And the Mountains Echoed

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Abdullah Character Analysis

Abdullah, the son of Saboor, first appears in the novel as a young child, while at the end of the book, he’s an old man, succumbing to dementia. The only constant in his life (symbolized by the yellow feather he keeps) is his devotion to his sister, Pari, from whom he’s separated for the better part of his life. While And the Mountains Echoed doesn’t exactly have a protagonist, Abdullah is arguably the novel’s central character: not the most complex or richly drawn character, but the one who best embodies the novel’s themes of love, time, memory, and forgetting. Although Abdullah provides the most compelling evidence in the novel for the persistence of love in the face of age, money, and distance, his example ultimately proves that even this kind of love can fall victim to the deterioration of time.

Abdullah Quotes in And the Mountains Echoed

The And the Mountains Echoed quotes below are all either spoken by Abdullah or refer to Abdullah . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of And the Mountains Echoed published in 2014.
Chapter 2 Quotes

He wished he could love his new mother in the same way. And perhaps Parwana, he thought, secretly wished the same, that she could love him. The way she did Iqbal, her one-year-old son, whose face she always kissed, whose every cough and sneeze she fretted over. Or the way she had loved her first baby, Omar. She had adored him.

Related Characters: Abdullah , Parwana , Iqbal , Omar
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

In the second chapter of the book, we meet Abdullah, the son of the man who narrated the story from the previous chapter. Abdullah's biological mother has died recently, and following her death, Abdullah's father has married a new woman, Parwana. Parwana simply doesn't offer Abdullah the same affection that she gives her biological children from another marriage--Iqbal and Omar (who died young).

The passage brings up one of the recurring themes of the book--the importance of family and blood ties. The strongest families in the novel are usually literal, biological families--when an adult tries to adopt another child, or when a couple remarries, it's hard for them to muster genuine love for their adopted kids. (Of course this isn't always the case in life.)

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Father sat down by the remains of the fire. “Where did you go?” “Go to sleep, boy.” “You wouldn’t leave us. You wouldn’t do that, Father.” Father looked at him, but in the dark his face dissolved into an expression Abdullah couldn’t make out. “You’re going to wake your sister.” “Don’t leave us.” “That’s enough of that now.”

Related Characters: Abdullah (speaker), Father / Saboor (speaker), Pari Wahdati
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

Abdullah is traveling with his father and his sister, Pari. In the middle of the desert, Abdullah wakes up to find that his father has gone. When his father eventually returns, Abdullah claims that he'd thought his father has been murdered--since there's no way his father would ever leave his family behind voluntarily.

Although we don't know it yet, Abdullah's father has planned to leave his family behind: he's going to leave Pari in the care of a wealthy family (paralleling the way Baba Ayub left Qais in the care of the div). Unable to make ends meet, Abdullah's father Saboor has betrayed his own children, yet in a way also sacrificed his own happiness to give one child a "better" life--and so here, Saboor doesn't want to hear Abdullah's plea, "don't leave us."

She hunkered down beside him now, her glasses pushed up on her hair. There was wetness in her eyes too, and when she dabbed at them with the handkerchief, it came away with black smudges. “I don’t blame you if you hate me. It’s your right. But—and I don’t expect you to understand, not now—this is for the best. It really is, Abdullah. It’s for the best. One day you’ll see.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Nila Wahdati (speaker), Abdullah , Pari Wahdati
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Abdullah meets Nila, the young wealthy woman who's asked to adopt Pari from Abdullah's family. Nila is heartbroken to meet Abdullah--the brother from whom Nila is going to "steal" Pari. Nila, clearly overcome with guilt, tells Abdullah that "this" is for the best. Although Abdullah doesn't realize it right away, Nila is referring to Pari's adoption: Nila believes that by adopting Pari, Pari will get a great education, a loving family, and a stable life that Abdullah's family simply can't match.

