Soraya Taheri is one of Khaled Hosseini’s characters in The Kite Runner, who represents what a true woman and wife should be like. She is an example of Kohlberg’s classification of three levels of moral development in humans. Even though there is not a lot of information in the novel given about Soraya, her personality can be reviewed based on her behavior throughout the story. The reader first meets with Soraya in chapter 11, when she is working at a flea market. Her obedience to her father – General Taheri – can be referred to the Pre-Conventional Morality, stage 1: Obedience and Punishment Orientation. Because this stage involves fixed beliefs of a child that his\her authority is always right, Soraya’s situation can be somewhat modified. She knows that her father has authority over her and therefore obeys him. For example, when she tells her story to Amir, she refers to the escape with her boyfriend: “‘I didn’t tell you,’ Soraya said, dabbing at her eyes, ‘but my father showed up with a gun that night. I was screaming, calling my father all kinds of names, saying he couldn’t keep me locked up forever, that I wished he were dead. … When he brought me home, he took me up to my bedroom and sat me in front of the dresser mirror.
He handed me a pair of scissors and calmly told me to cut off all my hair. He watched while I did it.’” (Hosseini 179) Here, it is evident what impact general Taheri has on Soraya. Because of this incident, she is trapped in his authority more, hence cannot move to the next stage of moral development. She unquestioningly follows the rules her father set for her, and knows that if she disobeys – she will be punished. However, it is very clear that she has strong spirit, since decided to tell Amir about this. Soraya also cannot speak as a member of the society, and this is why this particular stage of her development is referred to as Pre-Conventional Morality, stage 1: Obedience and Punishment Orientation. Next stage that Soraya demonstrates in moral development is called Individualism, Instrumentalism and Exchange.
In this stage a person recognizes that there is not just one right view that is handed down by the authorities. Soraya now is a little bit more independent and sees that the way she acted was wrong. She is still under General’s watch, however is allowed to spend time more freely. This is visible during the encounter with Amir at the flea market: “‘Salaam,’ I [Amir] said. ‘I’m sorry to be mozahem, I didn’t mean to disturb you.’ ‘Salaam.’ ‘Is General Sahib here today?’ I said. My ears were burning. I couldn’t bring myself to look her in the eye. ‘He went that way,’ she said. Pointed to her right. The bracelet slipped down to her elbow, silver against olive. ‘Will you tell him I stopped by to pay my respects?’ I said. ‘I will.’ ‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘Oh, and my name is Amir. In case you need to know. So you can tell him. That I stopped by. To… pay my respects.’ ‘Yes.’ I shifted on my feet, cleared my throat. ‘I’ll go now. Sorry to have disturbed you.’ ‘Nay, you didn’t,’ she said.
‘Oh. Good.’ I tipped my head and gave her a half smile. ‘I’ll go now.’ Hadn’t I already said that? ‘Khoda hafez.’ ‘Khoda hafez.’” (145-146) In this situation, Soraya decides on her own whether to talk with Amir, or not. As Kohlberg suggests, in the second stage Soraya recognizes her own opinion about things, too. Even though it can be assumed that her father told her not to speak with men without his presence, Soraya still decides to talk with Amir, and therefore she speaks as isolated individual. Third stage of Soraya’s development is Conventional morality, stage 3: “Good Boy / Good Girl” – Good Interpersonal Relationships. This level states that a person believes that people should live up to the expectations of family and community, and behave in “good” ways. There is an orientation to approval, to pleasing and helping others. In Soraya’s behaviour this is evadable during the pre-wedding ceremony at Taheri’s house, where she was expected to follow ancient Afghan rules and customs on such events: “Soraya appeared at the end. Dressed in a stunning winecolored traditional Afghan dress with long sleeves and gold trimmings.
She kissed my father’s hands. Sat beside me at last, her eyes downcast.” (168-169) Here, Soraya wears traditional Afghan dress and follows the rules accordingly. She sees this as more than simple deal, since marriage in Afghanistan is an important event. Her “good behaviour” is visible during the time she spends with Amir’s father when he lies in bed, sick: “Soraya dedicated herself to taking care of my father. She made his toast and tea in the morning, and helped him in and out of bed. She gave him his pain pills, washed his clothes, read him the international section of the newspaper every afternoon, She cooked his favourite dish, potato shorwa, though he could scarcely eat more than a few spoonfuls, and took him out every day for a brief walk around the block. And when he became bedridden, she turned him on his side every hour so he wouldn’t get a bedsore.” (172) Soraya takes care of Amir’s father, even though no one asked her to do this.
According to Kohlberg, person at this stage has good motives and interpersonal feelings, such as love, trust, empathy and concern for others, which is exactly what Soraya shows in this passage. Another time when this level is evident is when Soraya tells Amir how she taught an illiterate woman how to read and write: “When I was in fourth grade in Kabul, my father hired a woman named Ziba to help around the house. She had a sister in Iran, in Mashad, and, since Ziba was illiterate, she’d ask me to write her sister letters once in a while. And when the sister replied, I’d read her letter to Ziba. One day, I asked her if she’d like to learn to read and write. She gave me this big smile, crinkling her eyes, and said she’d like that very much. So we’d sit at the kitchen table after I was done with my own schoolwork and I’d teach her Alef-beh.” (151)
This shows that Soraya concerns about people and tries to do her best to help them, since she helped Ziba to become literate and write letters to her sister in Iran. Kohlberg states that the same stage of moral development describes person’s consideration to show conventional morality. This is evident when Amir tells her about Sohrab. Soraya expects him to behave well, and thinks that if she will be good to him, he, in return, will be good to her. This is where Soraya stopped her development. The next stage would be Law and Order – Maintaining the Social Order; however Soraya did not reach this. Throughout the novel, she showed clear evidence of Kohlberg’s classification of three levels of moral development in humans.
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