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

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The Inner Strength of Women

The theme of inner strength of women is the most prevalent theme. Both Mariam and Laila endure so much heartache merely because they are women, yet each continuously pulls together the strength to persevere. Mariam faces a father who refuses to acknowledge her, a husband who abuses her for twenty-seven years, and the need to murder the man when he is determined to kill Laila. Through every instance, she keeps her inborn grace and accepts what fate hands her. Laila faces the loss of the boy she loves, the deaths of her parents and marriage to Rasheed who abuses her for first producing a girl and then finding out itís not his child. In the end, she faces the challenge of being a woman who returns to her home country with the intention of helping rebuild the country and to honor the memory of Mariam.

The Human Capacity for Evil

The theme of the human capacity for evil is also an important idea. The characters are victims of the Soviets, the Mujahideen, and the Taliban all of whom have little compassion for human life. Power becomes the all-encompassing motivator in the lives of these evil men instead of the hopes and dreams of their countrymen as well as the beauty and success of their country. The women are victims of the power games of men. The Taliban establishes rules and regulations that deny women even basic health care or the capacity to care for their children. But their evil is more individually seen in men like Rasheed who marries to produce sons and abuses when he doesnít have one. He is a man who presents no fury like the one he unleashes against a scornful woman. He would have killed both Mariam and Laila had Mariam not killed him first. Under the Taliban, he may never have been punished for such an act.

Loyalty and Devotion

Another theme would be loyalty and devotion. This occurs between Laila and her father and Laila and Tariq as well as Mariam and Laila. Laila loves her father more than life itself and totally understands his desire that she be an educated, successful woman. It is his belief that women will be needed to help re-build Afghanistan that convinces her to return to Kabul. Lailaís loyalty and devotion to Tariq begins in childhood when they become fast friends. It continues in adulthood when he asks her to marry him when his family leaves Kabul. She refuses, because of her devotion to her father, but makes love with Tariq and brings his beautiful daughter into the world. Thoughts of him never leave her and so when he comes to her house, she thinks nothing of bringing him inside at the risk of Rasheed finding out. Later, she marries him and looks toward a future of rebuilding her country. Of course, the devotion and loyalty between Mariam and Laila is the central idea of the novel. The two women face an abusive husband together and help each other cope with raising two small children. Then, when Rasheed threatens to kill Laila, Mariam accepts the fate of being his murderer and offers up the last great devotion she can: her life.

The Discrimination of Women

A final theme involves discrimination of women in Afghan society. Every group that rules Afghanistan allows men to have complete power over their wives and then, the Taliban makes it law. Beatings, murder, loss of control of their children, and humiliation are only a few of the discriminatory practices among some Muslim countries. They continue even today. Mariam and Laila were only two women in the story who were abused and mistreated by their husbands. It is only their sense of loyalty to their children that often gives them the strength to persevere.


At times, the mood is tragic, filled with despair, and very sad; at other times, it is uplifting and hopeful; finally, it is a triumphant commentary on strength of womankind.

Khaled Hosseini - BIOGRAPHY

Khaled Hosseini was born on March 4, 1965. He is the oldest of five children. His father worked for the Afghan Foreign Consul and his mother taught Farsi and history at a girls' high school in Kabul.

Kabul, Afghanistan is the boyhood home of Khaled Hosseini,

In the early 1970s, Khaled's family moved to Tehran, Iran when his father was assigned to a diplomatic post at the Afghan Embassy in Iran. They returned home to Kabul in 1973. In 1976 his family moved to Paris, France, where his father was a diplomat at the Afghan Embassy. They were to return home to Afghanistan in 1980, when the Russians invaded his country. His father was recalled home after the invasion, but decided to ask for political asylum in the United States and received it.

As a result, Hosseini ended up in San Jose, California. They struggled to make ends meet for a while, as they had lost all of their property in Afghanistan and had to start over. His father worked many jobs and they were able to get back on their feet.

Khaled graduated from high school in 1984. He then graduated from Santa Clara University with a bachelor's degree in Biology in 1988. He attended medical school at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, specializing in internal medicine. He received his medical degree in 1993 and completed his residency training at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Since 1996 he has practiced as a physician and is now married with a son and a daughter, Haris and Farah. They now live in northern California.

He begain working on the The Kite Runner in 2001 and finished it in 2002. He found a literary agent and The Kite Runner was published in 2003. The Kite Runner was his first novel. A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) is his second novel.

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