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Spousal Abuse in A Thousand Splendid Suns
Transcript of Spousal Abuse in A Thousand Splendid Suns
Mariam was verbally abused from a young age. She was called a "harami" (4) by her mother which means bastard. Mariam loved her mother and this followed her throughout her life having an impact on her.
What is Spousal Abuse?
Spousal abuse is generally defined as any abusive conduct between intimate partners who are married, dating, or residing in the same residence. It can refer to single instances of abuse, although it usually refers to a pattern of repeated or cyclical abuse over time (LaMance par. 1).
The Most Dangerous Place in the World to be a Woman
A Thousand Splendid Suns takes place in Afghanistan and is told from 2 different perspectives, Mariam and Laila. Mariam has grown up with her mother, but has a wealthy father named Jalil who lives in Herat with all his wives. When Mariams mother kills herself, Mariam is sent off to live with Jalil where she is soon sent to marry a shoemaker named Rasheed. Marriam becomes pregnant but has a miscarriage and Rasheed becomes abusive. Laila was born the same night the soviets took over Afghanistan. Her best friend (and lover) is named Tariq, and he lost his leg from a landmine when he was younger. Tariq's family runs away to Pakistan, and when Laila and her family are getting ready to leave, rocket blows up her house. Both of Laila's parents die, and Mariam and Rasheed take care of Laila as she recovers. A man tells Laila that Tariq has died and she is heartbroken. Laila marries Rasheed and her and Mariam do not have very good relationship because of this. Rasheed continues to abuse both woman physically, verbally, sexually, and emotionally throughout the novel, until they are able to save themselves.
"Now you know what your rice tastes like. Now you know what you’ve given me in this marriage. Bad food, and nothing else" (94). Rasheed says this to Mariam because she was unable to give him a son. It was not Mariam's fault that she had a miscarriage, but Rasheed only blames her.
"You know nothing, do you? You're like a child. Your brain is empty. There is no information in it" (98). Saying this to a young girl is equivalent to calling her dumb and it makes Mariam feel worthless.
Laila was not abused as a child. Her father loved her and so did her mother although she neglected her at first. The abuse only began when she moved in with Mariam and Rasheed.
"Through the mournful grit and pebbles, Mariam mumbles a plea. Tears were leaking out the corner of her eyes… Mariam chewed. Something in the back of her mouth cracked… Mariam spit out pebbles, blood and the fragments of two broken molars." (104). Rasheed forces Mariam to chew on rocks. This is first time physical abuse is seen in the novel. Mariam breaks mollars when she does this and will be in a pain for weeks because of this.
"Downstairs, the beating began. To Laila, the sounds she heard were those of a methodical, familiar proceeding. There was no cursing, no screaming, no pleading, no surprised yelps, only the systematic business of beating and being beaten" (268). This quote is from Laila's perspective. She is hearing Mariam being beaten by Rasheed after they are caught trying to run away. Mariam is so used to being beaten that she does not even make a sound.
"There is no shame in this, Mariam, it's what married people do. It's what the Prophet himself and his wives did. There is no shame" (77). After Mariam is forced to have sex with Rasheed, he says this to her. Mariam clearly stated that she did not want to have sex with him, but he forced her to.
After being forced to marry a man she knew nothing of, Mariam gave Rasheed everything he could ask for. She cleaned, cooked, and respected him. The problem Rasheed had with Mariam was that she could not conceive. Mariam was physically incapable of having a child, and she goes through 7 miscarriages throughout the novel. Rasheed begins to abuse Mariam because she can not give him the one thing he wants. Everything she does seems to be wrong in his eyes, but Mariam still tries to please him as much as she can. Rasheed constantly pushes Mariam away from him which leads to an unhealthy abusive relationship.
Laila grew up with her mom and dad until one day they were taken away from her. She is saved by Mariam and Rasheed and eventually is asked to become Rasheed's second wife. This makes Mariam unhappy and the two woman do not have a strong relationship at first. Laila fufills all the needs of Rasheed, including giving him a son and daughter, but it still does not seem to be enough for him.
After losing his wife and son, Rasheed remarry's to 15 year old Mariam. Rasheed believes the ideal wife is someone who is subservient, obedient, and fertile. When Mariam is not able to give Rasheed a son, he becomes upset and impatient with her. This leads to physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. Evetually Laila is brought into the marriage and she is able to give Rasheed a son, but this still does not satisfy him. Rasheed turns to abusing the woman because to him they are not good enough, but that eventually gets him killed.
