A Thousand Splendid Suns is a work of realistic fiction based on Khaled Hosseini’s trip to Afghanistan. The story is set in Afghanistan between the early 1960’s and early 2000’s and features two main protagonists. The first is Mariam, a quite, thoughtful child at the start of the book. Born out of wedlock to a rich and married businessman named Jalil and his former housekeeper named Nana. Mariam resents her mother’s strict ways and the fact that she sees her father once a week when he visits her Kolba. Eventually, she runs away and one thing leads to another until she finds herself married to a forty-year-old man named Rasheed and starts living in Kabul. Laila, the second major protagonist of this novel, is the youngest child and only daughter of Hakim and Fariba. Through the story Laila shows a strong desire to use her intelligence and education to improve the world around her. The perspective switches between the two women, following their journeys which eventually bring them together, leading them to sacrifice for each other and trust one another as the struggle in their highly misogynist society. Numerous artistic components worth studying in A Thousand Splendid Suns to know further the multi translations of the writer who prevails to an expansive degree giving a decent foundation about the nation of Afghanistan frequently mixed up by the bits of gossip about the media. Hosseini utilizes such a large number of components that contribute effectively to the creation of this novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, so astounding for perusing and examining like the choice of characters among male and female, the plot and the setting. In this paper I intend to explore the discrimination and victimization of Afghan women as well as the class struggle of the main characters by using Feminist and Marxist literary criticism.
Feminism and A Thousand Splendid Suns:
Feminism is a social movement and ideology that fights for the political, economic and social rights for women. Feminists believe that men and women are equal, and women deserve the same rights as men in society (“What is Feminism?”). As oppression predominated throughout the novel, Nana, Mariam, Laila and Aziza are typical examples of ill-treatment and illustration of the abuses and seizures faced by the Afghan women shown in A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini.
The mother of Mariam, Nana suffered from oppression, cruel and violent treatment of her husband Jalil and his family. Besides, her father also insulted and eventually expelled her because she gave birth to Mariam as a ‘Harami’ (an illegitimate child). Throughout her life, Nana was treated poorly. Jalil left her and expelled her from his house because she worked as a housekeeper, so he repudiated his baby when she was pregnant and fired Nana to a small village. He felt embarrassed and ashamed to get out of wedlock a harami child, so he sent her away to cover up his mistake before his family. Nana said all she felt and all she experienced because of men, warning her daughter Mariam that men always find a way to blame women for their redemption and rescue when she said “Like a compass needle that always points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always, you remember that, Mariam… ‘and believe me’ Nana said ‘it was a relief to your father having me out of sight’(p.07) On the other hand, Nana’s daughter, Mariam, was an unlawful child, so she had bad luck to be a harami girl from her first day, then because of her father Jalil’s hatred; she was not accepted by him at all.
He doesn’t like her because he thinks she’s the cause of disgracing the image of his family. Moreover,she was compelled by him to marry Rasheed, who was thirty years older than her, even though she was only fifteen because she doesn’t want to be caught up with him. She ended up embracing him by force despite her unwillingness. Eventually, her husband also continued to abuse her, especially when she had a miscarriage and was unable to be pregnant.
Mariam subsequently ended up killing Rasheed to save the life of Laila, the second wife of Rasheed because he was about to kill her. Although it was self-defense and committed this crime to rescue Laila, it was convicted as well as executed by the Taliban administration.
Laila was luckier than Mariam, she was not an unlawful child, but throughout her adult life she had suffered from mistreatment by men.In addition, Rasheed abused her, first of all when he lies on her that her beloved Tariq had died to accept his wedding proposal.Then when he began to harm and rebuke his wives Mariam and Laila for anything wrong with him in his life, especially when Mariam was unable to deliver a child and Laila gave birth to a girl, he became abusive. In addition to the horrors of Rasheed who violated his responsibility as a husband, the Taliban beat Laila for going out alone in the orphanage to visit her daughter Aziza.Despite all of Laila’s abuses, struggles and injuries throughout her life, all the sacrifices she offered made her stronger and therefore more powerful in fighting all the difficulties and continuing her life as a great and affectionate mother.
Aziza was marginalized and received very bad treatment from Rasheed whom she believed to be her true father, but he rejected her as a girl and sent her to the orphanage simply because of her sex. In fact, Rasheed wanted to retrieve her first son who died from another, and when Laila delivered Aziza instead of a boy, he became upset and started rebuking both Aziza and Laila’s mother.It is difficult to grow up in such a complex and very heartless situation, but she could be soulful and tender despite all these oddities and difficulties.
In this novel, Afghan females were marginalized by men of their own nation who control and treat every aspect of woman’s life as inferior beings. One of the main reasons of marginalization is Afghanistan’s society has been considered conservative and typically tied for so long. Numerous political and religious regimes get affected society and have pushed it far from civilization and modern lifestyles. The novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, reveals the plight of women in Afghanistan. The main reason leading to marginalization is the changing political situation that is having a strong impact on the status of women in Afghan society.
As depicted in the novel, women’s position changes from region to region. And the most convenient city that retraces the popular political alterations took place in Kabul throughout most of the story of A Thousand Splendid Suns where the reader could encounter the shift and adjustments in the status of the woman. In Kabul, all the various changes were depicted, and this was noticed when Mariam moved to this city and was forced to marry Rasheed. She observed modern life astonishingly, especially for women, she was amazed by the fact that females could wear whatever they wanted in a modern style, they could go outside alone and walk around the city alone, they could forgo head coverings, drive, work, and even hold professional positions. This period was known in Afghanistan as the most interesting time, particularly for women who relished the most freedoms. That’s when the Afghan people were under the Soviet government’s rule in the communist era. This period facilitates all sorts of women’s freedoms. Women had the right to study and learn. In the communist era, education was outlined for them. Equality has been imposed and spread across the country for the sake of women, providing them equal rights to education. Men and women in all domains are considered equal, so it was optional to wear hijab and burqa and was not compulsory for women. When the Taliban gained power and headed the city in 1996, women’s rights and freedoms were reduced. Women have been severely controlled and their rights have been strictly restricted. They become marginalized, mistreated, inmates in their homes as they have been required to stay in their homes and can not leave or walk alone outside unless their relatives have a man. Education and equality have been abolished; women have no right to learn or work. Thus, analphabetism spreads and accounts for 90% of Afghan women today.
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