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Homebody/Kabul Summary

The play alternates between two settings, London and Kabul. Homebody, the title character, is a middle-class, middle-aged British woman. In many respects, she is a kind of “Everywoman” character with whom the audience is encouraged to identify, but she also will potentially alienate the viewer, as she embodies many negative features of colonizers. The play opens with a lengthy monologue in which Homebody explains her orientalist fascination with Afghanistan, including a sudden ability (real or imagined) to speak Pashtun.

Much of the rest of the play is set in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, where Homebody’s husband, Milton, and their daughter, Priscilla, are visiting. Rather than being an armchair enthusiast back in England, it is revealed, Homebody has actually traveled to Afghanistan and now is missing; her family tries desperately to locate her. Conflicting versions are presented to them by various characters: that she was killed by the Taliban (but her body has not been found), or that she has voluntarily disappeared and married a Muslim doctor. Through a local guide, Khwaja, they meet the doctor’s wife, Mahala, a former librarian who cannot work under Taliban rule but also blames her country’s problems on foreign intervention.

Milton, a rather unwilling participant in the search (as he and his wife had been virtually estranged), befriends Quango, a man in the hotel, and gets involved with him in using opium and heroin. As Khwaja helps Priscilla look for Homebody, they travel to the alleged grave of Cain, which her mother had expressed interest in. The futility of the search overtaking her, Priscilla decides to return to England, leaving her mother’s situation unresolved. Further complications ensue, however, before she can leave, as she is accused of smuggling, and it turns out Khwaja is implicated. It is later reported that he was killed.

Mahala, however, has somehow gotten documents authorizing her to leave the country, and she moves to England to live with Milton. Priscilla, back in London as well, not only remains unsatisfied about her mother’s fate but also must accept that Mahala has taken Homebody's place in her parents’ home.

Summary

(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 determined to discover her mother’s fate, so she hires an Afghan guide (Khwaje), who believes that Homebody is alive and is remarried to a Muslim doctor; consequently, Khwaje insists that Priscilla and Milton must take in exchange the doctor’s Muslim wife. Mahala rages in several languages at the United States for meddling in Afghan politics, thereby strengthening the Taliban....

(The entire section is 1,969 words.)