A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15

Mariam wears her burqa out in town for the first time and finds it frustrating to move and see in the garment. Mariam and Rasheed go to a park together, and afterwards he takes Mariam to a crowded restaurant. She and Rasheed walk around Kabul which has more of an industrial city feel to Mariam than that of Herat. Mariam has ice cream for the first time and finds herself fascinated by the "modern women" who wear makeup and no head coverings. They are out on the streets alone and some drive cars, smoke, etc... They make her feel that she is of a lower class than they are.

Rasheed gives Mariam a shawl, which Mariam considers to be a genuine gift of love, as opposed to the gifts she had received from Jalil. That night, Rasheed comes into Mariam's room and begins touching her. Despite Mariam's protests, Rasheed forcibly has sex with her. Rasheed tells Mariam that there is no shame in sex, and that it is what married people do.

Mariam observes her first Ramadan in Kabul. Rasheed does not fast on all days, but when he does he is very impatient with Mariam's cooking and serving. Mariam recalls how Jalil would come to the kolba on Ramadan to celebrate Eid with presents, but would leave to celebrate with who Nana called "his real family". Mullah Faizullah would come to the kolba with treats, but Mariam did not like Eid, because it allowed her to envision other people's happiness.

Eid in Kabul is extremely animated. Fariba greets Mariam on the street, but Mariam barely acknowledges her. Rasheed warns Mariam to stay away from Fariba, because she is a gossip and her husband is pompous. Rasheed and Mariam watch fireworks together, and Mariam wishes that Nana could see how content Mariam is today. After going out in Kabul, Rasheed and Mariam have visitors to celebrate, and during the visit Mariam has to stay holed up in her bedroom. Mariam feels as if Rasheed's protectiveness is reflective of his strong sense of honor and desire to keep her for himself.

While cleaning up after the Eid celebration, Mariam goes into Rasheed's room for the first time, and finds a gun in Rasheed's drawer. Mariam feels that he must have kept the weapon in the house for safety. Mariam also finds pornographic magazines, and she feels that she must be a disappointment to him in terms of their sexual relationship. Mariam rationalizes that he has needs that are beyond her own. Mariam also finds pictures of Rasheed's first wife and his son that had both passed away. Mariam begins to feel sad at the thought of Rasheed's sorrow. She begins to feel that she and Rasheed could make a good pair.

Mariam discovers that she is pregnant, and Rasheed is very obvious about his preference for a boy. Rasheed is genuinely happy about the pregnancy and already loves the unborn baby intensely. Mariam feels that God must have meant for this to happen to her, and prays that her happiness and the baby's life will be sustained.

While in a bath house, Mariam suffers an accident in which she bleeds and falls unconscious. We learn that this accident causes Mariam to lose her baby. Mariam is overcome with grief about the loss of her baby, and she becomes jealous of other mothers that she sees. Mariam feels that she does not deserve a baby, because of how she betrayed Nana. She dreams of a jinn stealing her baby. She becomes angry at herself, at Rasheed, and at God.

Rasheed becomes much more quiet and morose. He does not laugh anymore or buy Mariam gifts. Mariam asks Rasheed if he is angry with her, but he insists that he is not. Mariam suggests a short burial service for the baby, but Rasheed refuses to participate. Mariam performs a small ceremony by herself.

In Afghan politics at this point, Mir Akbar Khyber is murdered. The year is 1978. After the murder, people demonstrate in Kabul. Rasheed tells Mariam that Mir Akbar is a communist and that President Daoud Khan's government is suspected in his murder. Mariam tries to ask what a communist was, but Rasheed gets frustrated with her and tells her to shut up. Mariam fears Rasheed because of his temper and his increasing physical abuse.

Mariam has six more miscarriages during the four years they have been married, and Mariam can no longer make Rasheed happy. Mariam realizes that she has become a burden and asks Rasheed what he would want to happen in their lives, but he will not answer.

Mariam sees airplanes overhead on April 27th and through the radio, and she and Rasheed learn that a rebel takeover had occurred ousting the Daoud Khan administration. All members of his party have been killed. The nation will now be called the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan- supposedly under a rule that would end inequality. Mariam thinks about Jalil and the chance that he had been jailed. On the night of the revolution, Fariba and Hakim have a baby named Laila.

After Rasheed criticizes Mariam's cooking, he forces her to chew on rocks, breaking her teeth. Rasheed says that all that Mariam has given him in the marriage is bad food.


Miriam's amazement with the modern women of Kabul adds insight to her ignorance outside of the kolba. Additionally, providing a view of these modern women gives readers a deeper understanding of the social situation in Kabul at the time. Many readers may assume that the public abuse and covering of women in Afghanistan has been a mainstream cultural norm for all of the nation's existence. However, by displaying the legions of more modern women, Hosseini subtly alludes to these women to inform readers that this is not the case.

Hosseini includes a subtle passive interaction between Rasheed and Hakim, in which Rasheed warns Mariam not to associate with Hakim because he is pompous. This description of Hakim by Rasheed foreshadows Rasheed's future interaction with Hakim's family, which occurs through Laila later in the novel. However, the comment Rasheed makes seems extremely absurd once Hakim's character is developed later in the novel, in which he is seen as a smart man, but also a person who is devoted to his family and humble about his accomplishments and knowledge.

Following Rasheed and Mariam's "honeymoon period" in which Mariam begins to find herself content, Rasheed and Mariam’s marriage takes a turn that it is not only sour, but violent. Once again, Mariam finds herself hopeful for a change in her life with the prospect of her pregnancy. Yet, as is consistent with other points within the novel, Mariam’s hope is crushed with the loss of her first and subsequent pregnancies. Mariam attributes the loss of her baby to a jinn, and as in the first section of the book, the jinn is seen as a karmic symbol of justice for past actions. In this case, the jinn stealing Mariam's baby is a consequence of Mariam causing Nana's death.

Not only does pregnancy signify the main role of a woman in Afghanistan, but clearly not being able to bear children has changed the way Rasheed views Mariam. It seems as if their life together is hopeless. Again, shame comes into play, as Rasheed is ashamed of Mariam’s loss of the baby, too ashamed in fact to comfort Mariam through the burial service she holds.

After Rasheed forces Mariam to chew on rocks, it becomes clear that not only is there no love within the marriage currently, but love between Rasheed and Mariam will never evolve. However, when Mariam finds Rasheed's old family photos, his character is developed more from a raging misogynist into someone with a deep sadness and regret that fuels his anger. Of course this discovery does not excuse his actions towards Miriam, but they do add depth to him.

The murder of Mir Akbar and the birth of Laila signify changes that are developing both in Afghanistan as a whole and also in the lives of Mariam and Rasheed. Not only does Laila's birth to Fariba contrast with Mariam's misery and infertility, but Laila's birth coinciding with the start of the rebellion foreshadows personal and social revolution.