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What are two important symbols and their significance in "A Thousand Splendid Suns"?

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cariito | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:33 AM via web

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What are two important symbols and their significance in "A Thousand Splendid Suns"?

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted April 5, 2010 at 9:35 PM (Answer #1)

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In the book A Thousand Splendid Suns Mariam is a little girl who lives with her mother in a kolba.   A kolbais a very small mud house.  The kolba is a symbol of the entrapment and poverty that Mariam will experience for all of her life.  It is a home for her as a child, but it is also a prison.  She is a child born out of wedlock which places her in a terrible status and kept there away from others.

Another symbol in the story is the burqua.  Mariam nor Laila had to wear one before, but when they become Rasheed's wives he makes them wear one when they go into the community.  For the women it is again a symbol of entrapment.  It also symbolizes their loss of identity in their marriage and later when the Taliban control the community.

The burqua is also a symbol of hiding for both women.  When they appear in public they are able to look around and not have to smile or show expressions that they do not feel.

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 21, 2015 at 8:11 PM (Answer #2)

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There are so many important symbols in A Thousand Splendid Suns and, because you asked for two, I thought it might be interesting to speak of an obvious one and one that isn't so obvious:  the burqua and snow.

The first (and more apparent) symbol is the symbol of the burqua.  A burqua, of course, is an all-encompassing blue or black covering that a Muslim woman wears.  The dictionary definition is as follows:

A loose, usually black or light blue outer garment worn by Muslim women that covers the head and face and sometimes the entire body.

The burqua in A Thousand Splendid Suns is a symbol of being trapped under the rule of man.  "Luckily," through this trap, the women also are able to hide their negative emotions about their state in life.  What is also interesting is that, although women are not required to wear a burqua at home with their family, the husband do require them to wear one when they go out into public.  Therefore, the women are not able to hide their emotions to their husbands, only to other men.  As a result, they are truly trapped.

A second (and less apparent) symbol in A Thousand Splendid Suns is the symbol of snow. It is Mariam who watches from her window as the snow falls down.  She is trapped under the influence of her abusive husband, Rasheed.  Mariam thinks about the words of her Nana saying that each snowflake in a sigh from an individual woman upset by something in the world. They fall upon others and make no noise:

As a reminder of how women like us suffer. ... How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.

So, even though it is a lesser known symbol in the book, snow is an IMPORTANT symbol.  The women of A Thousand Splendid Suns are ever oppressed and must vent their emotions in some way in order to keep on living.


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