And the Mountains Echoed

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Compassion and Selfishness Theme Analysis

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Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in And the Mountains Echoed, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon

In And the Mountains Echoed—a novel about the interconnectedness of all human beings—it’s no surprise that compassion is among the most important themes. At times, the characters makes choices aiming to benefit only themselves, but at many other points they choose to help other people. Hosseini poses some complicated questions related to this theme: for which people do we feel the most compassion? for how long are we obligated to help these people? and at what point does compassion become a kind of selfishness—a way to fight one’s own sense of guilt?

Because And the Mountains Echoed is a novel with dozens of main characters, it’s difficult to take away any single “big point” about compassion. In each of the novel’s nine chapters, the characters are confronted with different kinds of moral dilemmas, some of which have different solutions, and some of which don’t really have “solutions” at all. At the same time, the novel suggests many important points about compassion, selfishness, and human nature.

One of the most important conclusions the novel reaches is that compassion is, fundamentally, a free choice. The characters who feel the greatest compassion for others aren’t “obligated” to feel this way in any sense. Hosseini emphasizes this point by showing how characters often feel more compassion for strangers than they do for their own families. Dr. Markos, for example, struggles to show his compassion for his own mother, Odelia—a person whom, one might say, he’s obligated by society and blood ties to love—but he has few reservations about devoting his adult life to helping the victims of war in Kabul, Afghanistan. Although one often hears about one’s “duty to your family/fellow man” in politics and literature, And the Mountains Echoed never suggests that caring about other people is a duty—either you choose to do so, or you don’t.

One strange side effect of the fact that compassion is a choice is that compassionate acts are also, at times, selfishly motivated. Characters choose to devote their time and money to helping other people, but they do so in large part because they themselves want to feel happier. Indeed, the characters in And the Mountains Echoed who are most compassionate toward others are often the characters who are most selfish in other respects, suggesting that their compassion is itself a kind of selfishness. Dr. Markos, to continue the earlier example, helps war victims in Kabul, but Hosseini makes it clear that he’s doing so in large part because he’s unsure about his place in the world and because he’s always felt unloved. For Markos, compassion is a kind of therapeutic transaction—by showing love and respect for others, he gains the love and respect that he’s been searching for. In another chapter, Hosseini studies the fine line between compassion and selfishness by showing the rivalry between Idris and his cousin, Timur. Although Timur appears to be a selfish and arrogant person, he also devotes large amounts of his own time and money to helping the poor and unfortunate, and at the end of the chapter, he saves the life of a young Afghan girl, Roshana.

As befits a novel about many characters and settings, And the Mountains Echoed never portrays a single or “correct” form of compassion—people express their love for each other in all kinds of ways, and for all kinds of reasons. And yet all these forms of compassion are united in the sense that they’re impactful: their effects echo and amplify over time. In the end, the novel suggests that compassion is most powerful when it takes the form of action, not thought: Markos and Timur’s “selfish selflessness” in Kabul, Nabi’s care for Mr. Wahdati, etc. It’s because compassion must be expressed through action that it has so many far-reaching consequences, and takes so many different shapes.

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Compassion and Selfishness ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Compassion and Selfishness appears in each chapter of And the Mountains Echoed. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Compassion and Selfishness Quotes in And the Mountains Echoed

Below you will find the important quotes in And the Mountains Echoed related to the theme of Compassion and Selfishness.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Your son does not remember you, the div continued. This is his life now, and you saw for yourself his happiness. He is provided here with the finest food and clothes, with friendship and affection. He receives tutoring in the arts and languages and in the sciences, and in the ways of wisdom and charity. He wants for nothing. Someday, when he is a man, he may choose to leave, and he shall be free to do so. I suspect he will touch many lives with his kindness and bring happiness to those trapped in sorrow.

