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The personal terror and horror of the Taliban is shown very clearly in chapter 22 when Amir goes to the house where he hopes to get Sohrab back. Amir is immediately patted down and surrounded by armed men who pull of his beard and mock him. He sees the Talib who just came from the public execution and notices the still fresh blood on that man's clothes. Amir is told guesome stories about how the Taliban took control of the land and all of this carried a tone of underlying menace. Then Assef walks in and all of the childhood fears and recriminations come flooding back. Assef launches a brutal physical attack on Amir -- he is lucky to be alive, and is only alive because Sohrab uses his sling-shot and shoots Assef in the eye, causing him to retreat from the assault and allowing Amir and Sohrab to escape.
The details of the chapter and the atmosphere Hosseini creates have readers on the edge of their seat here because this is the scene that the novel has been building to and we care about the characters and the outcome of the events.
For me, one central event that is key to bringing to life the horror of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime is in Chapter 21, when Amir goes to the stadium to meet the man who took Sohrab to get him back. The Taliban is famed for its executions that took place in football stadiums to ensure maximum audience numbers, and this description really seeks to bring alive the terror and the horror of these public executions that are carried out as a form of entertainment. Note the following description:
The man in the hole was now a mangled mess of blood and shredded rags. His head slumped forward, chin on chest. The Talib in the John Lennon sunglasses was looking down at another man squatting next to the hole, tossing a rock up and down in his hand. The squatting man had one end of a stethoscope to his ears and the other pressed on the chest of the man in the hole. He removed the stethoscope from his ears and shook his head no at the Talib in the sunglasses. The crowd moaned.
The description of this slaughter of a man in such a public way shows the true brutality of the Taliban regime and indicates how Afghan society has changed so drastically for the worse. You might want to re-read this Chapter and pay attention to how Amir compares what he sees now in the stadium with how things used to be and consider how the horror is evoked in the almost festival-like atmosphere that is created. It is this description, above others, that brings the realities of life under the Taliban to life.
The senseless killing of Hassan and his wife was one vivid portrayal of the brutality and profiling the Taliban embodies. The fall from privileged status of Amir's family and friends is another. The destruction of all his childhood locales was a stark reminder of the destruction of innocence in warfare. Of course, using Aseef as the role model for a Taliban soldier was a bit contrived, I thought. Assef's drug use and child molestation does not fit with Muslim beliefs. However, the groups of Taliban in pickup trucks enforcing their brand of "justice" was much more believable. Public stonings for crimes of adultery also seems to fit in with their beliefs. The overall abject poverty and destruction with vigilantism drove the point home.
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