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Hosseini and Achebe, authors of The Kite Runner and Things Fall Apart above all else, heavily focus their novel on “a bleak portrait of a changing world”. Both authors present the changing world through key events that are happening in the world during the time the novels were set. The Kite Runner’s major events include the rise of the Taliban and the Soviet invasion which were both key factors for the protagonists changing world. During Things Fall Apart, the invasion of the Colonists was the starting point for the changing world, this led to the loss of power for the protagonist of the novel which presents a major changing world.
Within both novels, the authors are different in their ways of presenting the bleak changing world. Hosseini seems to present it through trauma and real events that were occurring at the time like the coup of the king and the invasion of the Soviets. He signifies how these events change the lives of everyone living in Afghanistan at the time.
Whereas Achebe presents his trauma more so through things that you could expect to happen at that time, not exactly real-life events. The invasion of the colonists and the loss of power are things that you would expect to happen at the time this novel was written.
The first major contextual event that occurs in the novel is the military coup of the king by Mohammad Daoud Khan. During July of 1973, this major political event took place in Afghanistan which Hosseini mentions in the book during chapter 5.
The persona, Amir, states how his way of life was about to change drastically and “if not yet, then at least it was the beginning of the end.” The use of this apocalyptic language truly signifies that the lives of the characters in the novel were completely going to change for the worse hence the word “end.” This could be foreshadowing that following the military coup of the king, a character’s life in the novel is going to come to an end we get this idea because, during the coup of the king and his family being killed which foreshadows a later death, this point becomes evident further on in the novel. The use Hosseini’s abrupt language truly emphasises the significance of the events, the word itself holds so much tension which I believe is used to put the reader on edge. The use of the phrase “if not yet” could be a way of Hosseini preparing the reader for even more brutal events. It could also make readers argue that the coup of the king was not completely the reasoning behind the “bleak changing world”. when Hosseini makes us question this, Amir goes on to state how the “official end” was on April 1978 which was, in fact, the communist coup, which then led onto to, December 1979. Russian military tanks would “roll into the very same streets where Hassan” and Amir played “bringing the death of Afghanistan.” The authors use of deathly imagery emphasises the morbid and dark mood that the characters were facing at the time. This statement also links to an article produced by Theodore L. Eliot, Jr who explained that the “war continued, bringing further death and devastation in large areas of the country” which was all due to the hopes of a non-communist government not being realised.
Following my earlier points, both events seem to foreshadow the death of Hassan and arguably Ali too. From Rahim Khan, Amir learns that Ali was murdered by a land mine and that Hassan and his wife were also killed after Hassan refused to allow the Taliban to confiscate Baba and Amir’s house in Kabul. Even though Hassan had many other people to back up his story that the Taliban refused to believe him, after Amir heard the story of Hassan’s death, it is clear by the amount of pausing in his speech that he is affected deeply. “Shot her too. Self-defense, they claimed later ” after this he did not manage to finish his sentence, this is clear that the worst traumas are the unspeakable. Many events took place which are embedded in the novel, these are cleverly talked about by the critic, Sunan Ampel Surabaya. He exclaims how “historical events found in the novel and those were also really happened in Afghanistan, such as Hazara’s discrimination, the collapse of the monarchy, the Soviet invasion, the civil war of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s regime and 9/11 Twin Tower tragedy.” This critique is backed by many of my previous points, which stress that the changing world is heavily caused by contextual events that the charters have to face, we also see this theme in another of Hosseini’s books called A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Likewise, in Things Fall Apart the invasion of the locusts was arguably the starting point for the bleak changing world. The locusts were first introduced in chapter 6 where a short sentence states “then the locusts came.” The fact that this sentence is very short, perceives it as being significant, which makes readers believe that this was, in fact, the starting point for the changing world in this novel as the sentence was very climactic. A few pages on in the novel we come to find the people of Umuofia were actually very pleased that the locusts were arriving we see this as they joyfully chanted that locusts were descending. This chant was “everywhere” and “everyone was now praying that the locusts should camp in Umuofia” these quotations are key in showing that the people of Umoufia were more than happy for the arrival of the locusts. The locusts that appear in the village can be symbols of the missionaries that began to spread their religion throughout Africa, likewise to the Russians spreading communism in Afghanistan. The locusts were “settled of every tree and on every blade of grass; they settled on the roofs and covered the bare ground.” This quote from chapter 7 is an example of what Umoufia was like during the invasion of the locusts. The earth was completely covered in locusts making the ground near to impossible to see, the missionaries arguably had the same effect. When the missionaries arrived in Africa they retrieved lots of land from the villagers, they manage to convert some villagers to Christianity which cause a massive problem when trying to work out who was Christian and who was not.
Achebe’s reasoning behind including locusts as such a significant motif in the text was because they were a very large significance in Ibo culture at the time. In the novel they arguably foreshadow certain events to come, like the arrival of the locusts symbolises the later arrival or invasion of the colonists. In the novel Achebe presents the mood as being very positive and cheerful, “Okonkwo sat in his obi crunching happily” this positive atmosphere is then contrasted straight after when Okonkwo finds out that “Umuofia has decided to kill” a boy that calls Okonkwo his father. This quote reinforces the fact that, though the coming of the locusts was a happy time for everyone, although the good things often foreshadow negative times to come, thus being the killing of Ikemfuna. Both authors show their different ways of presenting the bleak changing world through a very similar contextual event, thus being the coup of the Daud later leading to the invasion of the Russian and the invasion of the locusts which are said to symbolise the missionaries. These events are similar in ways as they both involved a loss in power, the coup of the king we see the king evidently losing in power and the invasion of the locusts we arguably see the villagers losing power.