Nila's insistence that her actions are for the best convince no one--not even Nila herself. Deep down, Nila knows that she's not acting out of magnanimity--she just wants a child of her own. Her final words to Abdullah, "one day you'll see," foreshadow the book's conclusion in which, decades later, Abdullah and Pari are reunited with one another.

But there was no forgetting. Pari hovered, unbidden, at the edge of Abdullah’s vision everywhere he went. She was like the dust that clung to his shirt. She was in the silences that had become so frequent at the house, silences that welled up between their words, sometimes cold and hollow, sometimes pregnant with things that went unsaid, like a cloud filled with rain that never fell. Some nights he dreamed that he was in the desert again, alone, surrounded by the mountains, and in the distance a single tiny glint of light flickering on, off, on, off, like a message. He opened the tea box. They were all there, Pari’s feathers, shed from roosters, ducks, pigeons; the peacock feather too. He tossed the yellow feather into the box. One day, he thought.

Related Characters: Abdullah , Pari Wahdati
Related Symbols: The Yellow Feather
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, we're reminded of the connection between Abdullah and Pari, who has just been adopted by a wealthy family in nearby Kabul. Abdullah's love and closeness with Pari is symbolized by a small yellow feather, which Abdullah shared with Pari recently. Abdullah hangs onto the yellow feather as a way of remembering his vanished sister: by keeping the feather, he's preserving his preserving memories of his sister, and perhaps ensuring that one day they'll be reunited.

The passage shows how humans go about remembering other humans. Although our memories of our loved ones are powerful, they often fade over time. With the aid of concrete objects--books, photographs, and even feathers, we try to stave off the deterioration of memory, grounding our recollections in a literal, ageless object.

Chapter 9 Quotes

And so Baba’s little sister, Pari, was my secret companion, invisible to everyone but me. She was my sister, the one I’d always wished my parents had given me. I saw her in the bathroom mirror when we brushed our teeth side by side in the morning. We dressed together. She followed me to school and sat close to me in class—looking straight ahead at the board, I could always spot the black of her hair and the white of her profile out of the corner of my eye.

Related Characters: Pari II (daughter) (speaker), Abdullah , Pari Wahdati
Page Number: 362
Explanation and Analysis:

In this section, we meet Pari II, the daughter of Abdullah (whom we first met at the very beginning of the book). Pari II has never met Pari, her namesake, before, but she's grown up hearing about her from Abdullah, her father. Strangely, the memory of Pari is so powerful that Pari II comes to think of Pari as her own imaginary friend--a constant companion when Pari II brushes her teeth, gets ready for school, etc.

The fact that Pari's memory lives on in Abdullah's children suggests, optimistically, that love and compassion can continue on even after memory and people themselves are gone. No matter whether or not Abdullah and Pari themselves reunite (and they will, as we'll see), the memory of their tender love lives on in Abdullah's family. By the same token, we could argue that the "memory" of the characters in And the Mountains Echoed lives on in readers' minds--even though we've never met these people before (and even though they're presumably not real), they attain a certain measure of reality because of their emotional impact.

I hold the note tightly against the blustering wind. I read for Pari the three scribbled sentences. They tell me I must wade into waters, where I will soon drown. Before I march in, I leave this on the shore for you. I pray you find it, sister, so you will know what was in my heart as I went under. There is a date too. August 2007.
“August of 2007,” I say. “That’s when he was first diagnosed.” Three years before I had even heard from Pari.

Related Characters: Pari II (daughter) (speaker), Abdullah , Pari Wahdati
Related Symbols: The Yellow Feather
Page Number: 418
Explanation and Analysis:

Pari II discovers a note that her father, Abdullah, left immediately after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Knowing that his disease would destroy his memory--and therefore his ability to remember his beloved sister, Pari--Abdullah wrote Pari a short letter, in which he bid her a touching goodbye. (As we'll see, the letter is attached to a box containing the one concrete reminder of Abdullah and Pari's love: the yellow feather).