Related Characters: Baba Ayub (speaker), The div (speaker), Qais
Related Symbols: The Div
Page Number: 11-12
Explanation and Analysis:

In the first chapter of the novel, an unnamed man (later revealed as Saboor, the father of Abdullah and Pari) tells a fairy tale about a loving father whose favorite child, Qais, is stolen away by a demon called a div. The father, Baba Ayub, goes to find Qais, only to see that Qais has magically forgotten his old life and now lives with luxuries and education that Baba Ayub never could have provided for him. Baba Ayub then faces an impossible choice: he can either be selfish and reclaim his child (in which case Qais will live a poor, threadbare life), or he can allow Qais to continue living with the div (in which case Qais will be well-fed, well-educated, and have a wonderful life). In short, Baba Ayub must choose between his own happiness and the happiness of his child.

Right away, the novel draws a contrast between one's own happiness and that of other people. The essence of being a thinking human being, it's implied, is having to make such a choice. In each of the successive stories in the book, the characters will face a moral dilemma comparable with the one Baba Ayub deals with in this passage—most notably Saboor himself, who has the opportunity to give one of his children (Pari) a "better" life, and decides to do so. The question lingers, however—is Qais really "better off" without his true father? Can wealth and education replace the bond of family?


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“You are a cruel beast,” Baba Ayub said.
When you have lived as long as I have, the div replied, you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same color.

Related Characters: Baba Ayub (speaker), The div (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Div
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Baba Ayub has been given an impossible choice: he can either allow his kidnapped son, Qais, to continue living a luxurious life with his kidnapper, the Div, or he can reclaim his child. Baba Ayub faces the tremendous stress of choosing between his own happiness and that of his child--a choice that's too great for any human being to make without pain.

As Baba Ayub puts it, the div is cruel simply for making him choose at all. The div's reply--that cruelty and kindness are just two sides of the same coin--suggests something universal about the story of Baba Ayub. In life, it's suggested, humans are often forced to make impossible moral choices--choices for which there's no perfect solution. In this case, as Baba Ayub implies, it may be that "ignorance is bliss."

He didn’t understand why he should hear such a noise, alone in the dark, all the sheep and goats sleeping. Sometimes he told himself he had heard no such thing, and sometimes he was so convinced to the contrary that he called out into the darkness, “Is someone out there? Who is there? Show yourself.” But no reply ever came. Baba Ayub didn’t understand. Just as he didn’t understand why a wave of something, something like the tail end of a sad dream, always swept through him whenever he heard the jingling, surprising him each time like an unexpected gust of wind. But then it passed, as all things do. It passed.

Related Characters: Baba Ayub (speaker), Qais
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final part of the first short story in the book, Baba Ayub--who's chosen to allow his beloved son to continue living with his kidnapper, the div--is an old man. Baba Ayub has been haunted by his choice--as a result, the div has blessed Baba Ayub with the gift of forgetfulness. Baba Ayub doesn't remember having to choose to abandon his son. And yet he continues to hear the faint sound of a bell--the sound that his son would make when he played with his friends. In short, the sound of the bell reminds Baba Ayub of something he used to know, but he can't remember exactly what this was.

The story's teller insists that all things pass--in other words, Baba Ayub eventually forgets about his son. In a broader sense, the story could symbolize the way that all memories fade away over time. But as we'll see, the successive stories in the book interrogate the theory that "all things pass." The characters forget many things, whether intentionally or not--and to differing degrees of success. Thus, the story of Baba Ayub foreshadows the themes of memory and forgetting that haunt the entire novel.

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.)

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.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Then she pulled close and embraced me, her cheek against mine. My nose filled with the scent of her hair, her perfume. “It was you, Nabi,” she said in my ear. “It was always you. Didn’t you know?”

Related Characters: Uncle Nabi (speaker), Mrs. Nila Wahdati (speaker)
Page Number: 115-116
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Nabi watches as Mrs. Nila Wahdati, the wife of Nabi's employer, Mr. Wahdati, packs her bags and prepares to leave the house forever. Mrs. Wahdat tells Nabi, "It was you," words which we won't understand for some time.

