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Irony and Symbolism in the Lion of Kabul

The narrative essay “The Lion of Kabul“, by Christine Aziz, discusses the author’s experience regarding a sightseeing tour of Kabul. The author’s experience begins with Aziz describing her lackluster feelings towards the taxi driver’s scenic route. The author witnesses what has become of Kabul following the city’s self-destruction. Despite the less than impressive surroundings, Amir Shah (the taxi driver) seems unaffected by his home’s tragedy. She can’t fully understand his enthusiasm toward such a desolate place. As her journey continues, she comes to understand Shah’s perspective. The essayist describes her visit using many examples of irony and symbolism.

Irony is the use of words to express something other than and the opposite of the literal meaning. Aziz uses this technique throughout her story. Aziz describes how Shah takes her to a zoo, which turns out to be “bars of twisted metal and the walls nothing more than rubble” (81). This is an example of irony because when people think of a zoo, they think of impressive layouts and cages not the author’s description. Aziz also tells of when Shah takes her to where he used to live. The house that Aziz describes is “a wall standing amid a pile of rubble” (8). In fact, Shah warns her “not to step off the road because land mines litter the residential areas” (8). When people think of a residential area, houses are walls, a roof, and a door. Land mines are also not included in their thoughts.

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Symbolism is the art of using objects to represent another object, or to represent a meaning. The majority of the story’s symbolism lies with the lion. The essayist speaks of a

once-powerful lion, that has been reduced to a sightless, heavily scarred shadow of his former self. The lion became this way following a confrontation with the mujahideen (a guerrilla faction). Despite the efforts of the best hospital in Kabul, Shah explains, “ ‘he was too badly injured. They did the best they could.‘ “ (Aziz 8). It seems that the people of Kabul fought so hard to keep lion alive because “this proud animal had become a symbol for the city itself and the grisly drama a metaphor for the senseless battles that have been played out in the city‘s streets“ (Aziz 8). Both were once proud and impressive, but now are left barely surviving. Another example of symbolism is found when the author discovers Shah’s garden and “in the fading light we notice

[. . . ] sweet-smelling blossoms” (Aziz 8). The reader is given a sense that the city will overcome and that the future seems bright.

In conclusion, the author uses the techniques of irony and symbolism to produce an essay that has a profound impact on the reader. The combination of these literary devices aids the reader in creating a mental picture of the situation. Without such devices the story could not draw, the readers in, or make them care about the subject. Readers of this essay can sympathize with the people of Kabul and realize their hopes and concerns. Aziz techniques help the reader learn to understand Amir Shah’s perspective as the author did

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