Literary Criticism of 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'

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Major characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns are Mariam, Laila, Rasheed, and Tariq. Secondary and supporting characters can be seen in this book as the parents, friends, and children of our main characters.

Mariam is the first main character that we get to know in the book. Her beginning story is that of an illegitimate child’s struggle in Afghanistan. Mariam’s life as an outcast growing up brought her very little knowledge about the outside world. Her childhood was heavily influenced by her mother, Nana, who had a harsh but experienced outlook on life and how society in Afghanistan treated women. This drove Mariam to seek love from her father that visits once a week. Jalil (Mariam’s dad) was a wealthy businessman that gave Mariam gifts and the love that she yearned for. On Mariam’s fifteenth birthday, she asks Jalil to take her to go see a movie at his theater. He reluctantly agrees, but never comes to get her. Mariam decides to run off and find him, only to find that he is away on business. She refuses to leave spends the night outside his house. The next morning she catches a glimpse of Jalil in the window and is driven home. Upon arrival, she sees that Nana has hung herself because Mariam left. Mariam then goes to live at the house of her father and is soon married off. She and her husband, Rasheed, are unable to have kids which leads him to be abusive and aggressive. Her life eventually gets the love she always dreamed of with Rasheed’s second wife and her kids.

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(Mariam’s life started with started her growing up as an outcast with her strict mother and has a harsh but experienced view of society. This drives her to look for love from her father who visits once a week. When she runs away at fifteen to see him, he rejects her. When she returns home, she finds her mother dead. Soon after she is married off to Rasheed who is an abusive husband. Her inability to have kids drives his anger and her lack of hope that she will ever find love in her life. Luckily, Rasheed marries again to Laila, and Mariam is able to enjoy her company and her kids. Her life feels so complete that she is willing to turn herself in when she kills Rasheed for trying to kill Laila.)

Rasheed is another major character in A thousand Splendid Suns. He is part of the conflict between himself and his wives and is a driving force behind the lives and actions of Mariam and Laila. His previous marriage has left him widowed and without his son. Rasheed seeks to replace his son and previous life but is unable to with Mariam. So after a rough and abusive decade and a half, he has another marriage with Laila. Laila was saved and nurtured back to health after the bomb took out her parents and her home under the care of Rasheed as he intended to marry her. With some manipulation, he can convince her that she has no better choice, and she agrees. After the first child in the marriage turns out to be a girl, he becomes aggressive. This anger is taken out on his wives and only seems to slow once the second child of the marriage, a boy, comes along. He loves his baby boy and spoils him with gifts and attention. His story comes to a close when Laila’s old friend and lover Tariq shows up and spends the afternoon talking with Laila. Rasheed becomes furious and starts beating Mariam and Laila. When things escalate and he tries to kill Laila, Mariam goes and gets the shovel and kills him.

Laila is a young girl in the city of Kabul when her brothers go off to war. Her mother, cast into a deep grief that her boys are away, spends her time in the bedroom, not showing Laila much attention or love. Laila’s father is a very progressive and encouraging man that gave Laila confidence in herself. Laila’s best friend is Tariq. Tariq is an adventurous young man that loves mischief and fun. He is very protective of Laila and will do anything for her. As the story moves forward, Laila’s brothers are killed in battle which leads her mother into even more grief and depression. When the war worsens in Kabul, Laila's mom refuses to leave, hoping that she will see this war to the end for her sons. Throughout this time, Tariq and Laila develop a love for each other. These feelings are being cut short because Tariq and his family are leaving Kabul in hopes of finding safer places to live. Tariq and Laila see each other one last time, and he leaves. Soon after he leaves, Laila’s house and parents get bombed, with her only surviving because of Rasheed and his wife Mariam. She notices that she is pregnant with Tariq's child, and marries Rasheed to give her child a good chance at life. Rasheed also paid a stranger to tell Lalia that her true love, Tariq is dead. Rasheed abuses her and spoils her next child, Rasheed's son.

Tariq is Laila’s best one-legged friend and future husband. His childhood growing up with has brought him many good memories and times with Laila. This time of peace and simplicity ended when Tariq says that he is moving away. They admit their love and spend the night together. When Tariq leaves, he goes off to a refugee camp where times were tough. He went to prison in that time for bringing drugs unknowingly across the border. When in jail, he made connections that landed him a job and a home in Pakistan. Once he was comfortable and able to, he tracked down Laila and told her of his life one afternoon while Rasheed was gone. Rasheed found out and tried to kill Laila, only to be killed himself by Mariam. Laila, Tariq, and the kids flee to his place where he is the new father figure and husband. His life is complete with Laila and their kids.

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Literary Criticism of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 18, 2024, from
“Literary Criticism of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022,
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