A thousand Splendid Suns starts off in 1974, when Mariam is fifteen years of age. She lives with her mother in a shack outside of the city Herat, Afghanistan



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A Thousand Splendid Suns starts off in 1974, when Mariam is fifteen years of age. She lives with her mother in a shack outside of the city Herat, Afghanistan. Mariam’s father, Jalil, is one of the richest men in Herat where he owns a movie theatre. After getting Nana pregnant, he kicked her out of his house to avoid shame from his three wives and made her the shack outside Herat. Mariam was usually excited for her father’s visits. Mariam was also visited by her tutor Mullah Faizullah who usually came to her house and taught her how to read from the Ko’ran. One day, Mariam asked Mullah if she would ever be able go to school but Nana refused to allow her when Mullah approached her about this. Nana always knew Jalil would one day betray Mariam and so she always talk negative to Mariam when she would talk about Jalil. When Mariam asked her mother if she could live with Jalil, Nana told her that if Mariam ever left her, Nana would kill herself. One day when Mariam went to meet Jalil to go to the movies, he never showed up at meeting spot and when she returned home, she found her mother had hanged herself. Days after the funeral Jalil finally took her into his house and weeks later, forces Mariam to marry an older man from Kabul named Rasheed. Arriving in Kabul with Rasheed, Rasheed tells Mariam that she is never to go outside without him and he believes men should rule over women. Mariam becomes pregnant and months later the baby dies after Mariam has an accident in the washroom. The novel then switches to a girl named Laila who is well brought up and is educated. Her parents Fariba and Hakim have three children one being Laila and the other two being boys in the army. When news arrives that Fariba and Hakim’s two boys have lost their lives in battle, Fariba goes into deep depression. Laila has a good friend named Tariq who lost a leg in war and before he left with his family to Pakistan to escape war in Afghanistan, he has sex with Laila. One day when the war between the Russians and Taibans becomes more intense, a missile hits Laila’s house killing her parents and leaving her injured. The next day, Laila wakes up in the hands of her neighbors Rasheed and Mariam. After Laila recovers from her wounds, she finds out she’s pregnant. Laila misses Tariq and remembers him saying that he will come back for her. After Rasheed learns more about Laila’s life, he sets up a guy to come and inform Laila that Tariq has died after getting injured while going to Pakistan. Laila realizing she cannot make a living for herself and her baby, she agrees to marry Rasheed. Mariam does not talk to Laila for days after learning about this. Laila’s baby girl is born and named Aziza and Rasheed takes care of her very well until he finds out its not his daughter. Years later, Laila produces a baby with Rasheed, a boy named Zalmai. Rasheed loses his business as a shoe maker and the war intensifies. Laila puts Aziza in an orphanage so she would be getting food. Tariq comes to Rasheed’s house and Laila is stunned because she realizes Rasheed had set up a guy to tell her a lie. When Rasheed finds out Tariq has returned, he tries to kill her by choking her. But Mariam out of fear for her friend’s life hits Rasheed in the head with a shovel, killing him. In order to keep Laila and her children out of trouble, she turns herself in and tells Laila to run away. Mariam gets executed to death and Laila marries Tariq and they run away with Aziza and Zalmai to Pakistan. But years later after US invades Afghanistan, Laila and Tariq come back to Kabul where they do volunteer work for the orphanage they put Aziza in earlier in the story.
In the book a thousand Splendid Suns, the theme of hope has been present. At times the characters hoped for a good future. The hope that the characters had was only a thought because they never became successful throughout the novel. The situations usually got worse. For example Mariam always wanted to go to school and she told Mullah Faizullah. When Mullah approached Nana she simply refused to allow her daughter to go to school. Throughout the novel characters had hoped for better living, love and acceptance. Hakim wanted to move his family to Pakistan when the war was becoming intense but they could not because Fariba was mourning her sons’ deaths. This hope of creating a better life in Pakistan was destroyed when their house was bombed, killing Laila’s parents. Another example of this was when Laila and Mariam planned to run away to Pakistan along with the kids to live a better life but when they tried to execute their plan, they were caught at the bus stand trying to escape and were sent home. This shows that the people want to live better lives but are forced not to by living circumstances. The hope of acceptance is shown through the character Mariam. At the beginning of the novel Mariam had always hoped that Jalil would take Nana back into his house. Mariam hopes of watching a movie with Jalil was crushed when Jalil did not meet up with her. This only made things worse because her mother had hanged herself. This shows that Mariam was gullible into thinking Jalil was a good guy even when Nana had told her he wasn’t. The hope for love had been present in the novel through two characters. The hope for love that the characters wanted did not go the way they wanted. For example after Mariam’s mother had passed away, Jalil’s wives had forced Mariam to marry a guy named Rasheed but before this would happen Mariam hoped that Jalil would interfere and marry her or at least let her live in his house. Jalil had betrayed Mariam and agreed with his wives. At times in this book the characters go through a stage where they think their hope will come true but fails. Mariam’s life was crumbling so much that she wanted her father to marry her. This shows how desperate Mariam needed to be loved and consoled. Another example of this is when Tariq is leaving for Pakistan he tells her that he will come back for her. The last words Tariq says to Laila makes her feel that he will come back and marry her. To raise a good child Laila marries Rasheed. The hope that Laila has of Tariq returning for her is destroyed when Rasheed sets up a guy to come to their house and lie to Laila that Tariq has died. Even though Laila married Rasheed, he breaks the hope that Tariq would ever come again to even see her.
