House of Sand and Fog is a tragic novel revealing a story of Massoud Behrani, a former military officer, who exiled from Iranian Revolution. His only purpose is to restore his family and ensure his children’s future. The novel also focuses on the complicated fate of drug-addicted Kathy whose house was taken away due to the unpaid taxes. In order to render the unbearable suspense and fragility of human fates of the protagonists, the author depicts their struggling confined to constantly escalating crisis.
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At the end of the story, the Behrani’s son tragically dies and the colonel, overwhelmed with pain and frustrated with his fate, decides to kill his wife and himself. By means of powerful narration, the author attempts to render the hero’s pain and inability to adjust to the world beyond war.
The tragic end of the protagonists’ endeavors to restore his family’s welfare is predetermined because obsession with material values becomes a challenge. The lost of perspectives, therefore, results in horrible consequences for all the characters in the novel.
The death of a family is closely associated with the overall distortion of the societal values, as well as loss of the veritable objectives in life. Massoud Behrahi considers that buying a house can be the only solution for his family to revive their values, beliefs and hopes. Though house itself represents a typical middle-class dwelling, it plays an epic role for the disputants fighting for its possession.
The antagonistic confrontation of a former Iranian military leader and young woman abandoned by her husband acquires greater meaning. For a colonel, it is a great opportunity for developing his business and achieving the American Dream. For drug-addicted woman, the house symbolizes her connection to her deceased farther, as well as belonging to American home.
Due to the inevitability of achieving these purposes, Behrani fails to cope with his problem by encountering his son’s death. For the hero, the grief of loss is overwhelming because all he lived for becomes senseless, including the house he bought.
Probably the Ismail’s death is most unexpected scene in the novel, being the turning point for all the characters. The author, therefore, employs powerful narrative techniques to render the emotional and psychological state of the colonel. In particular, constant questioning and continuous searching for people to be blamed point to the hero’s main deliberations.
In particular, many questions start with the same word “how”, signifying the Berhani’s inability to understand what could be done to avert the situation. Constant questioning leads the hero to nowhere and, as a result, he sees no other way but revenge. His decision to kill Kathy, suffocate his wife, and commit suicide demonstrates the total frustration with his life. The colonel’s obsession with the house as the only way to achieving his American dream prevents him from understanding greater values in life.
Similar to Behrani, Kathy is also tied to the house as the only value in her life. Losing her husband, she loses herself and becomes addicted to drugs. However, as soon as she realizes that the dwelling is the only connection with her family, the heroine starts fighting for the material, which distorts her meaning of what spiritual values actually mean to her.
In the end of the novel, little was mentioned about Kathy’s intentions. The author introduces the first-person narration on the part of Massoud Behrani and resorts to detailed description of his feelings, actions, and experiences.
Specific attention requires the house after his son’s death. The author compares the dwelling with the desert because all rooms are empty and there is no sense to fight for this house. Use of short descriptive sentences makes the plot filled with dreadful spirit of inevitability. The Colonel confronts the empty house, but his fierce pride does not allow him to reconcile with his self-destructive, erratic behavior. The protagonist, therefore, is keen on restoring his dream at any expense.
In order to emphasize the theme of constant confrontation between immigrants and white population, Dubus resorts to the spelling of foreign words borrowed from the Persian language to emphasize the fact that Behrani is a non-native English speaker. Readers, therefore, can encounter the hero’s use of foreign diction, which points to the author’s appreciation of the foreign identity.
Although the former colonel is willing to adjust to a new cultural and social environment, his commitment to his traditions is evident because of his distorted vision of loyalty and dedication as priorities for achieving personal success. At the end of the novel, the hero becomes aware of the fact that American society is corrupted and morally impaired and, as a result, it is impossible for him to follow the codes of morale and ethics in the world where these values are ignored.
The dramatization of Behrani’s fall turns the novel into an allegory of the privileged American white male professionals whose careers are destroyed by the events beyond their control. The colonel’s confrontation, reiterated throughout the novel, becomes senseless because of his limited vision on welfare and success.
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His focus on material values, as well as total delineation from his family, does not allow him to understand the American dream is just an illusion. In fact, he novel shows that there is no underpinning that any efforts are rewarding, should be an immigrant or a middle-class American. Despite the fact that the narration is a dystopian representation of immigrants’ future in the United States, the narration could have ended in a different end if mutual self-interest and agreement had been achieved.
The story, therefore, is a matter of equality and human rights, as well as failure of the main heroes to find a compromise. Intercultural discourse leads to tragic conclusion due to the failure of the protagonist to overcome desperate circumstances. Being focused on limited goals – the dwelling – both Behrani and Kathy cannot recognize their own problems, which are not confined to material assets.
In conclusion, the examination of author’s narrative style, as well as portrayal of the protagonists’ veritable values, makes it logical to predict the ending. The death of colonel’s son becomes the turning point in the story because it helps the readers to predict the heroes’ further actions.
Strong commitment to his family does not allow Behrani to cope with the pain of loss makes his fall evident. The author portrays the characters as full obsessed with the house as the main material attribute of American middle class families who only purpose in life is to become closer to the American dream. The struggling for the house possession turns into the confrontation of values, cultures and traditions because of the main heroes’ inability to understand the moral worth of life.