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

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Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini

Date Published:

Meaning of the Title:
It refers to a poem in which the city of Kabul was described as having a thousand splendid suns. It also is a symbol for Mariam.

The story takes place in Herat, Afghanistan, and Gul Daman, a small village outside of Herat, and then Kabul the capital city from 1958 to the present day. There is also some time in Murree, Pakistan.

Mariam and Laila

The antagonists are Rasheed, the Mujahideen, and the Taliban who abuse women and destroy their country.

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 the human spirit.

Point of View:
It is written third person point of view from the perspective of an omniscient narrator.

This story is written in the past tense until Mariamís execution. Then, it reverts to present tense.

Rising Action:
The rising action begins with Mariamís story of her childhood and ends with the climax which is the death of Rasheed at Mariamís hands.

The author tells a moving story of two very strong women in a country, Afghanistan, where women are not valued. They both face what seems to be insurmountable odds when they are married to the cruelest of men. Mariam is a harami, a bastard, who is rejected by both parents in different ways. She finds herself forcing her fatherís hand to be recognized as his daughter, only to have her move lead to continued rejection, the suicide of her mother, and an unwanted marriage to Rasheed. She spends twenty-seven years under his abuse until she finally kills him to save Laila. Laila has a better childhood, even though her mother is chronically depressed over the deaths of her brothers. However, war comes to roost at her door when a rocket kills her parents. The boy she had loved since childhood, Tariq, had gotten her pregnant and believing he is dead, she marries Tariq and passes her daughter off as his. Eventually, after a great deal of abuse and the return of Tariq who had never died, Laila is nearly murdered by Rasheed until Mariam kills him. Mariam then is executed for this murder while Laila, Tariq, and the children escape the country. Even though they make a happy life in Murree, Laila wants to come home and honor the memory of her parents and Mariam by rebuilding the country they loved.

The climax occurs when Mariam murders Rasheed. After that the lives of the two women take very different paths.

Mariam is arrested for murdering Rasheed and is excuted in the stadium in front of thousands of people. Laila escapes Kabul and goes to Pakistan with Tariq and her children. She eventually returns, first stopping in Herat to see the place where Mariam grew up, and then returning to Kabul to create a better home and a new school for her children and the children of orphanage.

Major Themes:
The inner strength of women; the human capacity for evil; loyalty and devotion; and discrimination against women.

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