Summary: The End

It’s now June 1993, and Marji and Reza are reaching the end of their fourth year of study when they are summoned by the head of the visual arts department. Declaring that the couple are his best students, he proposes that they collaborate on a plan for an amusement park based on Iranian mythological heroes as their final project. The couple throw themselves into researching so thoroughly for the next seven months that they don’t fight even once. Their plan is highly ambitious, the equivalent to “Disneyland in Tehran,” replete with restaurants, hotels, and attractions. In January 1994, the time comes for the couple to present their ideas and painstakingly-created models to the academic jury that will judge it. Marji does the talking and defending—including stating that mythological concepts such as the Holy Grail and the Knights of the Round Table are Persian ideas appropriated by the West. 

The jury is delighted, and Marji and Reza receive a perfect score. The head of the department suggests that they present the idea to the Mayor of Tehran for development and arranges for Marji to meet with the deputy mayor. After twice being told her attire is inappropriate for meeting with the deputy mayor, Marji eventually is allowed to present to him. The deputy mayor is immediately discouraging—pointing out, for instance, that non-veiled female mythological representations would never be permitted—but he is at least honest with Marji. He tells her that the government has no interest whatsoever in Iranian mythology, but instead wants to promote religious symbols. 

Marji later meets with an old friend, Farnaz, and tells her that now that the mythology project has become a lost cause, so too she believes is her marriage with Reza—since the project was the only thing they shared. Farnaz tells Marji a cautionary story about her sister, who divorced her husband and has since been propositioned by nearly every man she encounters. Farnaz explains that Iranian men believe that “their dicks are irresistible,” and that since divorced woman are no longer virgins, men believe they have no reason to refuse to have sex with them. Marji is shaken but convinced that she and Reza must divorce. Marji goes home and tells Reza, but he’s unconvinced that she’s thought it through and suggests she take time to think it over. Marji hurries to her grandmother for advice, and her grandmother—who was divorced 51 years earlier before marrying Marji’s grandfather—advises that divorce can be a necessary step in finding true happiness. However, she advises Marji to wait a bit since she’s not convinced that Marji doesn’t still love Reza.

Marji accepts her grandmother’s advice and waits, getting a job as an illustrator for a magazine in the meantime. However, the magazine is soon targeted by the regime for printing drawings it says are insulting to religious figures, and a fellow illustrator, Behzad, is arrested and severely beaten. After Behzad is released, Marji and another colleague, Gila, go to visit their heroic colleague. However, during the visit, Behzad continually talks over his wife, Mandana, and Marji realizes that despite being a victim of the regime, Behzad is all-too-representative of Iranian men and their repression of women—and of an Iranian society that condones and legally codifies this repression. Marji realizes she’s fed up with Iran and that she must leave it.

Marji and Reza have a heart-to-heart talk when she arrives home. Reza admits that their marriage is deeply flawed, but he says that he’s still in love with Marji. Rather than divorcing, he suggests that they move to France together to see if they fare better as a couple away from their repressive society. But Majri is steadfast in her belief that this would only be a delaying half-way measure and insists that they divorce. She feels that she’s fulfilled her grandmother’s request that she take some time to think it over, but now that she has done so, she knows that divorce is the right solution. 

A few days later, Marji tells her parents that she wants to divorce Reza and leave Iran, and they understand. Her father reflects by saying that as Iranians they are crushed, “not only by the government, but by the weight of our own traditions.” Marji is accepted into an arts program in Strasbourg, France, but then must wait in Iran from June to September 1994 to receive a student visa. Marji cherishes these final months with her mother, father, and grandmother, and spends time soaking in the country that she still feels deeply connected to in spite of its flaws and the pain it has caused her. As her family bids her farewell at the airport, Marji reflects that it isn’t as painful as her departure to Vienna ten years earlier since there’s no war occurring like there was then, her mother doesn’t faint, and her beloved grandmother is there.

Analysis: The End

“The End” brings the theme of identity and expression to its conclusion. As the chapter begins, Marji is able to combine both the Western and Iranian aspects of her identity as she works on the ambitious amusement park project with Reza. After all, a Disneyland in Tehran is far from homogenous. However, Marji’s meetings at the mayor’s office make it very clear that if she wants to pursue her career as an artist it will have to be outside of Iran. Her art is not something that would be appreciated there, and it could very well land her into trouble. Since her art is what makes her happy, Marji will have to stay true to herself and do what she needs to do in order to achieve this goal. By divorcing Reza and seeking a new life in France, Marji is able to achieve personal happiness for the first time in her life. The fact that her family enthusiastically encourages her decision is quite telling. True to the book’s most important theme, they recognize that Marji’s happiness is more important than having her nearby. By staying, Marji could never be true to herself. By leaving Iran once and for all, Marji can step confidently into her own future.