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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Character Analysis

Greg Mortenson

Compassion, empathy, and impulsiveness define the character of Greg Mortenson, the book’s protagonist. When the reader initially meets Mortenson, for instance, he works as a nurse and cares lovingly for his sister. At the same time, he has few commitments and spends much of his time and money pursuing adventure. Mortenson’s compassion and easy-going, unstructured lifestyle actually work together in pushing him into humanitarian work. Notably, Mortenson never sets out to become a humanitarian. He begins his humanitarian career almost accidentally, when a climbing trip goes wrong and he ends up in the care of the village of Korphe. Seeing children trying to learn by writing in the dirt, Mortenson promises the villagers that he will return and build them a school. From there, his compassion leads him to expand his school-building project to nearby areas that also need better education. Mortenson’s empathy then helps him to learn the cultures and behaviors of rural Pakistan, allowing him to work easily with the local residents and village leaders in constructing and staffing his schools. His way of living lets him adapt comfortably to the harsh conditions of the Pakistani mountains and lets him commit to projects in distant Pakistan when his family resides in the U.S., and when he does not always know where his next paycheck will come from.
Haji Ali
As the leader of Korphe, Haji serves as one of Mortenson’s most important guides in the region. He teaches Mortenson both through his advice and by explaining to Mortenson the Balti culture. For instance, Haji teaches Mortenson about the customs of Northeastern Afghanistan, helping Mortenson to understand how he should communicate with people in the area to earn their support. Perhaps more importantly, Haji teaches Mortenson to build relationships in the Balti fashion, rather than barging ahead as Westerners tend to do. Haji repeatedly emphasizes sacrifice and patience, as when he tells Mortenson that they can wait to build the Korphe school until after the bridge is built. These teachings become crucial to Mortenson as the book progresses. They make him more effective at dealing with locals in the region, making Mortenson a more effective director of the CAI and resulting in more schools being built. Haji’s legacy continues even after he dies, in the enlightened attitudes of his son, Twaha, who vows to honor his father’s teachings, and in his grand-daughter, Jahan, who becomes a prime example of the CAI’s success in providing education for girls.

Jean Hoerni

Jean Hoerni appears very little in the book, but his support of Mortenson’s project provides the initial boost that allows Mortenson to succeed. In addition, his cantankerous attitude provides an important contrast to Mortenson’s affability. Hoerni’s warning to Mortenson not to “screw up” the Korphe school begins a process in which Mortenson learns to take himself and his mission more seriously. The project, Mortenson realizes, should not be treated as just another adventure. As their relationship develops, Hoerni’s faith in Mortenson becomes both a support and a motivation. Like Mortenson, Hoerni is an eccentric who lives on his own terms, but he is also a humanitarian who takes pride in the accomplishments made possible by his money. One of the most touching parts of the book takes place when Mortenson nurses the dying Hoerni, and Hoerni expresses his feelings of fatherly love for the younger man. Even after his death, Hoerni has a great influence on Mortenson and his work, not only through his endowment to the CAI, but also through the work done by his wife, Jennifer Wilson, and her sister, Julie Bergman.

Tara Bishop

Although Tara Bishop does not appear extensively in the book, she acts as a crucial helpmate and anchor for Mortenson. In fact, Tara, who was brought up among explorers, seems almost uniquely suited to be Mortenson’s wife. Most importantly, she accepts Mortenson’s impetuous personality and erratic work schedule and maintains a home life that enables Mortenson to have some balance between work and family. Although she worries about Mortenson’s safety and lives in what she calls “functional denial” while he is away, she nonetheless never wavers in her support for his work.

Discussion of possible Symbols present


In Balti culture, having tea with someone symbolizes trust and respect, and the act of sharing tea is how the Balti people become familiar with strangers. The brief breaks the Balti regularly take for tea also function as a venue for the Balti to set aside all other concerns and focus on their relationships with each other. Haji Ali makes the meaning of having tea clear when he tells Mortenson, “The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family.” 
Mountains and Stones
The Baltistan region of Pakistan, and most of the other areas that Mortenson works in, are mountainous and rocky. For Mortenson and the American climbing community, the huge mountains of the Karakoram represent adventures to be had and challenges to be overcome. But after spending time among the people who actually live in the region, Mortenson realizes that they view the mountains entirely differently. They have no need or desire to scale the mountains, and the rocky environment creates many difficulties, such as making farming difficult and keeping food scarce. Even so, the Balti have found a way to live in that difficult environment, and consequently the rocky terrain holds a different symbolic meaning for them, serving as a symbol of their endless strength and endurance.
Throughout the book, the serving of food acts as a token of hospitality, and accepting food accordingly represents gratitude for that hospitality. Mortenson, for instance, struggles to show his appreciation for the Korphe villagers’ kindness by drinking the popular rancid butter tea and eating ibex jerky. Though he does not like the food, Mortenson recognizes that eating it is a symbolic act demonstrating his appreciation. For the Balti people in particular, offering food is their greatest symbol of hospitality, as when Sakina serves Mortenson sugared tea, showing the villagers’ concern for Mortenson by sharing a precious commodity. The chiefs of other villages attempt to gain favor with Mortenson by serving him large feasts. 

Debate about possible themes

Listed Below are some common themes noticed among readers:
Turning Hardships into Oppurtunities
After getting lost, Mortenson ends up in the right place after all that he had been through. Nothing had been the same from when he had started the journey and now his life is changed forever in every best way possible. However, he is disappointed, that he will not reach the summit of K2. which was his original goal, but that failure leads him     to the new village of Korphe, where he realizes that building a school would be a better deed for his sister than placing her necklace at the peak of the mountain and where his mission as a humanitarian proceeds. 

Empowerment Through Education
Mortenson, from the very beginning of the story, recognizes that education is the key to his personal growth and the positive growth around the world to be more general. People like Jahan, Tahira, and Shakeela had played limited roles in their communities without education ultimately become community changers in their schools. They improve medical care, teach other girls, and change attitudes towards women as they make an effort to make other people realize that they deserve respect. Boys tend to be less educated since they leave home to find work and get a better living.For girls, they will have a higher education since they stay relatively close to home and learn education more freely. So the reader understands that education for girls is unitque and a cost-effective tool for improving the economic conditions for everyone living in similar places. The author hints on violentess and how it can be combated with educated women and an educated population as a whole.
Overcoming Cultural Differences
Mortenson grows to understand more religions and their lifestyle. Mortenson has no problem recognizing all people of different cultures to be equal. When he first comes to Korphe, he wants to participate in the lives of the villagers. As he returns again and again, he strives to become part of the community. He learns about Islamic prayer not only to fit in better but also to gain an understanding of the people and their spiritual lives. Although he often becomes impatient and tries at first to force events that he feels aren’t happening quickly enough, Haji Ali teaches him that he must respect the ways of the Balti people if he wants their cooperation. As Mortenson becomes more afflicted in humanitarian projects, he continues to build bridges between cultures. After 9/11 attacks on the world trade center, he urges Americans to combat terrorism through understanding and unity rather than violence.