Another crucial factor in the way both authors present the bleak changing world during both texts is the way life changed for the characters. In The Kite Runner life changed drastically for the characters, it was nothing like their life before the coup of the king. A chapter where this appears is chapter ten where there’s a time shift to March 1981. The time shift in the novel is significant in presenting to the reading that another important event is about to occur, this event is the Soviet Invasion. The Soviet invasion was because the Soviets wanted to protect their interests in Afghanistan from Iran and Western Nations. Events like this changed the lives of the people of Afghanistan. We see this in the novel when Baba and Amir were forced to flee their own home, which was a very traumatic event for these characters. The persona explains the events and goes onto say how every time the truck jolted or shuddered a women that was in the truck with him would burst into prayer screeching “Bismillah!” the fact that the woman feels the need to pray for the protection of their lives truly signifies the danger that they are in due to the Soviet invasion. Which also signifies how trauma was one of the causes for the characters changing world. We also see this where it says how her husband was cradling an infant in one arm and “thumbed prayer beads” in the other. This quote signifies that at that time the life of their children was just as important as praying for their safety. The protagonist faces many traumatic events throughout the novel which lead onto their lives changing in many ways, it is these events that cause the characters to think, act and live differently compare to the way they were prior to the traumatic events happening. Many events happen throughout the novel after the Soviet invasion like the instance where people were found to be selling body parts so that they could carry on living, this event was entrenched at the start of chapter 21, Farid states how you could “get good money for it on the black market. Feed your kids for a couple of weeks.” Before the Soviet invasion the people of Afghanistan were able to survive off their wages, their jobs, but following the invasion, people resorted to selling body parts so that they were able to feed their own families.
The fact that a political event led on to people having to sell their limbs for money is truly astonishing. This signifies that not only did the character of the novels lives changed, but everyone in Afghanistan, all of their lives completely changed. Their way of living was nothing at all like their lives before the political and social events that occurred in the 1900s. Another time we see the changing world caused by trauma is when we learn that Afghan children were taught to go against their parents and quite literally turn their backs on them, from a young age. This event is apparent in chapter 10, where Hosseini states how the Rafiqs had “taught children to spy on their parents, what to listen for, whom to call.” This quote signifies repression; no one could trust one another. This completely contradicted the way Afghanistan was before, the lives of Afghans were before – hence the reason for this being another factor for a changing world. Many children were indoctrinated in schools and were given lessons by teachers in which the children were taught what conversations to listen out for in their homes. During most of the instances, these parents were killed shortly after, the child then became an orphan. An example of this Sohrab, we see that orphanages were very poor and lacked many crucial supplies that the children needed to survive off, although in Sohrab’s case his parents were killed purely because they were Hazaras.
In Things Fall Apart we see trauma creating a changing world for Okonkwo, he is forced to kill a young boy with whom he shared a father-son bond. He was forced to do this to prove his status to the tribe. Even though Okonkwo loved Ikemefuna and in most cases, it was apparent that he thought more highly of him than his own son, he also fears being thought to be weak by the other men he was with. One major aspect of Okonkwo’s character in the novel is that he wanted to be a completely different man to his father, who was seen as being weak, in some ways, feminine. We see this during the killing of Ikemefuna at first, he appears to be showing at least some remorse as Achebe states that as the machete rose “Okonkwo looked at away.” This highlights that viewing the death of someone he loves is too much for him. However, this quote is shortly contradicted when the novel states how “Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak.” Throughout the novel Okonkwo is constantly trying to prove his masculinity to the clan even through in most cases it causes him to experience severe emotional strain, where he must live it without one of his loved ones. Even though others have counseled him not to be involved in this killing, Okonkwo’s fear of what others might think of him and what they might say drives him to kill Ikemefuna, which is an action that will haunt him for some time afterward. This again proves the point that by going through a traumatic event, it changes the character’s world completely. Even though he had the opportunity not to participate, Okonkwo will this about this for the rest of his life in remorse.
In The Kite Runner, there is a vital passage in presenting how the changing world is one of the key factors. The passage is entrenched in chapter 25, which is a very distressing chapter. The passage seems to be a type of elegy for the lost existence, this is seen when Amir is reminiscing on his “old life” and Sohrabs too. The definition of the word “old” is “having lived or existed for a specified time” this signifies the death of Amir’s old life. A quote made by Hosseini states, “it may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even in a single day, can change a whole lifetime” this was also links to Hosseini’s book A Thousand Splendid Suns. It can be asserted that this day was in April in 1978 when the communist coup took place. This could also link to the quote where Amir states how there are “lots of children in Afghanistan with little childhood” this presents a changing world as the quote on childhood contrasts with the childhood that Amir and Hassan once had. You can also argue that Sorhab once had this childhood as well, we come to think this when Sorhab states how he wants his “old life back.” These present a clear changing world, they emphasise the idea that life is definitely not how it used to be in the slightest.
From looking at many points and aspects I have come to the conclusion that the characters changing world in both novels are very severe and are mainly caused by historical events and also trauma. Throughout things fall apart the changing world is heavily waited on the contextual events of the time, although you could argue political conflict causes traumatic events in the characters to live which results in the changing the world. However, in Things Fall Apart the changing world is mainly caused by colonisation and the refusal to adapt to new changes. I believe the writers chose to include this theme to raise awareness of the political difficulties going on at the time of them writing the novels. Achebe wanting to express the fact that it was not just “one long night of savagery.
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