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The Swallows of Kabul


This charcoal drawing of a Muslim woman in a burka reaching out to her husband’s hand is a representation of the prominent themes in The Swallows of Kabul. In the novel, I found this particular scene to be the most awe-inspiring of the entire story, in that it showed a contemporary relationship between a man and a woman that included a strong female character. The woman in this picture represents two women. Firstly, it represents Zunaira when she ventures out of the house onto the streets. The Taliban has restricted women from leaving the house in anything less than a burka, while the men need not abide by any restrictions of dress. One of my favorite lines in the story is Zunaira’s opinion that the burka “cancels [ones] face and takes away [ones] identity, and turns [one] into an object”. Initially, Zunaira decides that she will walk out in public in anything that she likes, but upon reconsideration, begrudgingly decides that she will put on the burka. She is reaching out to her husband’s hand, which is held out behind him with his back to her. This positioning represents Mohsen’s tendency to look toward the future and at things besides Zunaira. He is dressed in Western attire to show that the men are not forced to wear as confining of clothing as the women. Although he did not wear that in the story, I felt that in being with Zunaira when she was in a burka, Mohsen effectively left her behind in the East as he walked toward the West. Additionally, the charcoal drawing represents Mohsen as he turns his back on the woman he killed in the beginning of the novel. He threw the fatal stone and has felt guilty ever since, but with this image, he leaves he as she reaches out to him, in Western attire he turns his back on a fatal deed he committed.

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