And the Mountains Echoed

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Power and Wealth Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Interconnectedness Theme Icon
Time, Memory, Forgetting, and Art Theme Icon
Compassion and Selfishness Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Power and Wealth Theme Icon
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.
Power and Wealth Theme Icon

Because And the Mountains Echoed takes place in multiple countries at multiple points in time, its characters differ from one another in nearly every way. Perhaps the most obvious kind of difference between the characters is monetary: some are wealthy, while others struggle just to survive. Even in the earliest pages of the novel, we’re forced to notice the differences between the “have-nots”—such as Saboor, who’s traveling through the desert to do construction work on a mansion—and the “haves”—like Mr. Wahdati, who owns the mansion. It’s worth understanding how power and wealth influence people’s relationships with each other in the novel, and specifically whether they serve to bring people closer together or further isolate them.

From the beginning, Hosseini makes it clear that wealth can be a barrier between different kinds of people. Indeed, as the novel begins, Mr. Wahdati is paying Saboor to build a literal wall between his own family and the rest of the city. Understood in a slightly different sense, wealth is a distraction as well as a barrier. Idris, an Afghan immigrant to the United States, often notes that his children seem uninterested in the rest of the world—they’ve grown so accustomed to their luxurious lifestyle in the United States that they’ve lost all interest in the lives of others. Idris himself is no better. While he expresses an interest in helping Roshana, a young girl who was wounded during war in Afghanistan, the elements of his life in America (a nice house, a home theater, etc.) “drown out” his innate concern for other people.

And yet wealth is also used for good in And the Mountains Echoed. Idris’s cousin, Timur, arranges for Roshana to have an operation, using the money he’s earned as a used car dealer in the United States. There are many other instances of powerful, elite characters using their power to help others, rather than ignore them: Nabi, who donates his house to the foreign doctors who’ve come to Kabul to treat the sick and dying; Dr. Markos, who uses his first-rate medical training to care for people who are too poor to pay, etc. Wealth gives people a way to reach across the world, passing on their gifts to those who need them most.

Power and wealth, much like interconnectedness, are portrayed as “neutral multipliers.” (Indeed, the interconnectedness that we see in And the Mountains Echoed couldn’t exist without money and influence enabling it.) On its own, money is neither a curse nor a blessing. Rather, it’s an invitation for the money-holder to use his or her power with great responsibility—an invitation that’s all the more important, considering that Hosseini is writing during an era that has seen tremendous inequality between the very rich and the very poor.

Power and Wealth ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in And the Mountains Echoed related to the theme of Power and Wealth.
Chapter 4 Quotes

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.


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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.

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 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.