Reading Questions for The Geometry of God
Warning: May contain spoilers
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D
1. A major theme of The Geometry of God is the conflicting conceptions of roles for women in contemporary Pakistani society. Amal strives for independence and equality—to be able to see Omar freely, to be respected as an equal in her work as a scientist—but she is also her sister Mehwish's primary caretaker and as such is painfully aware of Mehwish's vulnerability. How do you see these themes of independence and vulnerability interacting throughout the novel, and in particular in the relationship between the sisters? How do changes in their relationship affect each woman's sense of herself in the world? Do you think Amal ever resents her role as caretaker, and do you sympathize with this resentment? And how does the novel portray the difficult balance of caring for Mehwish as her disability necessitates while still respecting and fostering her independence?
2. Pakistan is a country with two official languages, Urdu and English, and five major regional languages. Throughout the book, the characters manipulate and play with words and their meanings. Can you name some examples?
3. Describe the many ways in which Mehwish plays with language. Did you have any difficulty understanding her? Have you ever experienced language as Mehwish does?
4. How does Mehwish's blindness change the way she "observes" the world? Is the blind character who sees all a literary cliché? Does it work in this novel?
5. Noman writes inflammatory articles for his father's paper, contradicting his own beliefs, and only stopping when he can't ignore the consequences of his and his father's work: the arrest of Zahoor. Were you angry with Noman or sympathetic to his wish to please his parents and fit in with the dominant politics of the time? How are Noman's and Amal's conflicts with their parents similar and different?
6. Why does the author use the child's perspective? In what ways are the perspectives of Amal the child and Mehwish the child similar or different?
7. Discuss the two main romantic relationships of the novel: Amal and Omar, and Mehwish and Noman. How are they different? Does one move you more than the other? Is one more "valid" than the other?
8. Describe Nana's relationship with his friend Junayd. What about his relationship to his granddaughters Amal and Mehwish? What about his relationship to his own son? To Noman? To the reader? When Nana says, "That is the nature of all creation, to unite the real with the imagined. Or, if you prefer, to make the imagined real," (page 9) what does he mean? Do you agree? Do the other characters in the book agree?
9. The book makes many references to philosophical and mystical notions of God. On page 208, for instance, Amal tells Mehwish that there are two ways to know God, through "khayal" (a thought or image) and "zauq" (taste). Describe the place of "thought-images" and "taste" in the book, with regards to faith and science, language and love, and finally, death (and recovery). How do these ideas evolve and overlap as the book progresses?
10. This novel is set in Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s. Did you find it changed your understanding of Pakistan today, and if so, how? Would you say the novel has a strong sense of place? If you've never been to Pakistan, does it make you want to travel there? Do you see parallels between politics and religion in Pakistan and in the United States?
11. Discuss this statement: "In the end, it isn't theological debate or scientific inquiry or artistic devotion that proves you, but a sudden act of courage" (page 347). What does the author mean by this?
12. Pakistan is an Islamic republic. Did the novel dispel any stereotyped ideas you may have had about the country? Did Amal's feminism, as well as her sensuality, surprise you?
13. The last part of the novel departs from a chronological structure, narrating the events at Amal's wedding, and then shifting back into the past to narrate what led up to this climax. What did you think of this non-chronological structure, and why do you think Uzma Aslam Khan chose it?
14. Discuss the architecture of the novel. Why is the book divided into five gateways?
15. Why do you think this novel is called The Geometry of God ? What is the geometry of God? What do you think the author suggests with this title? Do you think it fits the book?
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