Choose a character from A Thousand Splendid Suns who responds in some significant way to justice or injustice. Analyze the character’s understanding of justice, the degree to which the...

Choose a character from A Thousand Splendid Suns who responds in some significant way to justice or injustice. Analyze the character’s understanding of justice, the degree to which the character’s search for justice is successful, and the significance of this search for the work as a whole. 

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Mariam is a character whose response to injustice forms the basis of the novel.  Throughout her narrative, Mariam had been isolationist in her approach to the world.  She embraced her mother's statement that all a woman needs is the ability to endure.  Mariam had done just that.  Hosseini describes this element as essential to her characterization: "The key word with Mariam is that she is isolated in every sense of the word. She is a woman who is detached from the day-to-day norms of human existence. Really, she just wants connection with another human being."  Mariam is cut off from everyone else and initially does not embrace the transformative notion of justice in a world where injustice reigns supreme.

This changes through her association with Laila.  It becomes critical when Rasheed is about to harm Laila.  At this moment, Mariam becomes a character who responds in a significant way to injustice.  This happens on dual levels. Internally, Mariam experiences a type of epiphany which reveals how much of her life she had given in vain to Rasheed.  She recognizes that the way he abused her in their marriage represents the essence of injustice.  On another level, Mariam's actions recognize that there is injustice in what Lalia is about to experience.  Mariam does not assume the perspective that injustice can exist in the world.  She understands that Laila is going to be harmed, possibly even killed.  The idea of what it means to "act like a mother" becomes evident when Mariam attacks Rasheed.  Her killing of Rasheed is a response to injustice.  The lack of justice that women experience at the hands of the Taliban, as well as the absence of righteousness in the way that Rasheed has treated women, in general, is what motivates Mariam to take action.  Mariam understands that the only way for justice to be evident is for action to be taken.  She takes this action in the killing of Rasheed.

At the same time, Mariam comes to an understanding that justice requires sacrifice.  When Mariam implores Lalia to "act like a mother," it is reflective of how justice is dependent on people who act in its name.  Mariam tending to Laila's wounds and sacrificing herself so that she and her children can escape are critical elements to Mariam's understanding of justice.  Mariam realizes that there can be no escape from the demands of justice. It is for this reason that she does not opt for any witnesses or try to escape from her fate.  Mariam understands that justice necessitates sacrifice.  She has sadness about what will happen to her, and possesses yearning for the future.  However, she also understands what she must do so that justice can be envisioned.  It is for this reason that the women in Walayat women’s prison view her with such high regard.  

Different constructions can be seen in terms of whether Mariam's pursuit of justice was successful.  Mariam is able to evoke sympathy from a judge and a soldier accompanying her to the execution.  In these expressions, Mariam's notion of justice can be viewed as being validated.  The fact that the other women in the prison believe in what Laila has done is another example that her search has had impact.  The greatest testament to Mariam's search for justice resides in the unborn girl child in Laila, one for whom the name has already been chosen.  Certainly, Mariam's actions have not restored balance to Afghanistan and delivered justice to the entirety of the Taliban government. Yet, it is a start, and to that extent, Mariam's search would have to be seen as successful.  This is significant to the work, as a whole, because it speaks to how healing and restoration of justice can be present.  Hosseini makes the argument that if individuals can take Mariam's example of what justice entails and embrace it for what it is, hope and redemption can present itself.  Justice can reappear in a land where it has been quite absent.

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