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A Thousand Splendid Suns

An analysis of the theme: Man's inhumanity to man
by

Nicolene Greeff

on 26 November 2013

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Transcript of A Thousand Splendid Suns

Man's inhumanity to man
This theme occurs throughout the novel. Inhumanity is shown on a large scale by those in power, and it is shown on a smaller scale through individual stories such as that of Mariam.
1. Man's inhumanity to many men
The mujahideen leaders who are mostly Pashtun terrorise and perform inhumane acts on the people of Afghanistan who are of a different ethnic group.
War breaks broke out. Hundreds of innocent people are being murdered all over Kabul by enemy military personnel. People, including children, are being killed in incredibly undignified and inhumane ways. Tariq tells Laila that "Pashtun militiamen were attacking Hazara households, breaking in and shoot entire families, execution style, that Hazaras were retaliating by abducting Pashtun civilians, raping Pashtun girls, shelling Pashtun neighborhoods, and killing indiscriminately" (Hosseini 176). This shows that men are killing many others simply because they are a part of a slightly different ethnic group. Not only are they all humans, but they are all Afghans. Men murdering and raping other men’s families is a sign of true inhumane acts.
2. A single man's inhumanity on another single man
This type of inhumanity can be described as abuse. This abuse can be:
A) Physical
B) Psychological
C) Both physical and psychological
A) Physical Acts of Humanity
Mariam as well as Laila receive physical abuse from Rasheed numerous times.
B) Psycological Acts of Humanity
Mariam recieves psycological abuse from her mother and Rasheed.
C) Both physical and psychological acts of inhumanity
Rasheed physically and psycologically abuses Mariam throughout their marriage. An example of this is when Mariam serves Rasheed a plate of rice after they had had an argument. Rasheed physically assaults Mariam while denouncing her cooking. “He snatched her hand, opened it, and dropped a handful of pebbles into it. ‘Put these in your mouth.’” Mariam displayed confusion and he replied with physical and then psychological abuse. “His powerful hands clasped her jaw. He shoved two fingers in her mouth and pried it open, then forced the cold, hard pebbles into it... ‘CHEW!’ he bellowed... Mariam chewed. Something in the back of her mouth cracked. ‘Good... Now you know what your rice tastes like. Now you know what you’ve given me in this marriage. Bad food, and nothing else’” (Hosseini 103-104). This abuse shows a combination of physical and psychological assault. It displays Rasheed’s substantial power over Mariam as he asserts his power through abuse or inhumane acts.
Inhumanity and abuse is a recurring cycle.
Throughout history genocides occur. Many innocent lives are lost, from the crusades, to the holocaust, to the Rwandan genocide, to the 9/11 attack on the twin towers. Inhumane acts of terror continue to occur.
Discussion Questions:

1. Why do you think these terrible actions are called "inhumane" when they are all performed by humans? Think about what human nature is. Think about what humans see as ideal human nature.
2. What would you do if you were put under the same abuse that Mariam is? Would you try and resist? At what point would you stop trying to fight back? Would you commit an inhumane crime such as murder in order to stop the inhumane abuse you are experiencing?
3. Explain what makes an action inhumane? Is lying inhumane? If murder is inhumane, is murder in self defense inhumane? At what point would you draw the line between a bad action and an inhumane action?

