8. What role do the flashbacks to Zeitoun’s life in Syria play in the book?
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These flashbacks exist partly to render Zeitoun as a fully rounded character, as any literary writer has an imperative to do. However, they also fulfill Eggers' responsibility to represent Zeitoun's foreignness. Although he sometimes downplays the legitimate differences between Islam and American Christianity or secularism, the same cannot be said of Zeitoun's life experience, which is rendered in intimate detail. These flashbacks also recreate for the reader the same experience that Kathy has when she visits Syria. Like Kathy, many Americans have antiquated notions of what the modern Middle East is like. By describing life in Syria in detail, Eggers inspires in his audience the joy of discovery that Kathy experienced, and in doing so, shows firsthand the rewards of curiosity.