What are the themes of class division and tradition verses modernity in the novel Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie?

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The themes of class division and tradition versus modernity in Salt and Saffron by Kamila Shamsie highlight the tensions that have afflicted life in Pakistan since its founding.

These themes are especially important in relation to Shamsie's depiction of Pakistani women. Shamsie presents Pakistani society as being patriarchal, with women placed in a subordinate position to men. Yet at the same time, she also presents us with strong, socially rebellious female characters with a streak of independence.

The female narrator of the story, Aliya, is one such character. She uses her Western education—being a graduate of an American college—to investigate and, by extension, demystify her family's past in order to arrive at the truth concerning her own identity.

In embarking upon such a complex project, Aliya must somehow reconcile the two diametrically opposite aspects of her selfhood: her traditional Pakistani family background and her status as a young woman with a Western education. Yet this is easier said than done and the struggle to achieve this reconciliation forms much of the action in the book.

In one particularly noteworthy scene, Aliya discovers, much to her horror, that she cannot break free from her royal clan's social snobbery. When she meets a handsome young man called Khaleel on the plane, her initial attraction to him is blunted when she finds out that he is from a different class background.

Aliya may have analyzed and deconstructed her family background thoroughly, and yet she cannot escape the grip of their enduring social prejudice. This makes it difficult not just to understand her family better but also to construct a stable self that synthesizes the two radically different cultures with which she is familiar.

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