A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary and Analysis
Nana is buried, and Mullah Faizullah tries to comfort Mariam - but Mariam is beyond comfort. After the funeral ceremonies, Jalil offers Mariam a room in his house, but her feelings toward him have turned angry, negative. Mariam also gets the feeling that in Jalil's house, everyone's cold eyes are upon her.
Mariam does not leave her bedroom except to use the bathroom. Food is brought to her. Jalil comes to see her and makes insincere attempts to incorporate Mariam into the family. Mariam realizes that she does not belong in Jalil's house, but she feels that she has nowhere else to go.
Nilofaur, one of Jalil's daughters, comes into Mariam's room to play with a gramophone. She tells Mariam that her mother told her that Mariam is not really her sister. That said, Nilofaur tells Mariam that she doesn't mind if Mariam is in fact her true sister. She also says that a jinn made Nani kill herself and that Mariam should not hold herself responsible.
Bibi Jo visits. Mullah Faizullah visits and further tries to console Mariam that Nana's death was not Mariam's fault. Mullah Faizullah implies that Nana had a troubled youth, but Mariam still blames herself. Soon after, Jalil and his wives tell Mariam that she has a suitor named Rasheed who is friends with Jalil and lives in Kabul. Jalil seems ashamed by the situation, but his wives seem enthusiastic. Mariam says she does not want to marry, and she understands then that the marriage is just an attempt to get rid of her. Mariam asks if she could live with Mullah Faizullah, but the wives refuse. The thought of household chores and sexual intimacy disgusts Mariam. Mariam learns that she is to be married tomorrow, and Jalil has already agreed. Mariam protests, but Jalil does nothing to stop the arrangement. Afsoon locks Mariam in her room for the night.
On the day of the wedding, Mariam sees Rasheed for the first time. He is a hulking man. During the wedding, the mullah asks if there are any objections, but Jalil remains silent. Mariam does not answer that she agrees to marry Rasheed until Jalil prods her to respond. The marriage contract is signed.
Jalil tries to encourage Mariam that Kabul is beautiful, but Mariam confronts Jalil about being ashamed of her and tells Jalil that the relationship between the two of them is over. Mariam and Rasheed board the bus for Kabul, and Jalil tries to get Mariam's attention from outside of the bus. Mariam pays no attention to him, and she and Rasheed leave for Kabul.
Rasheed and Mariam arrive back at Rasheed's house in Kabul. The modest house is on a messy street, but the house seems very large in comparison to the kolba. However, Mariam misses her old life. Rasheed tells Mariam that he prefers to sleep alone and shows Mariam her own room. Mariam is relieved. Rasheed asks if Mariam if he scares her, and she lies to him for the first time, telling him that he does not.
Mariam stays in bed most of the time, feeling displaced in her new surroundings. She feels homesick, and Mariam becomes extremely nervous about eventually having to have sex with Rasheed. After coming home from work, Rasheed tells Mariam about his day and tells her the news from the streets. After a week, Rasheed tells Mariam that she needs to start acting like a wife and stop crying all the time. Mariam begins to clean, cook, and shop for food.
The women at the market whisper about Mariam and one woman, Fariba, introduces herself and her son Noor. She says her husband is Hakim, and she invites Mariam over to her house. All of the women begin taking interest in Mariam. Mariam is overwhelmed, but Fariba keeps the crowd back as best as she can .Mariam tries to run away from the crowd, but she scrapes her knee and gets lost on her own street. She feels more alone at this point than ever before in her life.
When Rasheed returns home and compliments her daal, Mariam feels proud. Then, Rasheed tells Mariam that "a woman's face is her husband's business only" and gives her a burqa to wear, which horrifies Mariam.
Again, the theme of shame is explored through Jalil as he casts Mariam out of his house during the darkest point in her life. Not only does he send Mariam out of his house, but he sends her to a whole new city, which allows Mariam to symbolically disconnect from him. Jalil speaks and acts in a manner that suggests some regret for his actions, though his feelings of paternal responsibility can not overcome his feelings of shame and the pressure put upon him by his wives.
Mariam is given no choice whatsoever in her marriage, but rather it is forced upon her. She is young and scared, and she is clearly not truly in love with Rasheed. Afghan culture, however, does not equate marriage with true love, but rather with convenience and necessity. Mariam’s role is clearly defined by Rasheed when he asks her to “act like a wife.” He demands that she clean and cook, and he will ultimately require her to participate in sex that he forces upon her.
Yet, the beginning of their marriage and the start of their new lives does not seem so terrible, providing an element of hope to this section of the novel. Though Mariam is not happy with her situation, she is recognized as a legitimate wife, whereas in Jalil's house she was considered an illegitimate daughter. The tone used in this section reveals Mariam's reservations toward interacting with her new husband, and her nervousness about her new role as a wife. Yet, she does take pleasure in pleasing Rasheed, like when he is satisfied with her daal.
Also affecting Mariam’s new position is Rasheed’s requirement that Mariam wear a burqa, which would hide her identity from the world beyond Rasheed. This declaration by Rasheed ultimately symbolizes that Mariam’s new life is limited to Rasheed and Rasheed alone. The requirement of Mariam's burqa foreshadows Rasheed's selfish, protective nature, which will ultimately result in abuse.
Fariba's introduction to Mariam in the market is a new experience for her, as Mariam has never had peers who attempted to reach out to her, since her old friends were all significantly older. Additionally, Fariba's standing as the first woman that Mariam meets in Kabul is significant. This meeting foreshadows how the lives of the two families will intertwine later in the novel, once Laila, Fariba's daughter, becomes Rasheed's second wife.
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- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-5
- Summary and Analysis of Chapter 6-10
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-25
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 26-30
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 31-35
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 36- 40
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 41- 45
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 46-51
- Women in Afghanistan
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