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

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What’s most important to know about Mariam is her own realization that her life was hard and yet she had loved and been loved in return. She lives in a loveless marriage, but doesn’t forget, in spite of her disappointment and her guilt the ones she loved all her life: Jalil and Nana, her parents. She perseveres even though she regrets leaving her mother behind and turning to a father who doesn’t want the shame she represents. She feels guilt over her mother’s suicide and for a time hates the father who gave her away to the cruel Rasheed. However, she comes to realize that she may have been wrong to eliminate him from her life. She also at first resents the arrival of Laila in their lives, but soon comes to forge a strong bond with her and eventually saves her life. She is a character who becomes a role model for the reader because of her devotion to the people whom she comes to love.


She represents the hope for the future in Afghanistan, because she is the strong woman who can outlast every evil man who tries to take away the ones she loves and lives for. She never forgets Tariq or the sacrifices of her parents. She lives through an abusive marriage to Rasheed all for the loves of her children. She is devoted and loyal to Mariam who becomes like a mother to her. She is also loyal to her country and sees it as her duty to honor the lives of her parents and Mariam by returning to Kabul and staking a place for all women in the new world opening up there.


As a young boy, Tariq had been injured in a landmine accident and lost his leg, but it never dimmed his love and enthusiasm for life. He loved Laila all his life and willingly took chances to protect her. Even after he left Kabul, he couldn’t forget her and came looking for her after he was released from prison. He had been sent to prison when he was arrested for carrying hashish from one city to another. But he didn’t know it was in the coat and had been willing to do the job in order to get his mother out of a refugee camp. He showed his devotion in this instance also. He had always wanted to marry Laila and had offered before he and his parents left Kabul. Then, he was available for her when she had to feel or be held responsible for Rasheed’s death. Then, he willingly stepped into the role of father to his own child and Rassheed’s son as well. He was a young man who always understood his responsibilities and never forgot the ones he loved.


He is the villain of the story, but there are some aspects of his life where one can see why he became as bitter as he did. The loss of his first wife in childbirth and the loss of his son to drowning could easily have led him to be the man he became. However, his hatred of women is so obvious that one must come to the conclusion that much of his evil nature was inborn. He ended up dying when his tyranny became unacceptable to those he tyrannized.

Jalil Khan

He, too, is a man who mistreats a woman - his daughter, Mariam - because he doesn’t want the shame her birth will bring him. However, his mistreament was never intended to hurt his daughter even though it did. He comes to regret his lack of empathy for her needs and tries very hard to make it up to her, even though she refuses to see him. When he dies, he leaves behind his apology and his last hope that she might forgive him. He wishes her a long life and tells her he has always loved her. So, unlike Rasheed, Jalil overcomes his mistreatment of his wonderful daughter and he trul forgives her in the end.


The story is a narrative told from the perspectives of the two women characters, Mariam and Laila. Each shows how she was raised, what she lost as the result of war, and how in the end, her strength grace helps her face her fate.

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