Do we chose our destiny or are we victims of fate?

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Alexis Sokarijo
Friday Oct 28th,2011.

Do we chose our destiny or are we victims of fate?

Many people believe that life is predetermined by fate while others believe it’s a personal choice. In the novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, both fate and personal choice are key concepts used in determining the destiny of each of the main characters. The author, Khaled Hosseini, portrays Mariam and Laila’s characters to be the results of predetermined fate as they encounter many obstacles in life, such as verbal and physical abuse, isolation, and grief. As a result, human beings are victims of fate. By examining this novel, it will be shown how predetermined fate influences the destiny of the main characters, due to a lack of freedom, life’s challenges and personal choices.

Cultural pressure often prevents many individuals from having freedom of choice. Within the novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, one of the main characters Mariam is unable to choose her own spouse.

You have a suitor,”Khadija said. Mariam’s stomach fell. “A what?” she said through suddenly numb lips. “A khastegar. A suitor. His name is Rasheed,” Khadija went on. “He is a friend of a business acquaintance of your father’s. He’s a Pashtun, from Kandahar originally, but he lives in Kabul, in the Deh-Mazang district, in a two-story house that he owns.” (Hosseini,46-47)

After the suicidal death of Mariam’s mother, Mariam moved in with her father, Jalil, and his three wives. The third day of being a house guest, the three wives reveal to Mariam that they found her a suitor. They insist that it was time for Mariam to start her life and raise a family of her own. Mariam is not at all pleased and begged her father to forbid this from happening, but little did she know that the decision has been made. This textual reference supports the idea that cultural pressure prevents freedom of choice since the three wives arranged Mariam’s wedding. By examining the novel, it is stated how Afghan women are deprived of free will.

Attention women:You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home. You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severly beaten. Cosmetics are forbidden. Jewelry is forbidden. You will not wear charming clothes. You will not speak unless spoken to. You will not make eye contact with men. You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten. You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a finger. Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately. Women are forbidden from working. If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death. Listen. Listen well. Obey. Allah-u-akbar.(Hosseini,278)

The Taliban have come to take over Kabul by setting rules and regulations. However, these rules do not make a difference in the lives of Mariam and Laila who have become accustomed to this lifestyle due to their abusive husband Rasheed. Mariam and Laila are forbidden to leave the house unless they were accompanied by Rasheed, forbidden to befriend the neighbours, forbidden to wear make-up and perfume and obliged to wear a burqa whenever leaving the house. Cultural pressure is not the only illustration as to how human destiny is predetermined by fate.

Quite often, life takes unexpected turns that lack reason and understanding. The novel explains how life for Laila took an unexpected turn for the worse.

Then a giant roar. Behind her, a flash of white. The ground lurched beneath her feet. Something hot and powerful slammed into her from behind. It knocked her out of her sandals. Lifted her up. And now she was flying, twisting and rotating in the air, seeing sky, then earth, then sky, then earth. A big burning chunk of wood whipped by. So did a thousand shards of glass, and it seemed to Laila that she could see each individual one flying all around her, flipping slowly end over end, the sunlight catching in each. Tiny, beautiful rainbows. Then Laila struck the wall. Crashed to the ground. On her face and arms, a shower of dirt and pebbles and glass. The last thing she was aware of was seeing something thud to the ground nearby. A bloody chunk of something. On it, the tip of a red bridge poking through thick fog.(Hosseini,193-4)

Before Laila had married Rasheed she was living with her Mammy and Babi. Babi knew that life in Kabul is not what it used to be and their lives are at risk. After weeks of convincing, Mammy finally agreed to leave the land of Kabul and relocate to Pakistan. While preparing for the move, a bomb destroys Laila’s house killing both her mother and her father. Laila is left homeless and, as fate has it, Rasheed took her under his wing. The above passage portrays how Laila’s life had been turned upside down due to the unexpected. Within the novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, it is shown how another event contributed to Laila’s misery. Later, in the dark, Mariam told the girl. For a long time, the girl said nothing. “He wants an answer by this morning,”Mariam said. “He can have it now,” the girl said. “My answer is yes.” (Hosseini,216) Rasheed had come to realize that Laila was officially homeless and the only solution would be to marry him. Although Mariam did not agree with the idea, Rasheed proceeded to propose to Laila. With no other alternative, Laila was obliged to accept Rasheed’s proposal. After months of living with Rasheed, Laila realizes that this is not the life that she had imagined for herself. Laila found his verbal and physical abuse towards herself and Mariam unbearable. Unfortunately, life’s many challenges lead to critical personal decisions that can change one’s life forever.

The concept of personal choice is an illusion as certain tactics do not go as planned. In the novel, Laila and Mariam make the decision to finally leave Rasheed. Mariam was in the doorway. Laila could tell that she hadn’t slept either. She wondered if Mariam too had been seized all night by bouts of euphoria and attacks of mouth-drying anxiety. “We’ll leave in half an hour,” Laila said.(Hosseini,258) Laila and Mariam had enough of Rasheed along with the verbal and physical abuse. They decided to pack their bags and relocate to Pakistan where they will be able to live a stress-free life. However, their plan falls short once they reach the bus station without a male escort and were denied departure out of Kabul. The police officials took both Laila and Mariam’s statements and escorted them back home to Rasheed who then physically punished both Mariam and Laila. By examining this novel, it is shown how Mariam’s personal choice had changed her life completely.

I’ve killed our husband. I’ve deprived your son of his father. It isn’t right that I run. I can’t. Even if they never catch us, I’ll never escape your son’s grief. How do I look at him?... For me, it ends here. There’s nothing more I want. Everything I’d ever wished for as a little girl you’ve already given me. You and your children have made me so very happy. It’s all right, Laila jo. That is all right. Don’t be sad.”(Hosseini,358)

Mariam and Laila have finally grown tired of Rasheed constantly abusing them. One night, when Rasheed was pouncing on Laila for allowing her old crush into his house, Mariam grabbed a shovel from the tool shed and murdered Rasheed. Mariam then realized that either Laila or herself would have to pay the consequences for the murder of Rasheed. Nonetheless, Mariam decided to take the blame so that Laila can live a happy life with her kids. Mariam turned herself into police officials, pleaded guilty and was stoned to death. Personal choice can affect the lives of many individuals; however Mariam’s decision caused her death.

As human beings, our destiny is predetermined by a higher power. Within the novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, it is illustrated how culture pressure can deprive many individuals from freedom of choice; how life’s greatest challenges can lead to an unexpected decision; and how personal choices can change one’s life forever. The mentioned illustrations are three of many pathways towards one’s fate; however it is important to remember that as humans, our destiny has already been predetermined by a higher power.

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