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

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A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS: STUDY NOTES / CHAPTER SUMMARY

CHAPTER 14

Summary

Mariam is surprised over and over at the way grief strikes her over the loss of the baby. She has only to think of the unfinished crib, the winter coat, the sound of babies gurgling and jabbering to have the grief sweep her up and turn her upside down. There are also days when the dreariness doesn’t seem as unrelenting or exhausting. She has an easier time then doing all her chores. However, she dreads going outside where she hears other mothers complain about their children. She resents them when she hears this. She just doesn’t grieve for the los of a baby; she grieves for the loss of this baby. As a result, some days, she thinks of the baby of an undeserved blessing and believes its loss is punishment for how she had treated Nana. Other days, she is besieged with anger at Rasheed for celebrating prematurely. Then, she thinks that she is to blame for sleeping in the wrong position or eating the wrong foods. Finally, she blames God for taunting her, for dangling what he knows he can give her and then cruelly pulling it away. However, she knows that it is kofr, sacrilege to think these things. God is not a petty God.


Meanwhile, a change has come over Rasheed ever since the day at the bathhouse. He hardly talks to her anymore and on the occasional times he comes to her bed, he is brief and rough. He sulks, complains, and faults her cooking and housekeeping. He never walks beside her on the sidewalk but walks quickly ahead of her, forcing her to nearly run to keep up. Finally, one day, Mariam ask him if he is angry with her. She worries that he is, but he just keeps listening to the radio where it is said that President Daoud Khan had sent Soviet consultants back to Moscow unexpectedly. He can only answer that she must think him a terrible man if he would be angry with her for the miscarriage. So, then, Mariam asks if they can have a proper burial for the baby to make her feel better. Rasheed says sharply that he has already buried one son and he won’t bury another. As a result, one sunny morning, Mariam, picked a spot in the yard and dug a hole. She said prayers for the dead and lay the suede coat Rasheed had bought into the hole and shoveled dirt over it. Her final prayer is, “Give sustenance, Allah. Give sustenance to me, Allah.”

Notes

This chapter presents the ways Mariam and Rasheed deal with their grief over the baby. Mariam is the most mature, because she recognizes that they must honor this life with a proper burial while Rasheed holds in his grief and vents only anger towards her, because he cannot bear the loss of another son.


CHAPTER 15

Summary

On April 17, 1978, the year Mariam turns nineteen, a man named Mir Akbar Khyber is found murdered. He was a Communist and his supporters blame Daoud Khan. As a result, over 10,000 people take to the streets in protest. Mariam asks Rasheed what a Communist is. He ridicules her for her stupidity, so she continues by asking him what the Communists want. She can tell that he doesn’t know any more than she does, because he soon just tells her to shut up. They have been married for four years and it hasn’t been easy bearing his ridicule, scorn, and insults. However, she has learned how to tolerate his mood changes, because she is afraid. On occasion, he resolves any confrontation between them with punches, slaps, and kicks followed by polluted apologies, and sometimes he does not. Since the miscarriage in the bathhouse, there have been six more losses of a pregnancy. Each trip to the doctor is more crushing to Mariam than the last. Rasheed then becomes even more remote and resentful, and she dreads the sound of him coming in the door in the evening. Her heart pounds and she wonders what excuse he will use that night to pounce on her. However, nothing she does is enough - she cannot give him his son back, she has failed him seven times, and now she is nothing but a burden to him,

On April 27th of that year, Air Force Colonel Abdul Qader comes over the radio after his forces attack the presidential palace and other government offices and tells the people that the government is in the hands of rebel forces. Summary executions of top officials begin, and Daoud Khan is killed along with all of his family, including his grandchildren. This is the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan now. Down the street a baby girl is born to Faiba and Hakim and they name her Lailah or Night beauty.

One evening, Rashid takes the rice Mariam has made into his mouth and promptly spits it out. He says she is lying of she cooked loner as he has asked. She is shaking and it’s all she can do when he leaves the house to begin cleaning up the rice he spit and thrown. Soon, he returns with a handful of pebbles and forces her mouth open and stuffs them in. He then orders her to chew the pebbles. In her fear, she does as he asks, breaking the molars in the back of her mouth. He tells her, “Now you know what your rice tastes like. Now you know what you’ve given me in this marriage. Bad food, and nothing else.”

Notes

The political events within Afghanistan mirror the violence that is escalating inside Mariam’s home. As the Communists rise up against the republic led by Daoud Khan, Rasheed rises up against Mariam for being such a disappointment to him. The coup begins with attacks from the former Afghani Air Force and is soon followed by looting and summary executions of the president and his family. Because of his anger over Mariam’s seven miscarriages, Rasheed begins with kicks, slaps and punches. However, he eventually escalates to making her chew pebbles to demonstrate the bad food she cooks. The pebbles also echo the pebbles she had used to represent her half-brothers and sisters, the family she so longed for and whoch now she must chew as if chewing up her chance to ever have one.


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