And the Mountains Echoed | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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And the Mountains Echoed | Symbols


Fairy Lullaby

The fairy lullaby symbolizes the enduring nature of real love. Like personal roots, this love is stronger and deeper than circumstance. It can outlast the losses of time and even memory itself. Chapter 2 describes how Abdullah's mother sang this lullaby to her son. After her death, Abdullah teaches the lullaby to his little sister, Pari, and they continue to sing it together.

In Chapter 9, upon their reunion 60 years later, dementia has taken away Abdullah's memories of having had a sister. Pari Wahdati also lacks conscious memories of her life before her adoption. However, a part of the lullaby comes to Abdullah's lips through the fog of memory loss. Pari Wahdati is able to pick up the verse that Abdullah begins and complete it, even though she has no idea why she knows the song, whose Farsi words are foreign to her. The lullaby thus acts as a literal sign of the connection between brother and sister, indicating their shared past.

Oak Tree

The oak tree symbolizes interconnectedness, both within the family and between the family and the land where they live. The tree functions as a cause as well as a reflection of family dynamics and important events. It signifies a common space that connects past to future and individuals to family and community, but it is also a place that bears witness to rupture. In Chapter 2 Saboor cuts down the oak after giving up his daughter, Pari. The community bears witness to Saboor's loss through this action: "No one tried to intervene."

In Chapter 3, when Parwana and Masooma are nine years old, Saboor ascribes magical powers and influence on human affairs to "the village's giant oak tree." He tells them that a wish made under the tree will come true if the tree lets fall 10 leaves. However, when Parwana and Masooma are 17 fate strikes in the tree branches as a fierce wind sweeps through, making the branches shake and the leaves rattle, while Parwana, in a fit of jealousy, causes Masooma to fall from the branch where she sits, leaving her paralyzed.

In Chapter 7 Adel is shocked when Gholam tells him, "This was my family's tree. This was my family's land. It's been ours for generations." The oak tree, though it has been a stump for half a century, is an indisputable testament to Gholam's family's presence on the land. Nothing can erase this truth: not the passing of time, war, or the razing of the village of Shadbagh.

Box of Feathers

Chapter 2 describes how three-year-old Pari loves feathers and how her devoted brother, Abdullah, goes to great lengths to procure them for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a beautiful peacock feather. Abdullah continues to collect feathers for Pari even after Pari's adoption by the Wahdatis severs all contact between them. The feathers, which are kept in a tin box, represent the bond between brother and sister, as well as Abdullah's undying hope of a reunion with Pari. Although their actual time together is short, the bond between brother and sister spans decades and continents. Like migratory birds who journey afar and always find their way home, Pari and Abdullah are finally reunited. The box of feathers returns to Pari Wahdati's possession after 60 years.

By the time Pari Wahdati finally finds Abdullah in 2010, he is already suffering from dementia. However, Abdullah's daughter, whose name is also Pari, finds the box of feathers in her father's closet with a note indicating his desire for his sister to have the feathers. When he wrote the note, Abdullah had just received his diagnosis and knew that he would be losing his capacity to remember and understand. Yet he still held out hope that one day his sister would find him, which she does three years later. Pari Wahdati doesn't remember the box of feathers from her childhood, and Abdullah doesn't remember her. Yet the box shows Pari Wahdati that she has mattered deeply to her brother his entire life, thus fulfilling a need that existed ever since their separation in childhood.

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