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

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Other elements that are present in this novel are symbols and metaphors. Symbols are the use of some unrelated idea to represent something else. Metaphors are direct comparisons made between characters and ideas. Some examples of metaphors include:

1. Nana tells Mariam that to Jalil and his wives, she was a mugwort or a weed that is ripped out and tossed aside. However, unlike a weed, she had to be replanted and given food and water on account of Mariam.

2. Mariam picks up ten pebbles and arranges them in vertical rows. This is a game she plays privately by herself. She sets them up with four in the first column for Jalil’s first wife’s children, three for the second wife, and three for the third wife. Then, she adds a fourth column with a solitary eleventh pebble to represent her.

3. At her wedding, Mariam can only look down at the table where she can see her reflection and where every time she breathes out, the surface fogs and she disappears from her father’s table. This marriage will make her disappear both emotionally and physically.

4. However, when rasheed goes to his own room, he leaves Mariam to wait out the pain of losing her virginity, to look at the frozen stars in the sky and a cloud that draped over the face of the moon like a wedding veil. The loss of the light of the moon is compared here to the horrible way in which Rasheed uses his wife.

5. 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.” Nana compare the snowflakes to the suffering of women.

6. Being a boy, Tariq grimaces, and Laila realizes that boys don’t make a show of friendship like girls. They treat friendship the way they treat the sun: its existence is undisputed; its best enjoyed and not beheld directly.

7. She will leave no mark on Mammy’s heart the way her brothers have, because her mother’s heart is like a pallid beach where Laila’s footsteps will forever wash away beneath the waves of sorrow that swell and crash.

8. Mammy talks to Laila about the importance of her reputation. She says that a girl’s reputation is a delicate thing. It is like a mynah bird in your hands. Slacken you grip and away it flies.

9. Morning brings no relief from war except when the Mujahideen lay down their guns and say the namaz on their prayer rugs. Then, they take up their arms again and the noise of war starts once more. Laila and the rest of the city watch like old Santiago in Babi’s paperback, who watches helplessly as the sharks take bites out of his fish. Here the people of Kabul watch the fighting around them like the character in Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea.

10. Laila is talking with Tariq in her living room, but she feels like she is made of cement. She can picture her life as a rotted rope, snapping, unraveling, the fibers detaching, falling away.

11. Even before Abdul Sharif’s visit and his news of Tariq’s death, Laila had thought she would go to Pakistan in search of him. After the bad news, she still thought she might go and detach herself from this horrible city where every street corner is a trap, where every alley hides a ghost that springs at her like a jack-in-the-box. Here the city is compared to traps and a Jack-in-the-Box.

12. Rasheed compares Mariam to a Volga, a sturdy, ugly Russian car. On the other hand, he says Lalila is a Benz and one must take certain care of a Benz in respect for its beauty.

13. Early in her marriage, Laila passes the time sweeping, scrubbing walls, and washing clothes. She feels lost, casting about, like a shipwreck survivor, no shore in sight, only miles and miles of water.

14. Mariam thinks about all the seasons that have come and gone. She has passed those years in a distant corner of her mind. A dry, barren field, out beyond wish and lament, beyond dream and disillusionment. There the future had never mattered.

15. Rasheed’s patience with Zalmai is a well that runs deep and never dries.

16. Laila thinks of Aziza’s stutter and how the girl had talked earlier about the earth’s fractures and powerful collisions deep down and how sometimes all we see on the surface is a slight tremor. Here the stutter and earthquakes are compared.

17. Whenever a child cries or walks by in a dirty state at the orphanage, Aziza is quick to explain it away. She is like a hostess embarrassed in front of her guests by the squalor of her home, the untidiness of her children.

18. After Rasheed learns from Zalmai that Laila had been downstairs alone with Tariq, he sits back and allows himself to relax. For a few brief moments, he appears merely thoughtful, like a ship captain informed of imminent mutiny taking his time to ponder his next move.

19. Laila imagines she sees little Mariam there in the hut as a “little girl who will be a woman who will make small demands on life, who will never burden others, who will never let on that she, too, has had sorrows, disappointments, dreams that have been ridiculed. A woman who will be like a rock in a riverbed, enduring without complaint, her grace not sullied but shaped by by the turbulence that washes over her.

20. Mariam is never very far away. She is mostly in Laila’s own heart, where she shines with a bursting radiance of a thousand suns. In this way, Mariam and Kabul have the same power for the people who love them.

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