A Thousand Splendid Suns Essay

by on February 3rd, 2011
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Through the powers of an unlikely friendship, the abuse and loss of two Afghan women were transformed into a story of love, sacrifice, and hope. Mariam’s life began in a mud plastered kolba,Afghan for hut, thats walls were brimmed with bitterness, anger, and defeat. Born a harami, or bastard, as she was constantly reminded by her Nana, her only source of comfort was her ritual Thursday meetings with her affluent and well known father Jalil. Such excursions with a man that showered her in affection and beautiful gifts allowed Mariam to cope with her mother’s constant negative criticism of men, Afghanistan, and Mariam herself. Though Nana was only protecting her daughter from the evils of a world that treated women as property, her often harsh statements such as “Like a compass needle that points North, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman.”, tempted Mariam to venture to her father’s home. (7) When Nana’s skeptical views of Jalil proved correct, Mariam was devastated that Nana’s negative opinions of her father had been proven correct. Before she was able to return to her hut, however, she glimpsed her mother’s body dangling from a tree outside. Having no where else to go, she once again found herself a stranger in her father’s home. Because she was a mere harami she was treated differently than Jalil’s many other children, and before long a marriage was arranged between her and Rasheed, an established shoemaker that had also experienced a devastating loss in his family. The marriage was soon established as one of power and authority on Rasheed’s behalf. Mariam meekly succumbed to his frequent and brutal beatings that followed a poorly cooked meal, a bad day at work, or the inability for Mariam to carry a child. Mariam’s early dreams of escaping a household of tension and hopelessness had magnified to pure terror and helplessness. As Mariam was adjusting to her new role of the traditional Afghan wife, a young girl was being raised only a few doors down in a drastically different way than Mariam was accustomed to. Laila’s parents loved an respected each other, and though her mother mourned the death of both her sons, often losing sight of the daughter she still had, she was never abused. Far from Mariam’s lack of education, she attended and excelled school and was an avid reader. Her father often told her “When the war is over, Afghanistan is going to need you as much as its men, maybe even more. Because a society has no chance if its women are uneducated Laila, no chance. (114) In addition to having a loving family, she was also loved by her friend Tariq, who eventually fell in love with her. Though unlike Mariam, Laila had experienced being loved by both her father, friends, and a man, eventually the raging war ended her temporary bliss. Tariq was forced to leave with his family for Pakistan only months before a bomb exploded in Laila’s house, leaving her both orphaned and homeless. Rasheed went against Mariam’s wishes, and took a second wife after nursing Laila to health and staging the death of Tariq. Thus ensued a silent battle between the two women that was broke only by their mutual love for Aziza, Tariq’s daughter that Laila had been passing as Rasheed’s own. Khaled Hosseini symbolized the abusive chokehold men have on women in Afghanistan with Rasheed, who continued to cruelly beat both wives to near death. Passages such as “He threw Laila up against the wall, and struck her with the belt again and again, the buckle slamming against her chest, her shoulder, her raised armers, her fingers, drawing blood wherever it struck.” make the reader almost physically sick with vivid details of the cruelty. (346) Oppression and dominance spilled from not only Rasheed, but the entire country. Mariam and Laila were endangered any time they stepped foot outside of their modest home, and were required cover their faces at all times. As the war unfolded, the two became more restless with their growing sense of being encaged. Their friendship evolved into a sense of family, the mother-daughter relationship neither of them had ever had. This love was proved when Mariam sacrificed her own life by killing her husband in order to give Laila a chance at happiness and freedom. Though she was aware that no matter how terrible Rasheed had acted, the culture would indict her, Mariam knew that her life was doomed regardless of her actions.
“She thought of her entry to this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet here she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, and a guardian. A person of consequence at last. (370)
Though Mariam had lived a hard life, she was able to transform it as a life of purpose, as someone who made life better for another being. Because of her ultimate display of love, Laila was able to have a happy future, loved and respected by Tariq and her children in a place where woman were not held to the constraints of society.

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