As it turns out, Mrs. Wahdati is talking about Mr. Wahdati's closeted homosexual desire for Nabi. For years, Mr. Wahdati has been in love with Nabi, even though he's been too frightened and repressed to tell Nabi the truth. Mrs. Wahdati has known about her husband's attraction for a long time--but she's never done anything about it until now. Here, Mrs. Wahdati's words to Nabi seem both pitying and angry--she doesn't quite give away her husband's secret, but she comes close. The passage also takes on another layer of tragic irony, given that Nabi is immensely attracted to Mrs. Wahdati, but not her husband.

I said nothing even though he had it wrong. I was not joking that time. My staying was no longer for him. It had been at first. I had stayed initially because Suleiman needed me, because he was wholly dependent on me. I had run once before from someone who needed me, and the remorse I still feel I will take with me to the grave. I could not do it again. But slowly, imperceptibly, my reasons for staying changed. I cannot tell you when or how the change occurred, Mr. Markos, only that I was staying for me now. Suleiman said I should marry. But the fact is, I looked at my life and realized I already had what people sought in marriage. I had comfort, and companionship, and a home where I was always welcomed, loved, and needed. The physical urges I had as a man—and I still had them, of course, though less frequent and less pressing now that I was older—could still be managed, as I explained earlier. As for children, though I had always liked them I had never felt a tug of paternal impulse in myself.

Related Characters: Uncle Nabi (speaker), Mr. Suleiman Wahdati , Dr. Markos Varvaris (“Mr. Markos”)
Page Number: 126-127
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Nabi explains why he stayed with Mr. Wahdati for so many years At first, Nabi stayed with Mr. Wahdati because of his guilt at having abandoned his niece many years before: he allowed Nila to adopt Pari without protest, and has regretted his decision for a long time. But as Nabi makes clear, he eventually comes to enjoy living with Mr. Wahdati for its own sake: he even thinks of his relationship to Mr. Wahdati as a kind of marriage, providing him with comfort and contentment.

The passage is strange, insofar as it suggests a kind of homoerotic attraction between Nabi and Mr. Wahdati, even though Nabi has previously maintained that he's not homosexual in any capacity. While it's certainly possible that Nabi actually does have some repressed gay feelings (or is somewhere else on the spectrum of sexuality), Hosseini suggests that Nabi feels a less erotic form of love for Mr. Wahdati, similar to love for a close sibling or a very good friend. And yet ultimately, there's no way to understand Nabi's relationship with Mr. Wahdati totally. In spite of the vast length of Nabi's letter, this kind of love is a mystery--another example of the various kinds of "families" the book presents us with.

As you can see enclosed in the envelope along with this letter is my will, in which I leave the house, the money, and my few belongings to her. I ask that you give her both this letter and the will. And please tell her, tell her that I cannot know the myriad consequences of what I set into motion. Tell her I took solace only in hope. Hope that perhaps, wherever she is now, she has found as much peace, grace, love, and happiness as this world allows.

Related Characters: Uncle Nabi (speaker), Pari Wahdati , Dr. Markos Varvaris (“Mr. Markos”)
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Nabi bequeaths his house and possessions to Pari, the niece whom, years ago, Nabi allowed to be adopted by Nila Wahdati. Nabi has addressed his letter to Dr. Markos Varvaris, with the instructions that Markos must find Pari and tell her that her brother Abdullah is still alive.

Perhaps the key word in this passage is "consequences." It is Nabi who first puts the events of the book in motion by suggesting that Pari be sent to live with the Wahdati family. Nabi eventually comes to realize the core truth of the book--that the world is too complicated and interconnected for any one man to control. Nabi thinks that he's correcting a simple problem by sending Pari to live with the Wahdatis; in the end, though, he realizes that there's no such thing as a "simple" problem. Nabi ultimately embodies a cautious optimism about the universe: life is imperfect and unsatisfying, and yet he hopes that one day Pari and Abdullah will reunite and find the happiness and love they deserve.

