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Spousal abuse in A Thousand Splendid Suns
Transcript of Spousal abuse in A Thousand Splendid Suns
The following TED Talk, presented by Leslie Morgan Steiner, tells her personal story of domestic violence in relationships. She tells horrific story of how she was madly in love with a man who routinely abused her and threatened her life, similar to Mariam and Laila in
A Thousand Splendid Suns
. She also speaks about how every body can and should help break the silence about domestic violence.
From the beginning of the novel, Mariam is a victim of emotional abuse. While growing up in the Kolba with her Nana, Mariam was called a "Harami" (4) by her mother and father, meaning "bastard". Later on, Rasheed uses that word to further abuse her.
Upon marrying Rasheed, Mariam was forced to display sexual acts. Initially, Mariam says "I can't" (76), but he refuses to listen. Rasheed explains to her that sex is mandatory in marriage.
Over the last few years, Afghanistan has been known for its violence, poverty, and human rights violations which leads to the topic of spousal abuse. Afghanistan is one of the most challenging places in the world to be a women as they face constant abuse. In the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, the characters Laila and Mariam are both victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
In Afghan culture, physical abuse is present in many relationships. This physical abuse is often followed by verbal abuse or vice versa. There is a constant cycle of disputes which lead to violence which then lead to more disputes. Throughout the novel, there are several examples of physical abuse in a relationship.
Throughout the novel, Rasheed is the most authoritative character as he is almost always controlling women. He is also the most abusive character in the novel. Initially, Rasheed shows no signs of spousal abuse, but after Mariam has a miscarriage, his behaviour begins to change. Rasheed both physically and verbally abuses his wives countless times throughout the novel.
One example of physical abuse is when Rasheed forces Mariam to chew on some pebbles after being unsatisfied with her cooking.
"His powerful hands clasped her jaw. He shoved two fingers into her mouth and pried it open, then forced the cold, hard pebbles into it. Mariam struggled against him..." (104)
Rasheed then follows with verbal abuse.
"Now you know what your rice tastes like. Now you know what you've given me in this marriage. Bad food, and nothing else." (104)
Throughout the novel, emotional abuse is even more common than physical abuse.
This name follows Mariam throughout her life, causing her to feel worthless.
"We are city people, you and I, but she is a
. A village girl. Not even a village girl. No. She grew up in a
made of mud
the village. Her father put her there. Have you told her, Mariam, have you told her that you are a
? Well, she is." (222)
"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)
Later on, Rasheed forces his second wife, Laila, to have another child, once again demonstrating sexual abuse in a relationship.
Theme of Spousal Abuse
In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini uses the theme of spousal abuse to highlight the issues being faced by Afghan women each and every day. Both Mariam and Laila are being constantly abused by their husband similar to some relationships today. Through these characters, Hosseini demonstrates the great extent of power to which many men hold over their wives lives. He also demonstrates how women respond to the needs of their husbands and the difficulty of escaping abusive relationships. This allows the reader to understand the superiority which men have over their wives in Kabul.
1. Do you think that Mariam was correct in killing Rasheed?
2. Do you agree with Laila's decision to return back to the city in which she suffered so many losses; including spousal abuse?
3. Will women ever have equal rights in Afghanistan?
Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. New York: Riverhead, 2007. Print.
"Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why Domestic Violence Victims Don't Leave." YouTube. YouTube, 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 July 2015.