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

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Another element that is important to note is irony - when something happens, or is seen, or is heard that we may know, but the characters do not, or that appears opposite of what is expected. Some examples of irony include:

1.) Jalil told Mariam about Queen Gauhar Shad who had raised the famous minarets in Herat in the 15th century. This is ironic that a queen would be so honored when men have such power over women in Afghanistan.

2.) Jali would lift Mariam high and swing her in the air, and Nana said that one day, he would surely drop her. However, Mariam always felt that she would land safely into her father’s clean, well-manicured hands. This is ironic, because he drops her in the most spectacular way when he refuses her entrance to his house and then married her to Rasheed.

3.) She sees Nana sitting in a chair in the shade of a weeping willow. This is ironic, because this very tree will be the one from which Nana hangs herself.

4.) After the Nana’s funeral service, Jalil walks his daughter back to the kolba where he makes a great show of tending to her. He collects what little she owns into a suitcase and sits beside her and fans her face. He keeps asking her if there is anything she needs or wants. This ironic because if he had just shown the same concern for her before, Nana might well be alive.

5.) Then, Afsoon announces that they have brought her there, because they have very good news to give her. They have found her a suitor. A man by the name of Rasheed, a Pashtun from Kabul, and an acquaintance of Jalil’s, has asked for her hand in marriage. This is ironic, because if she had known what kind of man Rasheed was, she would never have thought marrying him was good news.

6.) Furthermore, they say, she is at a good solid marrying age, being fifteen. Of course, they don’t mention that two of Jalil’s other daughters are the same age as her, attend school, and have plans to go to the University. Fifteen, ironically, wasn’t a good solid marrying age for them.

7.) Mariam continues to scream at her father to tell them no. So, then, the room grows quiet as all the women look to him for his answer. He finally lifts his eyes and looks at his daughter. At first, he can only groan when his mouth opens, but then he says, “Goddamn it, Mariam! Don’t do this to me!” Ironically, he says this as if he is the only one to whom something is being done.

8.) Mariam is in a stranger’s home and the space of it suffocates her. Ironically, over the next twenty-seven years, Rasheed comes very close to doing exactly that to Mariam.

9.) 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.

10.) Also, it pains Mariam 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 is ironic, because they never become companions, only master and slave.

11.) Mariam 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.” (pg. 80) 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. Ironically, God will bring it to an end when she miscarries and Rasheed becomes furious.

12.) 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. ironically, he has taken the symbol for her of siblings and makes her chew on them in his fury with her.

13.) Ironically, Babi says to Laila, even though the Communists are bad, they had commanded that girls be educated. He says it’s a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan. Equally as ironic, the men in the tribal areas outside of the cities, are fighting against the Communist invasion more because they don’t want outsiders telling them how to treat their women, than because they love their country.

14.) A half hour later, the car pulled over and Babi led the two children forward with the words, “There they are!” And Laila knew if she lived to be 100, she would never see anything as magnificent as what stands before her. There are the two Buddhas of the Bamiyan Valley, carved out of the rock 2000 years before. This is ironic, because later the Taliban will destroy these very symbols of beauty she had loved so much.

15.) Tariq tells her finally that he loves her, and Laila thinks how ironic it is that just as he finally says the words she has longed to hear, he is going away, and she cannot go with him.

16.) Later, lying beneath the sheets of Rasheed’s bed, Laila is aware of his age, his ugly body, and his agitation. When he looks at her there, he says, “God help me, I think I love you.” This is ironic, because the man is incapable of loving anyone but himself.

17.) It is soon apparent to the reader why Rasheed has become as mean to Laila as he has been to Mariam: the new baby is a girl.

18.) Then, Wakil leans down and whispers something in the soldier’s ear which makes the soldier pulls Laila, Mariam, and Aziza aside. He makes them follow him and tells her as she protests that they are not getting on that bus and he will drag her away if necessary. As they are led to a truck, Laila sees Wakil’s little boy waving merrily to them from the back window of the bus. It is ironic that the boy waves to them after his father had betrayed the women.

19.) The police officer argues that it is his job to uphold the law and to maintain order and that’s why he has to send Laila and mariam back to Rasheed. It’s ironic, because Rasheed could then beat them or even kill them.

20.) Rasheed acknowledges that the Taliban is ignorant of their country’s history and culture, but at least they are pure and incorruptible. The truth will come out that they are evil and very corruptible.

21.) The man in the mayor’s office finally tells her there is a groundskeeper who remembers Jalil, but says he died years ago in 1987. Ironically, Mariam realizes, he must have been dying when he came to her house that day and left the letter.

22.) When they all arrive at the orphanage, Rasheed fishes a stick of gum from his pocket and hands it to Aziza with a stiff, magnanimous air. Ironically, he finally has a worthless gift for her now that she’s leaving his home.

23.) The director of the orphanage and Laila talk about the vital statistics of Aziza, and when she is asked about the little girl’s father, Laila has the strange, ironic experience of telling a lie that is really the truth.

24.) One day, while in the orphanage, Laila sees a woman who looks familiar, and she realizes it’s her former teacher, Khala Rhangmaal. She was the one who had forbidden her female students to cover, saying men and women were equal. Ironically, now she, too, wears the burqa.

25.) Mariam calls Rasheed’s name and then brings the shovel down against his temple. The blow knocks him off Laila. For a moment, something soft passes between them, and Mariam imagines he might see the truth of his actions now, and maybe there is room for change. Ironically, she has to ask herself, is it respect she sees in his eyes? is it regret?

26.) The judge at Mariam’s trial believed her that she had a disagreeable husband, but he questioned how she could commit such a crime with his little boy crying upstairs. He said, “Something tells me you are not a wicked woman, hamshira. But you have done a wicked thing.” This is ironic, because the wicked one all along had been Rasheed.

27.) Whenever she and her family go on these outings, Laila will catch their reflections in the windows of the shops - man, wife, daughter, and son. To strangers, she knows, they must appear like the most ordinary of families, free of secrets, lies, and regrets. Ironically, they have the most secrets, llies and regrets.

28.) Jalil asked Mariam at the end of the letter that if he were still alive, she might come to see him. He wanted to take her into his arms, and he would be waiting for her knock. Then, he, ironically, wished her a long and prosperous life. How could he have known that she would die at the hands of the Taliban?

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