The passage is important for a number of reasons. Above all, it reiterates that Abdullah continues to love his sister deeply, even after a long life spent apart. After decades of remembering his sister with nothing but love, Abdullah has finally hit against the finite limits of his own memory: his brain itself will soon deteriorate. And yet Abdullah doesn't give up hope entirely: he uses the power of writing and mnemonic aids (like the feather) to preserve some memory of his love for his sister. In a poignant irony, the memory of Pari will live on in Pari II and the yellow feather, even after Abdullah himself grows too old to remember Pari at all.

She turns her face to look at him, her big brother, her ally in all things, but his face is too close and she can’t see the whole of it. Only the dip of his brow, the rise of his nose, the curve of his eyelashes. But she doesn’t mind. She is happy enough to be near him, with him—her brother—and as a nap slowly steals her away, she feels herself engulfed in a wave of absolute calm.

Related Characters: Pari II (daughter) (speaker), Abdullah , Pari Wahdati
Page Number: 421
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final passage of the book, Pari II has a strange and vivid dream. In the dream, she imagines Pari reuniting with Abdullah. In real life, Pari tried to reunite with Abdullah, only to find that she was almost too late: Abdullah was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, meaning that soon after their reunion, he could no longer remember his beloved little sister. But if Pari and Abdullah can't reunite in reality, Pari II's dream allows them to reunite in her own mind.

Notably, Pari and Abdullah's reunion isn't perfect, even in Pari II's dream. Pari and Abdullah can't actually see eye-to-eye, symbolizing the fact that humans can never truly connect with or understand one another, except for a brief moment. And yet even if Pari and Abdullah's reunion is imperfect and fictional, it attains a kind of emotional truth in the minds of readers. And the Mountains Echoed is a work of fiction, obviously, but because it inspires such an intense emotional reaction in its audience, it itself exists like the yellow feather or Pari II's dream--a fragile reminder of interconnectedness, love, and the lost past.

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Abdullah Character Timeline in And the Mountains Echoed

