear that Marjane still possesses an innate dissatisfaction with her identity. Upon her return to Tehran, she also sees the socio-political effects that the revolution had on the people. As her grandmother famously quoted that “fear lulls us to sleep,” Marjane sees fear manifesting in the actions of her fellow Iranians. In a way, the revolution had normalized people to be savage and this is evident in the distinct scenes of her mother at the grocery store or swearing at other drivers. Furthermore, her decision to turn in an innocent man also shows how fear had caused everyone in Iran to resort to a “survival” and “state of nature” instinct. The Iranians became stripped of their pride, nationalism and meaning, therefore the country had evolved into a cold society, where all individuals only possessed the will to survive.

It is evident that Saparti effectively used animation as a means of portraying the harsh realities of the Iranian revolution. Saparti was able to beautifully capture the binary world of Iranian and Western culture, and the deeply rooted conflict that many individuals like Marjan felt during this era. It is also evident, however, that the Iranian diaspora today also feel disconnect when approaching the fragile world of cultural clash. Furthermore, Saparti was able to go beyond the physical bounds of Iran and travel beyond into the universal world, where her film can be applied to individuals of nearly all cultures. That is the beauty of universality that lies in the fundamental roots of Persepolis. No matter what culture one may originate from, the internal conflict with the “traditional” and modern will always persist. The outcome, however, will not always be positive. Although Marjane was able to undergo multiple external identity alterations, in the end, she was still the carefree and curious soul. Her drive for justice is evident at a young age and is manifested later in her life. This is evident when she is seen standing up for her classmates in university regarding dress code.  Marjane’s early life and her exposure to her parents’ activism instilled determination for justice and a desire for freedom.

Through the use of animation and contrasting depictions of dark and light, Saparti is able to tell the story of Marjane’s coming of age during the violent birth of the Iranian revolution. Through this, Saparti also universalizes the ideology of binary culture and sheds light on the day-to-day victims of the Iranian revolution that are often ignored in Western portrayal. Persepolis acts as a beacon of hope where cross-cultured individuals can reconnect with meaning, and a desire to discover identity through Saparti’s rich, inky black and white illustrations. Marjan’s dissatisfaction with revolutionary promise for freedom, and with totalitarian rule is manifested in her acts of defiance throughout the film. In conclusion, Saparti’s story-telling monochrome palette reveal throughout Persepolis that the deep socio-political issues it highlights are anything but black and white.


This report has been prepared in order to assess the potential relationship between being an ethnic  minority and negative perceptions of the LGBT community. The “American National Election Study”  dataset was utilized in order to produce this statistical report using measures from 2016. The primary  independent variable, ethnic minority, is operationalized through a binary self-identification of ethnic  minority status (vismin). Additionally, the dependent variable is perceptions of the LGBT community –  quantified by an index comprising of feeling thermometers towards gay/lesbians and transgender people  (ftlgbt).  

Minority groups often hold stronger cultural values and beliefs in comparison to their native white counterparts. More often than not, established traditional values tend to be culturally embedded in  ethnic belief systems, and thus conflict with acceptance of the LGBT community. As a result, we can  theorize that traditional principles within ethnic communities negatively impacts their perception of the  LGBT community.  

In order to get an accurate estimate of this relationship, it is vital to control for other possible,  confounding variables that may alter the relationship between ethnic minority status and perceptions of  the LGBT community. For this study, one confounding variable I controlled for was education (educ) – 1 operationalized as the highest level of formal education the respondent received. Minorities often face  systematic racial barriers resulting in lower levels of education in comparison to their Caucasian  counterparts. Education levels are also linked to the dependent variable, LGBT perception, as education  exposes people to rational ways of thought. Since homophobia and transphobia are fundamentally  irrational ideologies, an increase in education may increase tolerance towards the LGBT. Thus, decreased  education levels among minorities, in addition to anti-LBT sentiment experienced by less educated people  may depict false causality, and therefore must be controlled for. I also controlled for ideology, as  measured by the respondent’s placement on a Liberal to Conservative scale between 1 to 7 (lcself). A  person’s political ideology often dictate whether they support the LGBT community, therefore affecting  our dependent variable of LGBT perceptions. In relation to the independent variable, visible minorities  are slightly more liberal, therefore controlling for party identification avoids any suppression of our true  results.  

