(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Homebody/Kabul commences with a long monologue delivered by a middle-aged woman (“Homebody”) who discourses upon her empty marriage and inexorable attraction to exotic and beautiful Afghanistan because she learns from an old travel book about its ancient and modern struggles against Western colonialism. This is ironic since Homebody is British, and Great Britain was a major colonialist power.

Interwoven with this history lesson, Homebody’s detailed ruminations include a story about her purchase of ten Afghan hats to give to friends as party favors. As she pays for the hats, Homebody notices that three fingers on the merchant’s right hand are missing, cut off, he explains, by the Russian colonialists.

The scene shifts to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, with several new characters, including Homebody’s husband (Milton) and daughter (Priscilla), as well as a British government liaison (Quango Twisleton), an Afghan guide and poet (Khwaje Aziz Mondanabosh), and a librarian, wife of an Afghan doctor (Mahala).

Milton (a cold, unfeeling computer expert) and Priscilla (a lonely and lost character) have traveled to Afghanistan to locate Homebody, who has disappeared in Kabul. According to the dictatorial Taliban, Homebody was brutally killed by a mob because she failed to observe the proper traditions of female dress. Since her body has not been found, her family rejects this scenario.

Priscilla is absolutely...

(The entire section is 486 words.)

Homebody/Kabul Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Homebody, an English housewife, is sitting in her living room in London, illuminated by a table lamp, and reading An Historical Guide to Kabul (1965), by Nancy Hatch Dupree. As she reads and interprets passages about Afghanistan’s history, she interweaves the stories of her own family. Homebody is married to Milton Ceiling, a computer scientist, and it is obvious that at one time theirs was a happy marriage. Now, they merely tolerate each other with the help of antidepressants. Their daughter, Priscilla, a rebellious young woman with a past that includes an attempted suicide and teenage pregnancy, shows a dislike toward her mother and her mother’s rich, complicated vocabulary. What Homebody loves the most is to read. Her language betrays a romantic curiosity toward the world, and it is this curiosity that inspires her to explore the history—and, eventually, the land—of Afghanistan.

Homebody’s monologue includes a story of her preparing a party for her husband’s colleagues. Inspired by her reading of the guidebook, she decides to purchase Afghani folk hats for her guests. She takes a train to an unidentified street in London, where she meets an Afghani shopkeeper with a mutilated hand. Curious about the man’s old injury, Homebody’s powerful empathy allows her to embark on a fantastical journey in her mind that takes her to Kabul. There, she suddenly and miraculously can speak perfect Pashtu and can understand her companion, who makes love to her in his homeland. When this fantastical journey is over, Homebody confesses her love for the world. As the scene concludes, Frank Sinatra is heard singing “It’s Nice to Go Trav’ling.”

Priscilla and Milton travel to Kabul in search of Homebody, who has left her native England to satisfy her romantic curiosity about the war-torn and exhausted Afghanistan. They find that she has been brutally murdered and mutilated, and they receive a report on the crime. It is speculated that she was caught wandering among the ruins of Kabul with her guidebook, without a burqa (mandatory attire for women under the rule of the Taliban), and listening to Frank Sinatra on her portable compact disc player. All the details of this behavior—the music, the book, and her clothing—are criminal under Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, as Taliban minister Mullah Aftar Ali Durranni explains to the grief-stricken Ceilings.

The tragic situation takes a mysterious turn when Homebody’s corpse seems to go missing in transit from a women’s hospital. Milton believes that his depressed wife essentially committed suicide...

(The entire section is 1059 words.)

Homebody/Kabul Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Brask, Per, ed. Essays on Kushner’s “Angels.” Winnipeg: Blizzard, 1995.

Fisher, James. The Theater of Tony Kushner: Living Past Hope. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Geis, Deborah R., and Stephen F. Kruger, eds. Approaching the Millennium: Essays on “Angels in America.” Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.

Lahr, John. “After Angels: Tony Kushner’s Promethean Itch.” The New Yorker, January 3, 2005, 42-52.

Vorlicky, Robert, ed. Tony Kushner in Conversation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998.