After you've read "Real Men Keep Their Word," how did you feel at the end of the story? Was it a satisfying ending? Record any unanswered questions you have about the story, or anything you still ﬁnd confusing.
From what you've learned about Persian storytelling, what story elements in "Real Men Keep Their Word" adhere to the characteristics of traditional Persian stories (hero, other characters, plot, etc.)? What elements are different in this short story?
Real Men Keep Their Word by Akram Osman was translated by Dr Arley Loewen. Although, it reveals details of life in Kabul, Afghanistan, that may otherwise escape the understanding of an average reader, it is essentially a love story but one where honor and culture are so strong that the story reaches an unsatisfactory and all too real ending.
Many love stories end with a dramatic reunion and love wins the day but, equally so, many love stories have sad and unfulfilling ends. Although many years have passed, Sher has at last been able to reveal the truth to Tahira and there is an understanding between them although Tahira is angry that Sher's promises have affected her so negatively. She made no such promises and yet must suffer the consequences. The reader may wonder why Sher and Tahira were not able to overcome the strict rules imposed by Tahira's father but it would have been unheard of for them to defy her family.
Traditionally, the story ensures that various elements of life in Afghanistan are exposed. Sher, the kite maker and flyer is a devoted character and loves Tahira dearly, taking whatever steps he can to reach her but he takes his culture very seriously and his promise to his cousin to be "brothers" cannot be negotiated and both he and Tahira must suffer because of tradition. This is very noble and appreciated by any culture but there is no attempt by any other family members to help Sher nor to show their own commitment by releasing Sher from his pledge. Surely, they too should have shown the same devotion to family and, upon seeing the love between Tahira and Sher and their despair, given their blessing.
The fact that the family are prepared to force Tahira, despite attempts to end her life, reveals a one-sided obligation and the reader may think that it is not deserving of Sher's devotion to honor. Being a love story, the reader must accept that culture plays a huge role and, in fact, there are similarities with various cultures where family feuds and age-old traditions have, through time, prevented satisfactory endings to real-life or imagined dramas.