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"A Thousand Splendid Suns"

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A Gonsalves

on 20 October 2015

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Transcript of "A Thousand Splendid Suns"

Formalistic Approach
Hosseini uses a number of literary devices that aid in the development of character and conflict.


Tuberose (flower) - Jalil tells Mariam that's where her name comes from (12):
"Your favourite?" Mariam asked.
"Well, one of," he said and smiled.
Mugwort - Nana's description of herself in the eyes of Jalil and his wives (8):
"Something you rip out and toss aside"

The film, "Pinocchio" is a metaphor for Mariam's longing to be a 'real girl,' or in the eyes of her father, a legitimate daughter.

Essentially, the first 5 chapters of the novel gives us an indication of how Mariam will need to endure as a woman. She will have to pay the price of her parent's sins, as she struggles to find legitimacy in her identity.

Nana's history
"Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam." (7)

Symbols - both concrete and abstract
"And so, your father built us this rathole." (9)

"What's the sense schooling a girl like you? It's like shining a spittoon. And you'll learn nothiner of value in those schools. There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don't teach it in school. Look at me ... Endure." (18)

"They'll comfort you too, Mariam jo ... You can summon them i your tie of need, and they won't fail you. God's words will never betray you, my girl." (17)
"Give me sustenance, Allah. Give sustenance to me." (96)

"They got spooked" (10)

Presentation Summary:

Formalistic Approach/ Feminist Approach
Connection & Discussion - Tomorrow!
A Thousand Splendid Suns: Part I Analysis
In Part I, we are introduced to Mariam as a child and watch her quickly develop into an adult. Through this forced transformation, we come to understand the plight of women in Afghanistan, and their unending struggle to endure and survive.
Mariam & Nana's
Jalil's house in Herat
Rasheed's house in Kabul
Mariam breaks Nana's sugar bowl, which ignites Nana's resentment of Mariam
We learn of Mariam's birth status (
), and about the affair between her parents
Every Thursday Mariam waits for her father, Jalil to spend time with her at the kolba.
For her fifteenth birthday, Mariam asks Jalil to take her to his cinema to watch the cartoon, "Pinocchio."
Nana is so upset with this Mariam's request that she tells her daughter that she will die if she leaves her (27).
Despite her mother's warnings, Mariam goes to Jalil's house
Once there, Mariam is ignored by her father, and is left to sleep alone outside of his door. When Mariam returns home to the kolba, she finds out that her mother has killed herself, leaving her alone in the world.
Mariam returns to Jalil's house where she learns that she is to be married to a suitor. Rasheed is 30 years older than Mariam, and is willing to take her as his bride.
Mariam spends the next few years with Rasheed, battling miscarriages, the inability to have children, and Rasheed's unending mental, emotional and physical abuse.
"[Nana's] pockets were filled with walnut-sized rocks" (14)

"She picked up ten pebbles and arranged them vertically, in three columns ... She put four pebbles in the first column, for Khadija's children, three for Afsoon's, and three in the third column for Nargis's children. Then she added a fort column. A solitary, eleventh pebble." (29)

"He shoved two fingers into her mouth and pried it open, then forced the cold, hard pebbles into it ... 'Now chew ... Now you know what you've given mein thie marriage. Bad food, and nothing else' ... leaving Mariam to spit out pebbles, blood, and the fragments of two broken molars." (104).

The burqua:
"She practiced walking around her room in it and kept stepping on the hem and stumbling ... she did not like the suffocating way the pleated cloth kept pressing against her mouth." (72)
"You'll get used to it ... With time, I bet you'll even like it." (72)
"And the burqua, she learned to her surprise, was also comforting. It was like one-way widow. Inside it, she was an observer, buffered from the scrutinizing eyes of strangers. She no longer worried that people knew, with a single glance, all the shameful secrets of her past." (73)

Mariam is brought up to believe that she is not a legitimate person. She loses her innocence at the age of fifteen after her mother commits suicide and she is abandoned by her father. Mariam learns what it is like for traditional Afghan women living in patriarchal society.

