Memories are our link to the past. They give us context, allow us to grow and learn from mistakes, and let us recall past experiences. They give rise to culture and allow society to advance. In contrast, memory also stores our pain, our embarrassment, and our heartache. As humans, our standard response to this recollection of pain is to forget it in some capacity. The characters of Khaled Hosseini’s novel And the Mountains Echoed are no different. fleeting, the novel places certain characters in impossible situations that leave them broken and haunted by the choices they were forced to make.
Some are trapped by their pasts and lack the closure to begin to move on with their lives. Without closure, they turn to alternate methods to alleviate their suffering. In Khaled Hosseini’s novel And the Mountains Echoed, the motif of forgetting painful and traumatic events serves as a method of healing that eventually helps the characters begin to rebuild their shattered lives. Hosseini introduces memory as a theme early o in the novel with the story of the Div. The Div, a child stealing “monster”, completely upends Baba Ayub’s life.
Baba Ayub, forced to make an impossible decision, and live with the consequences, is erpetually haunted by the memory of his action. He is left in a state of despair and shame, unable to reconcile with a decision that, while unfathomable, ultimately saved the rest of his family. Baba Ayub has suffered beyond belief, and as a “reward for passing the Div’s second test”, he was given a “potion that erased memories”. It’s the Div’s final “act of mercy” (Hosseini 14). The potion the Div gives Baba Ayub is not a typical reward.
It takes memories, erases essential parts of the events that let the receiver to where they are today. However, it’s perfect for Baba Ayub. While memories, such has how to hunt or farm, are what llow him to survive as long as he has, they turn on him and trap him in a mental prison. He is left in a perpetual state of grief and rage, fighting an internal war attempting to reconcile with his actions, and is unable to move past this agony and begin to heal. The Div releases him from this prison. By altering his perception of the past, erasing this grief, he gives Baba Ayub a greater gift than he gave Qais.
He gives him peace. The div represents the suppression of Baba Ayub’s memories by his subconscious. Without the pain weighing constantly on him, Baba Ayub is able to heal, to move on, and eventually, to thrive. The Div continues to appear as a symbol of memory and forgetting throughout the novel. Dealing with the loss of his sister and the new life he is left to live, Abdullah “[longs] for a swig of the magic potion the Div had given Baba Ayub so he too [can] forget” (Hosseini 51). Abdullah is constantly reminded of Pari and her absence in his life throughout his day. They shared everything.
Now there is little in Shadbagh that doesn’t bring some aspect of her, her smile, her hair, the fleeing sound of her laugh, rushing back to him. The rising wave of emotions crushes him and isolates him. He lost his sister and best friend and, as a hild, there is nothing he can do to bring her back. Instead, he longs for the only other thing that has a possibility of relieving his burden, to forget Pari. It is a terrible choice to forget a sibling, but Abdullah, even at such a young age, realizes that it is the only way he will be able to gain some modicum of closure and heal these psychological wounds.
Unfortunately for Abdullah, this isn’t a fairy tale. There are no divs or magic potions and the fleeing memory of his sister will haunt him for the rest of his life, he can never completely forget her. characters struggling with their pasts can truly forget them, they re constantly reminded of painful moments and at times resort to conscious action to suppress their subconscious. After returning to Shadbagh, Saboor does his best to justify his actions to himself, and, when that fails, he resolves to forget Like Abdullah, none of the that these events ever took place.
However, he is periodically and painfully reminded of his choices when Nabi attempts to continue his monthly visits. There is a rift between old friends that seems irreparable and when the visit comes to a close, Saboor makes it clear that it will be Nabi’s last. On the way home, Nabi begins to understand Saboor’s reasons for reacting he way he did, realizing that “[he], in the end, was the instrument of [Saboor]’s family’s rupture. Saboor did not want to set eyes on [Nabi] again” (Hosseini 111). Saboor has done his best to live with his actions.
He cannot make peace with the fact that he sold his own daughter, regardless whether or not it was for the survival of the rest of the family. When faced with a painful reminder of his actions, the presence of the architect of his turmoil, Saboor attempts to isolate himself from Nabi. His subconscious was not strong enough to completely erase every trace of his sale. Instead, Saboor has to actively and consciously epress any sign of what he, and the rest of his family, has lost. Thousands of miles away, Pari makes an almost identical decision to repress memories of the past for an almost antithetical reason.
Living with Eric and Isabelle away from the strife and turmoil of her childhood, Pari no longer feels a burning desire to return to her roots for answers. The “old feeling she always had-that there is an absence in her life of something or someone vital-has dulled” (Hosseini 232). All her life, Pari has felt like an outsider, between two cultures and belonging to none. She wants nothing more than to fill the holes hat have begun to form in her perception of her childhood. However, in the moments before she sets out to put an end to the mystery once and for all, she changes her mind.
Her desire for stability outweighs her desire for answers and she is content to accept her life with Eric and Isabelle as the only reality worth acknowledging. Despite the fact that Pari forgets about her search for answers as a result of comfortable happiness instead of crushing torment, she is still ruled in part by the same basic emotion, fear. Life is good for Pari. She has a committed husband, a new baby, and a stable life. In a life that is constantly changing for her, she is scared to possibly up end the perpetual peace she has found.
There is no telling what lies in Afghanistan, and instead of jumping into the black unknown of her past in the search for closure, Pari decides to live in the present. Events like these are impossible to shake, they make up our identity as people, and Pari never is truly free of the nagging desire for answers. In Khaled Hosseini’s novel And the Mountains Echoed, the motif of forgetting painful and traumatic events serves as a method of healing that eventually helps the characters begin to ebuild their shattered lives.
They deal with impossible pain on a daily basis and are unable to come to terms with their actions. Instead, they cope with a very understandable human reaction to unbearable pain. This reaction is a part of what makes us human and has been around for as long as we have. Memories are what keep us alive, without them we would there would be no past, only a perpetual present with every bite the first experience with food and every step a new exploration of an unknown world. However, when memories begin to constrict and confine our actions, there is only one possible action, to forget.