The historical novel A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini explores the lives of two young girls who come from different backgrounds but realize they have common problems. This realization causes them to work together to break free. Using the tragic historical backgrounds of Afghanistan and demonstrating how gender roles limit power, Mariam and Laila put aside their differences to free their lives from the darkness. Amidst their long battle for freedom, Mariam and Laila stumble upon the discovery that love is the greatest power available and that through love freedom can be achieved.
Hosseini used Mariam’s early background to explain that love isn’t always true love, that love can be forced from mistakes in the past. Mariam’s existence was a big mistake, her mother wasn’t supposed to get pregnant with her boss, but she did, and it caused Mariam’s life to be a huge mistake. Throughout her life Mariam experiences loss after loss from her parents, her mother hung herself on her fifteenth birthday, and her father faked his love for his daughter by promising her things that never came to be. He would tell her details of his life and promise that she could visit, and go to his movie theater. Mariam always wanted to experience the other part of his life, and her dream was to watch the movie “”Pinocchio.”” although it seemed she already had a liar in her life; her father (Hosseini 26). This “”fake love””limited her rights to what every daughter deserves to experience in her life, for example, spending time with her whole family and being able to experience things that her other siblings were able to experience with their father. Also, her rights were limited as she was born not just a “”mistake””, but also a female in Afghanistan. This limited her right to an education.
Although, when it comes to Laila’s early background it a different story. Laila was able to experience things like getting an education, having friends, and growing up with her siblings. The reader would think that Laila’s life was the best an Afghanistan daughter could hope for. However, that was not altogether true. It is true that Laila’s father worshipped the ground Laila walked on, but her mother had so much sorrow and anger that she was never available to Laila. Laila’s brothers were off fighting for their country until they passed away. Laila spent most of her days alone seemly invisible until she met Tariq. She had never experienced the love that Tariq’s friendship gave her, and it made her feel special for once until the war reacher its peak. After the war, the Taliban changed Laila’s life. Her rights were stripped from her. She was no longer allowed to attend school or even walk by herself. Everything was slipping from her world, but she still had her father and Tariq, until she didn’t. In a matter of two weeks, Tariq was gone, her home was destroyed by a bomb, and her parents were dead. Everything she ever loved was gone, and all she was left with was “”her own heart thudding in her belly, her eyes, her bones”” (Hosseini 185).
After Laila’s house was destroyed and her life totally changed, Mariam and her dreadful husband, Rasheed made the “”generous”” decision to welcome her into their household. Although, this offer isn’t as pleasing as it sounds. Mariam had suffered Rasheed’s abuse for nineteen years before Laila arrived. Daily Mariam would wake up in this atrocious house and remember something her mother had told her, “” Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman”” (Hosseini 7). As the days passed in their marriage, Rasheed grew more angry and critical about every mistake Mariam made. This started the long process of trying to break Mariam’s spirit and make her more obedient. Rasheed’s only wish in the world was to have a son, and Mariam tried seven times and suffered seven miscarriages throughout their marriage. Mariam was unable to grant Rasheed’s wish which made her unnecessary to him. The decision to take Laila in his house was the answer to Rasheed’s prayers, his last chance for the son he desired. Rasheed paraded Laila around proudly showing off his new wife. However, Laila was more possession than a new bride, because just like Mariam he only allowed her to leave the house with him and wear the dreadful burqa. The burqa was Rasheed’s way of proving to his wives that he was their owner, and they should respect him. This was his way of limiting their power and expanding his. Rasheed grew bolder in squashing their power and raising his power in the household by beating them repeatedly, criticizing their every move, and locking them for days in rooms without food and water.
Life grew better for Laila when Rasheed discovered she was carrying his child. His dream of finally getting his baby boy led to him treating Laila better and making Mariam little more than Laila’s servant. This led to jealousy and resentment. But that changed when l Laila delivered a baby girl. A baby girl who strangely looked a lot like her father, Tariq. Rasheed was extremely suspicious of the child and suspected she was not his. He used Laila’s baby, Aziza, as blackmail for every move Laila made. He used the baby as a way to justify his brutal behavior and treatment of Laila and Mariam. Rasheed continued to abuse Laila and Mariam. Finally, Laila delivered the son Rasheed always wanted. For the first time in years, Rasheed was happy, but only toward his beloved son; “”his”” daughter, on the other hand, was another reason preventing him from power. Mariam and Laila were delighted in Aziza and loved her so. Rasheed resented their attachment to the daughter because she seemed so unimportant to him. He also resented the fact that Mariam and Laila were protective of Aziza and would sometimes unite against Rasheed to save Aziza. By this time the war was raging and every family was struggling to survive. Rasheed made a decision that was the last straw to his wives. He decided he would send Laila and Mariam’s beloved daughter to an orphanage. The days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months without their little Aziza, and soon every day was misery for the wives. Mariam and Laila discovered that “” Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting”” (Hosseini 126). The waiting and the missing of Aziza sent Mariam and Laila’s hatred of Rasheed to new heights., However, even with their new anger and resentment, they did nothing. They held their anger in until Rasheed finally crossed the line. He tried to suffocate Laila. Mariam did the only thing that could possibly save Laila; she killed Rasheed. Mariam picked up, a shovel and two quick hits to his head, and they were finally free.
Throughout Afghanistan having power is considered a great honor and it is usually only reserved for men; for most women power is something they will never experience. Although, there is something that holds more power than anything in the world. Something that cannot be taken away: love. Mariam and Laila were blinded by their differences and it took them a while to find a common love in Aziza. That common love made them realize that the only way to free themselves from their horrid lives was working together. Gradually they looked past their own differences and their love formed an unbreakable bond that would eventually be the key to their freedom. Hosseini used many different types of love to express that love can hurt, but in the end, without love, there is only suffering. And with love, there is power and with that power, there can be freedom.
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