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Because the entire novel discusses the oppression of women, it is impossible to narrow its portrayal of sexism to one page or even to a few. Below are several examples of sexist characters and incidents.
1. Mariam is born the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man, Jalil, and a poor woman. If she had been a son, her relationship with her father most likely would have been much different. Similarly, when Mariam goes to live with Jalil and his wives and other children, if she had been a boy, she would have had more of a say in whom she marries. Because of her gender, she is forced into a speedy arranged marriage with an older, abusive man, Rasheed.
2. Rasheed is the ultimate chauvinist in the novel. Not only does he treat Mariam incredibly badly, but he views her only as a possession. He does the same when he marries Laila, and only his male child means something to him. Most significantly, all of the multiple marriages in the novel, involve men with several wives. Hosseini chooses to include polygamy in his novel not only because it is a realistic element of Afghan culture but also to demonstrate how sexist the practice is--never does one see a wife with multiple husbands.
3. Laila's mother is a sexist because she is a product of society. She, like almost all others in her country, have been taught to view men as more valuable than women. Hence, she treasures her sons and dotes on them while neglecting Laila. Her favoritism based on gender only serves to promote a poor self image for herself and eventually for her daughter.
4. Most significantly, when the Taliban takes over, they establish strict religious and social laws. While the laws do apply to all, the women have much more rigid standards to abide by such as wearing burqas, keeping quiet, staying inside the home most of the time, etc. In contrast, the men enjoy relative freedom as far as mobility and work go.
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