Another theme that is presented in the book is discrimination against women. In this novel, the men have been shown as more powerful than women. The women have been mistreated by the men due to this. This is evident in the two characters Mariam and Laila. In this book no matter what the women plan to do, the men always get the final say in this. For example after Nana’s death, Jalil arranges a marriage for Mariam to some guy from Kabul she never seen before. Even when Mariam declines to marry Rasheed, Jalil forces her to sign the marriage papers. Mariam is betrayed at this point by her father as Jalil does not even allow his daughter to make the decision. Not even with a big decision does Mariam’s father allow her to decide. This shows that the men do not even care about the outcome. In this book, the women are treated badly by their husband. For example when Mariam tells Rasheed that the baby she was pregnant with has died after an accident, Rasheed beats her. Even though Rasheed knew it wasn’t her fault that it was an accident, he still puts out all his anger out on his wife. Rasheed does not care if he gets reported because the political leaders of Afghanistan allow men to have power over their wives. It shows that if women were to fight back they would get in trouble so the women insist on taking all the pain. Women are also not allowed leave the country without a male relative. This is shown in the book when Laila tries to escape to Pakistan with Aziza and Mariam but is rejected at the bus stand because they did not have a male relative with them. Mariam also gets beaten for trying to escape Rasheed’s house. Even though Rasheed knows that he is not treating her well he still mistreats her by beating her. Another example of Rasheed mistreating the women is after Rasheed finds out Laila had been talking to Tariq. Rasheed chokes Laila until her face becomes blue before Mariam kills Rasheed by hitting him with a shovel. Rasheed had taken the abuse to another level where he attempted murder. It shows that Rasheed tried to take full advantage of the rules of Afghanistan. Overall in this novel, the women had barely any human rights to act the way they wanted so men had power over them.
In the novel A thousand Splendid Suns, War has been used as a symbol of struggle. War is powerful in that many casualties occur but also that others suffer because of the killings. During times of war, families struggle to go outside of their house out of fear that they will not come back alive. In this novel, Laila and Mariam’s families both suffer greatly. For example, when news was brought to Fariba and Hakim that their two sons had been killed in battle. Fariba had been in bed mourning for weeks and barely talking to her family. This was a struggle for Laila and her father as they both wanted to leave Afghanistan but could not due to Fariba. War had made Laila suffer greatly as it took the lives of her parents one day when a bomb blew up their house leaving Laila an orphan. Laila had to struggle to adjust to her new guardians Mariam and Rasheed. It had taken a while to get over the fact that her parents had been killed. In this book, war has made the affected characters more isolated and lonesome. Another example of struggle caused from the War is that Tariq had lost his leg due to the war and had struggled to accept humiliation from people in his city. Most of the struggles in the book are caused by the circumstances of the war.
Mariam is very insecure at the beginning of the book. She tends to believes everything her mother tells her. Everything she learned basically came from Nana, because Mariam did not go to school. So she thought it was safe to grasp everything her mother would tell her. But when Mariam figured out what a Harami (stupid child) meant which was what her mother called her, she began to believe others more than her mother. Later in the book, Mariam finally see’s the outside world and realizes that her mother had just been protecting her from the worst out there. Near the end of book Mariam finds courage. It is evident that Mariam finds the courage she needed when she saves Laila when Rasheed is choking her by swinging a shovel to Rasheed’s head, leaving him dead. Laila was a different type of character, she was very innocent, and she had proper schooling and listened to everything her parents told her. Laila becomes more responsible after the birth of her first child. Even when Rasheed would hurt her, she would make sure that her kids didn’t see this. She had more care in what she did. It is evident that Laila finds courage when the war became intense. Laila knew that trying to escape Afghanistan with her kids and Mariam was a very risky idea but she had the courage to attempt the mission. Even though she got caught in the end, Laila was not selfish putting herself first but mainly her kids.

I think the message of this novel is about endurance. This novel makes the reader aware of what is happening out there in Afghanistan. This novel also shows the reader what it takes for a person to survive in a war-torn country. It also shows how one can endure life even through abusive marriages and family matters.

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