Chapter 5 Quotes

It’s true. Timur has embarrassed him. He has behaved like the quintessential ugly Afghan-American, Idris thinks. Tearing through the war-torn city like he belongs here, backslapping locals with great bonhomie and calling them brother, sister, uncle, making a show of handing money to beggars from what he calls the Bakhsheesh bundle, joking with old women he calls mother and talking them into telling their story into his camcorder as he strikes a woebegone expression, pretending he is one of them, like he’s been here all along, like he wasn’t lifting at Gold’s in San Jose, working on his pecs and abs, when these people were getting shelled, murdered, raped. It is hypocritical, and distasteful. And it astonishes Idris that no one seems to see through this act.

Related Characters: Dr. Idris Bashiri , Timur Bashiri
Page Number: 153-154
Explanation and Analysis:

In the fifth chapter of the book, we meet Idris and Timur, two cousins who've returned to Kabul to reclaim their family's property in the city. Idris dislikes Timur for being extravagant and arrogant--Idris is a quiet, introverted sort, and doesn't like it when Timur makes a show of giving money to beggars or treating strangers like family.

The strange thing about the passage is that nothing Idris describes Timur doing sounds all that bad: Timur gives money to beggars, befriends strangers, and generally tries to improve the lives of people he doesn't know. The only reason Idris offers to dislike Timur is that Timur is "showy," an impression that, for all we know, could be exaggerated or wrong. Idris seems to resent Timur for caring about Afghanistan to an extent that Idris himself can never match. Idris wasn't any more involved with the war in Afghanistan than Timur--part of the reason that Idris dislikes Timur is that Timur reminds him of his own indifference to his own country.

“We leave in a week, bro. You don’t want to get her too attached to you.” Idris nods. He wonders if Timur may not be slightly jealous of his relationship with Roshi, perhaps even resentful that he, Idris, may have robbed him of a spectacular opportunity to play hero. Timur, emerging in slow motion from the blazing building, holding a baby. The crowd exploding in a cheer. Idris is determined not to let Timur parade Roshi in that way.

Related Characters: Timur Bashiri (speaker), Dr. Idris Bashiri , Roshana
Page Number: 162-163
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Idris engages in a subtle battle of egos with his cousin, Timur. Idris has developed a close relationship with a young girl named Roshi. Idris thinks that Timur is advising Idris to avoid Roshi because Timur is jealous of Idris's generosity. But in fact, it's suggested, Idris is only befriending Roshi because of his own jealousy of Timur's generosity--Idris thinks of Timur as the petty, jealous cousin, when in fact Idris fits exactly such a description.

It's further implied that Idris is more interested in outshining his cousin than he is in helping another human being. One could say that Idris is meant to represent the narrowness of generosity in the Western world. A well-educated, wealthy man, Idris thinks of himself as a "good" person, even though he's clearly petty, jealous, and generally guilty about his own lack of compassion for other people. Idris tries to show compassion for Roshi, but ends up mostly just being jealous and apathetic.

He is not a criminal. Everything he owns he has earned. In the nineties, while half the guys he knew were out clubbing and chasing women, he had been buried in study, dragging himself through hospital corridors at two in the morning, forgoing leisure, comfort, sleep. He had given his twenties to medicine. He has paid his dues. Why should he feel badly? This is his family. This is his life.
In the last month, Roshi has become something abstract to him, like a character in a play. Their connection has frayed. The unexpected intimacy he had stumbled upon in that hospital, so urgent and acute, has eroded into something dull. The experience has lost its power. He recognizes the fierce determination that had seized him for what it really was, an illusion, a mirage.

Related Characters: Dr. Amra Ademovic (speaker), Dr. Idris Bashiri (speaker), Roshana (speaker)
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

Idris had befriended a child named Roshi during his time in Afghanistan. After promising to take care of the child, Idris has returned to the United States, and is in the process of forgetting about Roshi altogether amidst all his other responsibilities. Hosseini describes the ways that Idris tries to justify his own apathy: Idris tells himself that he's "earned" the right to be selfish by working hard at medical school for many years (even though the link between studying and being compassionate is by no means obvious).

In this passage Hosseini shows another example of the way memory and forgetfulness affect people's lives. Idris had felt genuine compassion for Roshi at first, but as her memory fades, so too does his resolve, and in the end he turns out to have acted callously and selfishly.