The timeline below shows where the character Abdullah appears in And the Mountains Echoed. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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The novel begins with an unnamed narrator promising to tell a story to two children, Abdullah and Pari. The narrator mentions the children’s mother, who is “away.” (full context)
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The narrator stops his story for a moment to note that Pari, Abdullah’s sister, has fallen asleep. He tells Abdullah to cover Pari with a blanket, and then... (full context)
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The narrator ends his story. He tells Abdullah to go to sleep, as he and Pari have to wake up at dawn. He... (full context)
Chapter 2
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The chapter begins, “Father had never before hit Abdullah.” Father—as of yet, he has no other name—hits Abdullah hard, and because he’s doing so... (full context)
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Pari, Abdullah’s sister, calls out “Abollah,” her affectionate name for Abdullah. Together, Father and Pari climb into... (full context)
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Refusing to give up, Abdullah keeps running after the wagon carrying his father and sister. Eventually, he succeeds in catching... (full context)
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Abdullah, Pari, and Father ride along in their wagon—their destination isn’t clear. They travel through a... (full context)
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Abdullah turns to thinking about his stepmother, Parwana. She is a kind, wise woman, but he... (full context)
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As the three ride in their wagon, Abdullah sees a group of Kuchi nomads (an Afghani tribe that specializes in herding). One of... (full context)
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Pari asks Abdullah if their dog, Shuja, will be all right back at their home. Abdullah assures Pari... (full context)
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...revealed that the children’s “Uncle Nabi” has found a job for Father—the job that Father, Abdullah, and Pari are riding out to perform. Uncle Nabi is actually Abdullah’ step-uncle, Parwana’s elder... (full context)
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Night falls, and Father, Abdullah, and Pari eat dinner together in the middle of the desert. As they do so,... (full context)
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As it gets later, Pari and Abdullah ask their Father to tell them a story. Sometimes, Abdullah notes, Father enjoys telling them... (full context)
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Abdullah wakes up in the middle of the night, and sees that his Father is gone.... (full context)
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...the three proceed on their journey. The construction site is in the city of Kabul. Abdullah has never been there before , but he has heard about it from Uncle Nabi.... (full context)
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...through Kabul, to a building where Uncle Nabi has been waiting for them. Nabi embraces Abdullah and Pari warmly, and leads them to his car. He drives the family through the... (full context)
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Nabi leads everyone inside the house. Abdullah is immediately struck by the beautiful indoor garden, white pillars, veranda, and indoor plumbing. Nabi... (full context)
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...he tells her to be quiet, calling her Nila. Nila offers to take Pari and Abdullah to the local bazaar while Father proceeds with his work. (full context)
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Nabi drives Pari, Mrs. Wahdati, and Abdullah to the bazaar. As they drive, Abdullah sees schoolchildren, about his age, wearing black uniforms... (full context)
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...1952, when Father is busy cutting down an oak tree that grows near his home. Abdullah helps his father move the trunk of the tree. As he works, he notices a... (full context)
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Abdullah returns to his home, carrying the yellow feather. He finds Pari’s collection of feathers, and... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Nabi stops for a moment to note the intimate connection between Abdullah and Pari, Saboor’s two children. For whatever reason, he explains, the two siblings were extremely... (full context)
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...point” in explaining what happened next in much detail: one day, Mr. Wahdati summons Saboor, Abdullah, and Pari to Kabul, where he keeps Pari and sends Abdullah and Saboor back to... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...an Afghan deli. At the deli, Idris notes that the owner is a man named Abdullah, who’s married to a woman named Sultana. Abdullah is one of Idris’s medical patients: he... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...in a Pakistani refugee camp outside of Jalozai. He mentions his father’s half brother, Uncle Abdullah, who lives in America and sends his family money. One day, the Pakistanis sent the... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...a young woman, is driving on the freeway. Her mother has passed away recently, causing Abdullah to grieve. Pari II drives to Abdullah’s house—the house where she still lives. There, she... (full context)
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...Pari II explains that she’s always pictured Pari, her aunt, as a young girl—the girl Abdullah talked about in his bedtime stories. Instead, Pari is gray-haired, well-dressed, and elegant in a... (full context)
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As Pari II approaches Abdullah’s house, Pari confesses that she’s very nervous—she hasn’t seen her brother in 58 years. Pari... (full context)
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Pari II thinks back to her youth. When she was 11, Abdullah drove her to the aquarium in Monterey. Although Pari II had been looking forward to... (full context)
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...a prestigious art school in Baltimore, and was awarded a generous scholarship to attend. When Abdullah heard this news, he was a little disappointed that Pari II would be leaving him.... (full context)
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Back in 2010, Pari II lets Pari into the house. She calls to Abdullah, and tells him he has a visitor. Pari walks into the room, and focuses her... (full context)
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As Abdullah sits in his chair, stubbornly refusing to speak to Pari any further, he begins absent-mindedly... (full context)
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...a path overlooking a beautiful forest. Suddenly, Pari II’s mother tells Pari II the truth: Abdullah has a half-brother in Pakistan, whose name is Iqbal. Abdullah has been sending Iqbal money... (full context)
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Back in 2010, Abdullah has fallen sleep, with Pari sitting next to him. Pari turns to Pari II, and... (full context)
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Pari stays with Abdullah and Pari II for the next month. They spend their time laughing and catching up.... (full context)
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Alone, Pari II and Pari talk about Abdullah’s deteriorating mental state. Pari suggests that Pari II find medical attention for Abdullah, but Pari... (full context)
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...wooden park bench, exchanging poetry in French, English, and Farsi. They’re in Paris, having put Abdullah in a nursing home. Abdullah has had a stroke, meaning that he needs a wheelchair... (full context)
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...what was in my heart as I went under.” The note is dated 2007—the year Abdullah was first “diagnosed,” Pari II explains. (full context)
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...and Pari confesses that she doesn’t. At the same time, she recognizes that the pain Abdullah experienced when they were separated as children far exceeded the pain she felt, because she... (full context)
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The night after Pari receives her package from Abdullah, Pari II finds it difficult to sleep. Eventually, she falls asleep, and has a strange,... (full context)