An external example of actions against humanity is the Rwandan Genocide.
On the 6th of April 1994, the Rwandan President's plane was shot down. The attacker's identity was unknown but it still sparked a civil war and genocide. The president had been a Hutu, which means he was part of the Hutu tribe which made up about 85% of the population. The country was on the brink of civil war due to social, economic and political issues. This led the Hutu's to blame the Tutsi's, of the minority Tutsi tribe consisting of 14% of the population, for the attack. Hutu extremists, funded and supported by the Hutu government, decided to do 'ethnic cleansing' and the Rwandan genocide began.
Anyone who did not agree or fully support the Hutu extremists, in their killing of all Tutsi's, was also murdered. Murders were extremely violent and inhumane.
Tutsi's were killed in their homes and even at roadblocks as they tried to flee the country. They would kill entire families, brutally raping the women first. Approximately 200, 000 people took part in the inhumane acts, while around 800, 000 people were murdered. All of this occurred within only 100 days.
The genocide only ended when a rebel group, conisting of mostly Tutsi's, defeated the Hutu government forces and a new president took control.
This is a photograph of a Hutu man who was mutilated by his own Hutu people because he did not fully supporting the murdering of the Tutsi's. Those who did not agree or show support for all the murders were called Tutsi-sympathizers and were brutally murdered.
The Rwandan genocide resulted from conflict between two ethnic groups. The larger ethnic group, the Hutus decided to murder all of the Tutsi's to perform 'ethnic cleansing'. This is very similar to the rivalries in Afghanistan and in the novel. The largest ethnic group in Afghanistan are the Pashtuns who try perform 'ethnic cleansing' too as they murder Hazaras and Tajiks.
Rasheed inflicts Mariam psychologically with guilt and makes her feel inferior. An example is when Mariam asks Rasheed a question while they are listening to the news on the radio. She asks “’Who’s Karl Maxist?’” His reply is harsh and blunt. “Rasheed sighed... [He] chortled and shook his head, but Mariam thought she saw uncertainty in the way he crossed his arms, the way his eyes shifted. ‘You know nothing, do you? You’re like a child. Your brain is empty. There is no information in it.’” (Hosseini 98). Rasheed makes Mariam feel insignificant and stupid by taunting her with the fact that she is politically uninformed. It appears in this section that Rasheed is uncertain too but in order to hide his own political ignorance, he takes out his rage on Mariam. He does not answer her question but instead changes the topic to mocking her lack of education. She is a woman who is not allowed to go to school and learn about the outside world, yet he does not inform her but humiliates her instead in order to lower Mariam’s self-esteem and gain more power over her.
Mariam is psychologically abused by her mother, Nana, on many occasions. An example is when Nana says to Mariam, “'of all the daughters I could have had, why did God give me an ungrateful one like you... What a stupid girl you are! You think you matter to [your father], that you're wanted in his house... When I'm gone, you'll have nothing... You are nothing!'” (Hosseini 27). There is some truth in these words, as Mariam is not wanted in her father’s house and when her mother dies, Mariam is sent off to Kabul to marry a man that is thirty years her senior. In her marriage she is treated like she is nothing and continuously abused. Even though there is some truth in these words, they are extremely cruel for a mother to say to her daughter and they would definitely wound Mariam indefinitely. These words are inhumane and only cause Mariam to desire to get away from her mother and go to her father’s house. A mother’s words are meant to encourage, yet these words make Mariam feel completely worthless and not even worthy enough to be human. Nana is stripping her of her worth and hope as a human being which makes these words completely inhumane.
Peacock, Brian. "The Rwandan Genocide." Man's Inhumanity. Blogspot, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2013 2013. <http://fromthecab.blogspot.ca/2011/01/mans-inhumanity.html>.
reference
Rasheed often talks about his physical abuse He threatens Laila with his abuse before he actually beats her. After Laila is brought back by the police, Rasheed says to her, “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 still do. To Mariam first, then to her, and you last. I’ll make you watch. You understand me? I’ll make you watch” (243). This shows Rasheed’s temper, his natural violent tendency and portrays the physical abuse he uses on Laila soon afterward.

When Rasheed first meets Laila, he is kind and non-violent as he wants her to be his wife and bear him a son because Mariam could not. Mariam watches Laila with jealousy but also with the knowledge that things will change for Laila as soon as Rasheed does or does not get exactly what he wants. Mariam thinks “It’s not so much what he says, the blatant lies, the contrived empathy, or even the fact that he has not raised a hand to her…It is the staged delivery. Like a performance. An attempt on his part, both sly and pathetic, to impress. To charm. And suddenly, Mariam knows that her suspicions are right. She understands with a dread that is a blinding whack to the side of her head that what she is witnessing is nothing less than a courtship” (191). Mariam realises that Rasheed is putting on an act in order to win Laila’s hand. The fact that Mariam uses “contrived” to describe his empathy and describes his lack of physical abuse as “staged” shows that he is truly a cruel and abusive man.

When the Taliban took control, they strictly enforced many inhumane laws, many of them directed towards women. "You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram, a male relative. If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home" (Hosseini 278). In this novel, we read about the Taliban finding Laila and beating her. Laila sneaks off on her own to visit her daughter at the orphanage but when the Taliban find her they often just curse at her, but sometimes they beat her so badly that she gives up her hope of visiting her daughter.
The Taliban beat women who do not follow the strict rules, including Laila.
Hosseini, Khaled.
A Thousand Splendid Suns
. London: Bloomsbury, 2008. Print.
reference
If I presented this to a class I would ask my peers for some suggestions about where in the novel inhumane acts are performed. For example, I would ask the class when Rasheed shows violence or inhumanity towards Mariam or Laila. I would discuss examples briefly before going into my detailed analysis so that the class can already start thinking about the topic themselves. This should create more class involvement.
The author, Khaled Hosseini, displays through this novel the true nature of many human beings. He displays how a great desire for power can lead to incredibly inhumane acts. The Taliban strive for power by beating women who are alone. The Pashtuns killed Tajiks and Hazaras to gain power and authority. Rasheed abuses Mariam and Laila physically and psychologically in order to feel more powerful and superior to them.
By Nicolene Greeff
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