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Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Essay Topics

full title ·  Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

author · Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

type of work  · Non-fiction

genre  · Biography

language  · English

time and place written  · Early 2003 through 2005, United States

date of first publication  · 2006

publisher  · Viking

narrator  · Not directly identified, but we know from the Introduction that Relin provides the narrative, based on his interviews with Mortenson and others.

point of view  · The point of view is always in the third person, but it shifts among three different types of narration. The basic viewpoint is provided by Relin, who acts as an objective voice describing events. The narrative also includes descriptions of Mortenson’s thoughts, as described to Relin by Mortenson. A third type of viewpoint is introduced by including quotations from other observers who talk about their memories of events and their opinions of Mortenson.

tone  · The tone of the book is always direct, never ironic. It is essentially journalistic, though not objective in the sense of being neutral. Relin consistently Mortenson and his work, even when he introduces negative aspects of Mortenson’s character. The tone could also be described as reportorial, since Relin offers no interpretations. However, there is a considerable amount of dramatization, especially noticeable in the extensive use of descriptive modifiers and colorful details.

tense  · The text is presented mainly in the past tense, with occasional references to future events. The fundamental narrative is in the simple past tense, presenting a chronological description of the events that occurred. There are also a number of flashbacks, explaining events that took place in either the recent or distant past.

setting (time)  · 1993 to 2003

setting (place)  · Pakistan, Afghanistan, California, Montana

protagonist  · Greg Mortenson

major conflict  · Greg Mortenson’s efforts to help the people of Northern Pakistan are complicated both by personal challenges and by practical obstacles that include political tensions, cultural differences, and lack of money.

rising action  · Mortenson discovers his mission and makes his best effort to fulfill his promise to the people of Korphe. But he does not have the experience, resources, or temperament to accomplish this goal.

climax  · Although he believes his goal of building the Korphe school is about to be fulfilled, Mortenson discovers that a bridge must be built first. He falls into doubt about his mission, and his depression is worsened when his girlfriend rejects him. At this point he considers giving up, but he cannot let go of his promise and resolves to build the bridge and the school.

falling action  · Once Mortenson overcomes his self-doubt and contacts Jean Hoerni for more assistance, his mission truly begins and he continues to work and grow throughout the rest of the book.

themes  · Turning Hardships Into Opportunities, Empowerment Through Education, Overcoming Cultural Differences

motifs  · Outsider Perspectives on Pakistan, Sacrifice, Coincidence

symbols  · Tea, Mountains and Stones, Food

foreshadowing  · Because Three Cups of Tea is a non-fiction book recounting actual events, foreshadowing is not used in the same way we would look for it in the construction of a novel or play. However, Relin utilizes flash-forwards to connect events in the narrative present with their outcomes in the future. For example, when Mortenson meets Faisal Baig briefly at Korphe early in the book, we are told that Baig will later become his bodyguard.

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