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It is certain that there is a central theme of feminism in this great novel. The way in which the two central characters are both women and how the novel explores their relationship with each other and their own personal life story seems to set the position of women against the backdrop of the larger political changes that are occurring around them. This is of course brought into sharp relief by the way in which the rise of the Taliban corresponds with the repression of women, as is shown through the kind of lives that Laila and Mariam are expected to live.
In particular, this novel explores the particularly brutal position that women are forced to occupy. They are literally deprived of any rights whatsoever in the patriarchal world in which they find themselves. Laila is forced to wear a full veil and is not even able to travel by herself with a male escort. When they kill their husband, it becomes clear that in this brutal world, one of them must pay the price, and the shocking execution of Mariam is the supreme example of the brutality of the Taliban regime and the way in which women were not recognised as having any rights whatsoever.
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