After controlling for these two confounding variables, I can hypothesize that being an ethnic  minority is associated with negative perceptions of the LGBT community. Prior to conducting research, it  is useful to describe our key variables, their measures and scales. An index consisting of the feeling  thermometer towards gay/lesbians and feeling thermometer towards transgenders measures the concept of  my dependent variable, LGBT perceptions. By recoding and combining these variables, we create an  index on a scale of 0 to 100 (with 100 being maximum “warmness”). The primary independent variable,  ethnic minority, is operationalized through a measure of respondents’ self-identification as either White or of other ethnicities. It should be noted that this study follows the premise that the ethnic majority is white.  Education, the first controlled variable, is measured by the highest level of formal education respondents  attain where 1 is no high school completion and 6 is post-grad. A limitation exists within the measure as it  does not capture “life experience” but rather institutionalized education. The final measure, political  ideology, is measured by asking respondents to place themselves on a scale of 1 to 7 where 1 “Very  Liberal” and 7 is “Very Conservative”. The measure aims to capture where respondents lie in relation to  the political spectrum, with the assumption that the closer they lie towards Liberal ideology, the more  likely they will possess positive LGBT perception.  

After analyzing the initial data, it was found that ethnic minorities make up 27% of respondents,  whereas white respondents consist of the remaining 73%. It is noteworthy that a smaller sample size of  minority data may limit the accuracy of our study. Despite this, we found that on average, respondents  had a mean of 54 on the LGBT feeling thermometer, with a minimum of 0 and a maximum of 100 –  indicating slightly positive leaning LGBT feeling, although not significant considering our scale.  Additionally, the standard deviation of 31 tells us that LGBT perceptions are quite polarized, and a  histogram confirms that most respondents answered at a 0, 50 or 100 on the feeling thermometer. In  regards to education, it is noteworthy that 34% completed high school and 57% of respondents had formal  education past their high school diploma, thus indicating a slightly more educated sample size. Lastly, our  mean of political ideology sits at 4 (on a scale of 1 to 7) with the highest percentage of respondents  answer “Neither Liberal or Conservative” (27%). Moreover, the standard deviation of 2 indicates a fairly  spread range of answers on a normal distribution, therefore our sample of respondents are not  significantly leaning on either ends of the political spectrum.  

After running a difference of means test for the data, we can analyze the relationship between  ethnic minorities and LGBT perceptions. It was found that ethnic minorities, on a scale of 0 to 100, had  an LGBT feeling thermometer of 54.7. In comparison to their white counterpart’s mean of 53.2,  minorities had a warmer LGBT feeling thermometer by 1.5. With consideration of our scale, however,  these results deem statistically insignificant. A p-value of 0.490 tells us that we would observe a  relationship this big or bigger in nearly 49% of samples of this size due to random chance, if there was no  relationship between these two variables. Thus, we cannot be confident that these results are reflected in  our population.  

In order to control for the individual influences of each independent variable on LGBT  perceptions, a multiple regression test was run (Appendix A). Not surprisingly, political ideology appears  to have the largest effect on LGBT feeling thermometer. A one-point increase on the 7-point ideology  scale (with higher values meaning more conservative) is associated with a 7.9 decrease in the LGBT  feeling thermometer. That is to say, moving one point in the positive direction (remember: positive means  towards conservative) decreases the LGBT feeling thermometer by 7.9 – a sizeable decrease considering  our scale and therefore indicates a modest-strong relationship. The p-value of 0.0001 tells us that we would observe a relationship this big or bigger in only 0.0001% of samples due to random chance.  Education levels also appears to have a slightly positive effect in the predicted direction. A one-unit  increase in education levels on a scale of 1 to 6 (with 6 being higher education), is associated with a 1.3  increase on the LGBT feeling thermometer. The coefficient is not statistically significant in reference to  our scale, and even a jump from 1 (No high school completion) to 6 (Post-grad) would increase LGBT  perception in the positive direction by only 6.6. The p-value of 0.018 means that we would find a  regression coefficient this large in 1.8% of samples of this size due to randomness of sampling alone.  Consequently, we can infer that these results are statistically significant. Lastly, when we ran a  multivariate regression controlling for ideology and education, we see a dramatic change from our initial  difference of means test. Being an ethnic minority is associated with a 4.2 decrease in LGBT perceptions  on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being maximum LGBT “warm” feeling. The coefficient is moderately  generous on our scale, and indicates a modest relationship. The p-value of 0.030 also indicated we would  find a coefficient of this magnitude in less than 3% of samples, if there was no relationship. Hence we can  be confident in this result and reject the null hypothesis at the 0.05-level.  

In conclusion, the null hypothesis stating that there is no relationship between being an ethnic  minority and negative LGBT perceptions can be rejected. As the multiple regression data shows, there  exists statistically significant relationship when we controlled for education and political ideology. Our  data infers that ethnic minorities, in comparison to white respondents, possess overall lower LGBT  perceptions. 

Note: While I initially wanted to control for religiosity, no measures within the ANES 2016 small data set operationalized this 1 measure validly.

Appendix A:

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