“Laila didn’t see the punch coming. One moment she was talking then the next moment she was on all fours, wide-eyed and red-faced, trying to draw a breath. Then she was dragged by the hair (239). This quote is from when Rasheed was beating Laila. It shows us the pain women go through and the abuse. She could barely breathe because of what Rasheed was doing to her.
"One day, a young talib beat Laila with a radio antenna" (321). Laila went through being beaten everyday just to be able to visit her daughter in an orphanage. When woman were not accompanied by men on the streets they would be abused. In their society this was ok to do, so nothing would be done to help the women being beaten.
“You try this again and I will find you. I swear on the Prophet’s name that I will find you. And if I do, there isn’t a court in this godforsaken country that will hold me accountable for what I will do. To Mariam first, then to her, and you last. I’ll make you watch. You understand me? I’ll make you watch" (272). Rasheed verbally abused Laila after they tried to run away. He threatened her life along with Mariam's which was very frightening to her.
Throughout the novel Laila and Mariam are both victims of
The abuse develops Rasheeds character because when he was first married to Mariam he seemed like a completely different person. After reading the novel you realize what it is like to be a woman in Afghanistan and how men have all the control.
This clip relates to my topic because it talks about how Afghanistan is a very dangerous place to live as a woman. It shows us what they go through every day, and how they live in fear. One woman named Sosan nearly died because men injected her with poison. They even brought the Mullah to say prayers for her passing away and obtained her death certificate because they assumed she was going to die. Many woman die from the abuse they encounter and nothing is done about it. Women in Afghanistan think about killing themselves to get away from the pain. In Afghanistan the domestic violence is accepted by the public and the men will not get in trouble for it. The government does not accept women's rights or laws that protect them from abuse.
In conclusion, Mariam and Laila are both victims to all types of abuse throughout the novel. Hosseini used them to represent the majority of the women in Afghanistan who get abused everyday by their husbands. He use this theme to bring awareness to the problem of not just spousal abuse, but abuse in general. Women are beaten and tortured every day because their society says it is ok. Hosseini shows the power that men have over woman, and how difficult it can be for the women to escape. He develops Rasheed's character to represent all the men in Afghanistan who have become monsters and think it is ok to abuse their wives because they did not please or satisfy them enough. This novel also showed how far some men in Afghanistan are willing to take it. Rasheed was about to kill Laila and Mariam, but they were lucky enough to save themselves. Most women would have been alone and not able to save themselves in that situation.
Holly, Kellie. “What Is Verbal Abuse?” HealthyPlace, www.healthyplace.com/abuse/verbal-abuse/what-is-verbal-abuse/. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.
Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. Toronto, Penguin Group (Canada), 2009.
LaMance, Ken. “Spousal Abuse Laws.” Spousal Abuse Laws, 19 Oct. 2016, www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/spousal-abuse-laws.html. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.
The Most Dangerous PLace in the World to Be A Woman. Youtube, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv1b4OYKgmQ. Accessed 22 Feb. 2017.
“Physical Abuse.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_abuse. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.
“Sexual Abuse.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Feb. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_abuse. Accessed 23 Feb. 2017.
Verbal abuse can be described as as blatantly offensive language designed to humiliate and gain power over another person (Holly par. 5).
Physical abuse can be defined as any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person by way of bodily contact (Physical par. 1).
Sexual Abuse is usually described as undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another (Sexual par. 1).
1. What do you think can be done to help stop the abuse in Afghanistan?
2. Do you think that Mariam could have saved everyone without killing Rasheed? If not, do you think it was the right thing to do?
There came a point where the physical abuse became too much and it put Mariam and Laila in danger. Mariam acted quickly and ended up killing Rasheed to save themselves.
"And so Mariam raised the shovel high, raised it as high as she could, arching it so it touched the small of her back. She turned it so the sharp edge was vertical, and, as she did, it occurred that this was the first time that she was deciding the course of her own life. And, with that, Mariam brought down the shovel. This time, she gave it everything she had" (349). This quote is significant because it states that it was the first time Mariam was deciding the course of her own life. In Afghanistan the men control the women, but in this moment, Mariam was in control.
3. How would you feel living in a society like the one we learn about in the novel?
After having her daughter, Rasheed forced her to give birth to another child because he wanted a son. Rasheed was not happy with Laila until she gave him what he wanted.
By Julia Allinson