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Psychology and “A Thousand Splendid Suns”

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“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a novel written by Khaled Hosseini who has Afghan-American roots. The main topic of discussion is two women from Afghanistan whose lives cross each other during 1960s and up to 2003.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” is a fascinating story which depicts the complicated political situation of Afghanistan in the last 30 years. The author tells us about the Soviet invasion and the coming of the Taliban proceeding gradually to the rebuilding which took place after the post-Taliban period. This is a story of natural personal desires – to have a family, to raise children, to be happy, on the one hand, and of the negative historical events which hinder to implement these wishes in life.

The main character of the novel is a young girl from Herat, Mariam, who lived poorly with Nana, her mother. For a long time Nana was a housemaid for rich the owner of the local cinema, Jalil. It happened that she became pregnant from him and he fired her as he had enough legitimate children and wives. When Mariam was born, Jalil, her father, came to talk to her and always gave her some gifts. The girl adored him and considered her friend.

One day Mariam went to Jalil as he did not come to take her to the cinema for a new cartoon, she slept by the door of his house but he did not appear. His driver took her home and there she discovered that her mother hanged herself.

After the funeral, Mariam lived with Jalil and soon his wife found a husband for her. She did not want to marry that brutal shoe shop owner who was 30 years older. Seven times Mariam got pregnant and lost her children due to the problems with health. For this Rasheed started treating Mariam in a very bad way.

The other part of the story was about the daughter of the university teacher, Leila. She was fond of studying culture and art. When Kabul caught on fire from the invasions of the Soviet Army, her beloved Tariq went to Pakistan. In search of the protection she also married Rasheed but lost his affection when she gave birth to a girl and not a boy.

Mariam and Laila became friends. They endured brutality and starvation caused by their husband together.

By describing the lives of these two women, Hosseini told us the history of Afghanistan. Prominent communist Mir Akbar Khyber was killed. Protests were everywhere. The life of most women was terrible. No wonder that Mariam’s mother thoughtfully explained to her that the fate of the woman was to ‘endure’. Most women were uneducated. When ‘communists’ came, they made education compulsory for everyone. However, this did not help much as people could not feel safe and trust the government anymore. They understood that all those rights which they got, especially women, were mostly just words.

Such continuing theme about women gives us the opportunity to realize one important thing once again: Upbringing is drastic for our future. If the mother is ‘broken’, she can raise only ‘broken’ daughters who will carry this ‘brokenness’ with them struggling to survive in the cruel world of men’s rules. But we should never blame our limping mothers for such wrong teachings which would only make our lives too complicated. We should forgive them as they are victims of their own days and hard times.

Mariam and Laila were filled with false hopes for the future. Probably, this was the reason why the author ended up his novel in April 2003 – a few months before the start of those great rebellions across the whole country. Hosseini must have calculated that with the outbreak of the insurgency the main characters would realize all the falsity of their hopes, and their life would be drowned in despair and unhappiness.

The status of Afghan women is under even bigger threat today. Zakia Zaki, the journalist, was killed for defending women’s rights in the press. Malalali Joia, the parliamentarian, was threatened with death if she did not stop speaking about women’s lives. Average women in Afghanistan are constantly abused either by Taliban-inspired criminals or even air-strikes led by the United States. But this is just a small part of women’s sufferings. According to the statistics, 87 % of women in Afghanistan are illiterate; 70-80 % of women are forced to get married; every 30 minutes, one woman dies while delivering a baby; 1 out of 3 women suffers from sexual, psychological or physical violence; the average life expectancy for Afghan women is 44 years.

Even after the end of the Taliban regime, the life for women in Afghanistan remains as bad as it was before. But the worst thing is still coming: The Afghan parliament has recently attempted to make marital rape legal and tried to pass a law which would ban women from leaving their families to escape their husbands.

Hosseini tries to depict these horrors in his “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. But these efforts are not successful enough. Unfortunately, he does not tell us about the fact that the Talibans which came to power were sponsored by the anti-communist US foreign policy.

Laila complained about the return to power of her parents’ murderers but decided not to give up and move on. She and Tariq made a decision to build an orphanage to help to improve their motherland.

When Rasheed tried to smother Laila for showing her face to Tariq, Mariam killed him. Laila and Tariq escaped from Kabul and wanted to take Mariam with them but she did not agree to endanger them this way. She was caught and put into Taliban prison. Mariam explained that she was defending her friend but the court sentenced her to death and she was publicly executed.

At the end Laila got pregnant and named her daughter Mariam..

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