Chapter 6 Quotes

Well, children are never everything you’d hoped for.

Related Characters: Mrs. Nila Wahdati (speaker), Pari Wahdati
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Nila Wahdati--who becomes a great poet after leaving her husband, Mr. Wahdati--conducts an interview with a poetry magazine. In the interview, Nila talks about her career and her family, arriving at the depressing conclusion that children are always something of a disappointment.

As we know, Nila had adopted Pari years ago, hoping that having a child would bring her happiness and contentment. As the quotation makes very clear, being a mother hasn't brought Nila the happiness she'd assumed it would--it seems to have made her disappointed and melancholy (and surely quotes like this make Pari herself feel like she's not very loved or valuable). The passage conveys the unpredictability of life, and the unintended consequences of a seemingly simple action. Nila thought that adopting Pari would make both of them happier--and it doesn't, yet the adoption has hundreds of other unforeseen consequences (some of which we've seen, and will continue to see, in the book).

Chapter 7 Quotes

“My father is not a thief!” Adel shot back. “Ask anyone in Shadbagh-e-Nau, ask them what he’s done for this town.” He thought of how Baba jan received people at the town mosque, reclined on the floor, teacup before him, prayer beads in hand. A solemn line of people, stretching from his cushion to the front entrance, men with muddy hands, toothless old women, young widows with children, every one of them in need, each waiting for his or her turn to ask for a favor, a job, a small loan to repair a roof or an irrigation ditch or buy milk formula.

Related Characters: Adel (speaker), Baba Jan / The Commander / Commander Sahib , Gholam
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, we meet Adel, a young, idealistic boy who hero-worships his father, "The Commander." Although it's never explicitly stated, we get the sense that Adel's father isn't such a good man--in fact, he's probably a member of the Taliban, a fundamentalist, terrorist group that hurts and oppresses innocent people. The reason that Adel thinks of his father as a "good man" is that The Commander makes a point of granting special favors to the people of his community--he uses his wealth and prestige to make his neighbors loyal to him. As far as Adel is concerned, The Commander's actions are good and generous--but we can tell that they're just the opposite: selfish and calculating.

The passage brings up an interesting point: is generosity "good" if it's designed to make an evil person more influential in his community? The Commander may be an evil person, but he's still using his money to give jobs and repair roofs, after all. Perhaps there's no simple way of answering the question: as the div said in Chapter One, there's no real difference between cruelty and benevolence.

Chapter 8 Quotes

“You’ve made me proud, Markos.”
I am fifty-five years old. I have waited all my life to hear those words. Is it too late now for this? For us? Have we squandered too much for too long, Mamá and I? Part of me thinks it is better to go on as we have, to act as though we don’t know how ill suited we have been for each other. Less painful that way. Perhaps better than this belated offering. This fragile, trembling little glimpse of how it could have been between us. All it will beget is regret, I tell myself, and what good is regret? It brings back nothing. What we have lost is irretrievable.

Related Characters: Dr. Markos Varvaris (“Mr. Markos”) (speaker), Odelia Varvaris (speaker)
Page Number: 358-359
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Markos--the doctor we first met in Nabi's letter--talks to his aged mother, Odelia Varvaris. Markos has always had a strange relationship with Odelia--while he knows that Odelia is a good mother, he's always felt that Odelia is too disapproving and cold with him, as if she doesn't really love him. Now, after decades of coldness between the two of them, Markos learns the truth: Odelia has always loved Markos, and is enormously proud of his achievement as a doctor and a human being.

It's important to notice the fine line between joy and sorrow in this passage. Markos is of course pleased to hear the words he's always craved from his mother. And yet his mother's words also sadden him, because they remind him of the years of happiness he could have had with his mother, and now can't get back.

In short, Hosseini uses Chapter 8 to question the notion of a happy reunion. On paper, Markos and Odelia's reunion is perfectly happy: they say all the right things to one another. And yet no amount of kind words can make up for the intervening years. A tearful reunion isn't always enough for a happy ending, because of the constant power of memory and the past.

Chapter 9 Quotes

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.