One of the novel's major themes is endurance. Nan tells Mariam, "There is only one . . . skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don't teach it in school . . . it is this: tahamul. Endure." When Mariam asks what she is to endure, Nana tells her, "There won't be any shortage of things." (p. 67) Consider the women in the novel and what they must endure in their environment and circumstances, juxtaposed with what women endure in Western life. What things are specific to women in either society? Do men have anything to endure?
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This would take an essay to properly answer. I can however comment on the theme of women within the context of this story. The women forge strong bonds despite the efforts of their husbands and their government to reduce women’s power. The bonds differ in nature. For instance, Giti, Hasina, and Laila form a bond of girlish friendship, but Mariam and Laila form a much more powerful familial bond later in the novel. Nana finds strength from her daughter Mariam, and Mariam finds an admirer when she arrives in a Taliban-controlled prison. The novel thus suggests that women have a strong ability to find strength and support in one another. Mariam never would have gained the strength to fight Rasheed if she had not gained confidence and love from Laila.