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Study Guide: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - BookNotes

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It is 1974, and the time of Ramadan. For the first time in her life, Mariam sees how the sighting of the new crescent moon can transform an entire city. When she bvreaks the fats with bread and date, “she is tasting for the first time in her fifteen years the sweetness of sharing a communal experience.” (pg. 71) Rasheed only observed the fast for a handful of days, and Mariam is grateful when it is over, because he is so moody and mean when he cannot eat.

Then come the first three days of Eid-ul-Fitr, which she remembered hating when she lived with Nana. Jalili and Mullah Fazullas would both come with gifts and candy, but she dreaded this time, because families dressed up and visited each other, reminding her that she really had no family. However, this year she sees the Eid from the eyes of her childhood imaginings. She and Rasheed take to the streets where people greet each other by saying, “Eid Mubarak!” They go to the park where children romp in their new clothes and compare Eid gifts. That night they go to Chaman to watch the fireworks. ”Mariam wishes her mother were alive to see this. To see her, amid it all. To see at last that contentment and beauty are not unattainable things. Even for the likes of them.”

Mariam and Rasheed also have Eid visiters, all males, so Rasheed makes Mariam go upstairs to her room. Ironically, she is flattered that he wants her away from his male friends as if he is honoring and protecting her namoos. She feels prized by his protectiveness; Treasured and significant. On the third day of Eid, Rasheed goes to visit some friends, and Mariam begins to clean up after the visitors from the night before. She doesn’t mean to go into Rasheed’s room, but it seems the logical next step when her cleaning brings her to his door. Inside, she looks around at how everything is neatly organized. She picks up a cigarette from a pack he has left on the dresser beside the bed and looks at herself in the mirror to see if she is as glamorous as the woman she had seen on the street. However, in her mouth, it looks coarse and ridiculous. She opens the top drawer of his dresser and sees a gun lying there. It shocks her, but she believes it must be there for protection and not to kill anyone. Beneath the gun are several magazines with curled edges. When Mariam opens one, she cannot believe her eyes. It is filled with pornographic pictures of many beautiful women. She is surprised that a man like Rasheed, who insists that face is only his business and that all women should cover, has such degrading pictures. However, she rationalizes it as a man who has lived alone for years and has sexual needs different from hers. She knows that she can never talk to him about this. It is unmentionable, but is it unforgivable? She wonders which is worse - what Jalil did out of wedlock with Nana or what Rasheed does with his magazines. In the bottom drawer, Mariam finds the picture of Yunus, Rasheed’s drowned son and another picture which is a family portrait of Rasheed, his first wife and their son. There is something vaguely unsettling to Mariam about the way Rasheed seems to loom over the woman. He has his hands on her shoulders and wears a savory, tight-lipped smile while her face is sullen and unsmiling. Also, her body seems to tip forward as if she is trying to wriggle free of his hands.

Mariam eventually puts back everything where she found it. Later, she regrets that she had sneaked around in Rasheed’s room. She wonders what thing of substance she has learned about him really. Actually, as she finishes her work, she feels sorrow for Rasheed. He, too, had had a hard life marked by loss and sad turns of fate. Also, it pains her to think of Rasheed, panic-stricken and helpless, pleading with the lake to spit back his son. For the first time, she feels a kinship with her husband. She tells herself that they will make good companions after all.


This chapter is all about Mariam continuing to experience new things and new feelings. The holidays show her what it’s like to be part of a community as well as a family. Her sneaking into Rasheed’s room and looking at his hidden things makes her feel as if she and this strange man who is now her husband may have more in common that she thought. This is comforting to her. However, there is also a vague, unsettling feeling after she sees his first family in the photograph, which gives her pause for a moment.



This chapter begins with a bus ride home from the doctor’s office. Mariam is pregnant! All Rasheed can think of is that the baby will be a boy, and he even has a name for him - Zalmai. He tells her he’s sure it’s a boy, but if it happens to be a girl, Mariam can name her. The morning after the doctor visit, Mariam awakens to the sound of hammering and sawing. She finds Rasheed in the tool shed making a crib for the baby. It was going to be a surprise, but now Mariam has found out. Rasheed is not angry about the surprise, and, in fact, he shows her a suede winter coat for a boy that he had bought the baby as well. This weighs on Mariam, that he hitches his hopes on the baby being a boy, and how he worries about all the things in the house that might harm the child.

The next day, Rasheed says he is inviting several friends over to dinner to celebrate the news of the baby. Of course, Mariam is expected to stay in her room. While she hears them laughing and singing, she marvels how she has come so many miles to this city where she now has a home of her own, a husband of her own, and one final cherished gift - motherhood. “How glorious 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.” She feels all the loss and self-abasement of her life wash away and believes that this why God has brought her here all the way across the country. She asks God not to let all this good fortune to slip away from her.

Rasheed has the idea to go to the hamam. She has never been to a bathhouse, but he convinces that there is no greater feeling than stepping out of the hot baths into the cold air. So she goes as he asks. In the baths, the other women are just shapes moving around in the steam, so Mariam sits in a far corner working on her heels with the pumice stone. Then, suddenly, there is blood and she is screaming. It is Fariba her neighbor who comes to her, followed by all the other women who cluck their tongues at the sight. All Mariam can say is, “It’s normal, isn’t it? Isn’t it normal?”

Then comes another bus ride through the snow with Rasheed. After they are home, Rasheed covers her with a quilt as she lies on the couch. He paces and angrily questions the doctor’s explanation of the miscarriage as “God’s will.” As for Mariam, she remembers Nana saying once that each snowflake is a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all sighs drift up to the sky, gather into clouds, then break into tiny pieces that fall silently on the people below. “As a reminder of how women like us suffer,” she said. How quietly we endure all the falls upon us.”


This chapter has so many ironic elements - Rasheed’s excitement about the baby, the celebratory dinner with his friends, and then the miscarriage - but the most ironic of all is Mariam’s prayer that God will not let their good fortune slip away, and then, of course, it does.

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