Her identity:
"You are a clumsy little harami." (4)
"Nor was she old enough to appreciate the injustice, to see that it is the creators of the harami who are culpable, not the harami, whose only sin is being born." (4)
Her response to modern Afghan Women:
"These women mystified Mariam. They made her aware of her own lowliness, her plain looks, her lack of aspirations, her ignorance of so many things." (75)
"She understood ... that harami was an unwanted thing; that she, Mariam, was an illegitimate person who would never have legitimate claim to the things other people had, things such as love, family, home acceptance." (4)
Motherhood and suffering:
"Motherhood. How delectable it was to think of this baby ... How glorious it was to know that her love for it already dwarfed anything she had ever felt as a human being, to know that there was no need any longer for pebble games." (89)
"She remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, the broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how women like us suffer ... How quietly we endure all that falls upon us." (91)

Nana & Jalil - Their lack of parenting contribute to loss of identity Mariam struggles with her entire life. They both live on two opposite ends of an honour code spectrum.

Nana, a bitter woman: "A man's heart is a wretched, wretched thing, Mariam. It isn't like a mother's womb. It won't bleed, it won't stretch to make room for you. I'm the only one who loves you. I'm all you have in this world, Mariam, and when I'm gone you'll have nothing. You'll have nothing. You are nothing!" (27)

Jalil, a coward: "Goddamn it, Mariam, don't do this to me." (49)
Mariam to her father: "I used to worship you ... You were ashamed of me." (54-55)

Rasheed - Male Dominance

"'There now, girl. There. There.' he said. He was squinting out the window as he said this, as though something more interesting had caught his eye." (56)

"It's good ... A little under salted but good. Maybe better than good, even." (69)

"I have customers, Mariam, men, who bring their wives to my shop. The women come uncovered, they talk to me directly, look me in the eye without shame. They wear makeup and skirts that show their knees. Sometimes they even put their feet in front of me, the women do, for measurements, and their husbands stand there and watch. They allow it. They think nothing of a stranger touching their wives’ bare feet! They think they’re being modern men, intellectuals, on account of their education, I suppose. They don’t see that they’re spoiling their own nang and namoos, their honor and pride ... A woman's face is her husband's business only." (70)
Inner Strength of Women

"No, no ... Don't come. I won't see you. Don't you come. I don't want to hear from you. Ever. Ever." (55)

"'I've been thinking. that maybe we should have a proper burial for the baby' ... Mariam had been thinking about i for a while. She didn't want to forget this baby. It didn't seem right, not to mark this loss in some that was permanent." (95)

Shame & Honour

"[Jalil's wives] had been disgraced by her birth, and this was their chance to erase, once and for all, the last trace of their husband's scandalous mistake. She was being sent away because she was the walking, breathing embodiment of their shame." (48).

Discrimination/victimization of women

"Rasheed had grown more remote and resentful. Now nothing she did pleased him. She cleaned the house, made sure he always had a supply of clean shirts, cooked him his favorite dishes. Once, disastrously, she even bought makeup and put it on for him. But when he came home, he took one look at her and winced with such distaste that she rushed to the bathroom and washed it all off, tears of shame mixing with soapy water, rouge, and mascara. Now Mariam dreaded the sound of him coming home in the evening. The key rattling, the creak of the door – these were sounds that set her heart racing. From her bed, she listened to the click-clack of his heels, to the muffled shuffling of his feet after he’d shed his shoes. With her ears, she took inventory of his doings: chair legs dragged across the floor, the plaintive squeak of the cane seat when he sat, the clinking of spoon against plate, the flutter of newspaper pages flipped, the slurping of water. And as her heart pounded, her mind wondered what excuse he would use that night to pounce on her. There was always something, some minor thing that would infuriate him, because no matter what she did to please him, no matter how thoroughly she submitted to his wants and demands, it wasn’t enough. She could not give him his son back. In this most essential way, she had failed him – seven times she had failed him – and now she was nothing but a burden to him. She could see it in the way he looked at her, when he looked at her. She was a burden to him." (99-100)

Mariam's endless cycle of hope and disappointment sets the tragic tone of the novel. Throughout Part I, Mariam endures the struggles of a traditional Afghan woman. The first part of the novel ends in violence and we are left feeling hopeless and alone.

Mariam is shaped by her parent's neglect and resentment, and because of this, she feels that she does not have a claim to a happy, fulfilling life.

Lastly, Mariam is a product of the patriarchal society in which she lives. She is obedient to her husband because she has never believed that she has any rights. Mariam accepts her new life in the same way that she accepts her bastard status and the shame she has brought her parents.

In Summary...
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