Is Hassan in The Kite Runner more like Maryam or Tariq in A Thousand Splendid Suns?

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Hassan from The Kite Runnercan be most easily likened to Mariam from A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hassan is driven by an innate selflessness and love of life. Rejected even by his mother because of his cleft lip, Hassan flourishes despite a negative public opinion. We see this many...

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Hassan from The Kite Runner can be most easily likened to Mariam from A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hassan is driven by an innate selflessness and love of life. Rejected even by his mother because of his cleft lip, Hassan flourishes despite a negative public opinion. We see this many times as Amir, his big brother, repeatedly antagonizes and betrays him, only to receive kindness and forgiveness in return. This happens not only in adulthood—for example, when Amir kicks Hassan out of the house—but even in the most formative of moments, such as when Hassan forgives Amir for pelting him with pomegranates and declines the implicit invitation to retaliate.

Like Hassan, Mariam is a hero and outsider, going through a litany of trials of increasing difficulty in order to claim an identity and destiny. She, too, is a marginalized figure, not for her deformity, but for her status as a woman in an Afghan society that denies women many basic rights and opportunities. Her characterization comes to its total fruition when she kills her abusive husband, Rasheed, and secures Laila and her family's safety in Afghanistan. One significant difference between the two is that Hassan seems to have a solid and virtuous value system from the beginning, while Mariam's values seem to be acquired through hard work, rather than anything intrinsic.

In contrast, Tariq is characterized as a social conformer and insider, other than the matter of his disability: a leg crippled by an early bout of polio. Tariq is portrayed as beautiful and well-socialized, winning the admiration of the women around him somewhat effortlessly. He does not go through the epic process of suffering that the other two characters find themselves immersed in without consent.

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Although Hassan has similarities to both characters, the social status he was born into makes him most similar to Mariam. In the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam is born the illegitimate child of a businessman, Jalil, and his housekeeper, Nana, which automatically makes her stigmatized by society and even looked down upon by her own mother. Although her father has nine legitimate children with his three wives, he agrees to support Mariam and her mother and even visits his daughter on Thursdays. However, when her mother hangs herself because she is worried her daughter will leave her, Mariam is sent to live with her father, but he promptly marries her off to a wealthy shoemaker named Rasheed. Due to Mariam's low social status as an illegitimate daughter, she has no choice in her fate and is treated more like a servant than a wife by her abusive husband.

This upbringing is very similar to Hassan's in The Kite Runner. Like Mariam, Hassan is automatically born with a lower social status because he is a Hazara, or Shia Muslim, when the people in power in Afghanistan are Sunni Muslims. Ironically (and unbeknownst to him), he is actually the illegitimate son of a wealthy Shia businessman, Baba, who is also the father of the narrator, Amir. Hassan is brought up by Baba's adopted brother, Ali, who is a Shia Muslim, and therefore he and his son are servants to Baba and Amir. Amir and Hassan grow up together as best friends, but Hassan will never be on the same level as Amir because of his social status. Though he is very intelligent, he does not get the same privileges as Amir, such as going to school and learning to read. Despite this inequality, Hassan seems satisfied with his life and wholly devoted and loyal to Amir.

In the end, both characters, despite their disadvantaged lives, are good people and loyal friends to characters who have more privilege than them. After Rasheed marries a younger wife, Laila, who is from a wealthy family, Mariam is at first very jealous, and the two women fight and compete. However, when Laila defends her from Rasheed, they become close friends and work together to protect themselves and Laila's children from him. In fact, Mariam is such a loyal friend that she kills him in defense of Laila, knowing full well the consequences. Similarly selfless, Hassan willingly sacrifices himself to the bully to get the trophy kite for his best friend.

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Both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns deal with serious issues of identity and morality against the political backdrop of Afghanistan. In The Kite Runner, Hassan is an obvious example of a kind character, almost to a fault. In fact, Amir, the main character of the story, is jealous of Hassan's goodness in the novel. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam is the first wife of the shoemaker Rasheed. While she tries to please him and remain a faithful wife, she is never successful in the eyes of her husband. Tariq is also a key character in A Thousand Splendid Suns. He is best friends with Laila, Rasheed's second wife, as they grow up. Eventually, Tariq and Laila discover a deeper love than friendship the night before Tariq leaves for Pakistan. When Laila finds that she is pregnant, she marries Rasheed. The two end up reuniting at the end of the story.

When making comparisons between characters, it is always important to remember that no two well-developed characters are exactly alike. Therefore, while there might be several elements that connect back to another character, there are always several places at which the two differ. However, when examining Hassan from The Kite Runner and Mariam and Tariq from A Thousand Splendid Suns, the best comparison in the novels appears to be Hassan and Mariam for several reasons.

A first, but important note, is that Mariam is a more central character in the novel than Tariq, so there is more information when comparing her to Hassan than Tariq to Hassan. One of the comparisons between Mariam and Hassan is that both characters suffer heavy abuse in the novels. Hassan, being from a low class of society, is treated as such by all those around him, including Amir, at times. He also experiences sexual molestation by some boys in the village. Mariam also experiences a lot of discrimination as she grows up because she is the bastard child of an important man in the city, Jalil. Once she is finally married off, she is abused by her husband for many years. Both characters are also self-sacrificing to the point of great suffering on their part. Hassan protects Amir from bullies with his slingshot when they are children. Then, when Amir puts things under Hassan's pillow and says that Hassan stole them, Hassan does not stand up for himself, but rather assents to Amir's accusations. Likewise, Mariam protects Laila multiple times in the story and finally tells Laila and her child to escape with Tariq and takes the punishment for Rasheed's death, so that Laila can be truly free. Another strong, and perhaps the strongest, comparison between Hassan and Mariam is that neither of them has a "happy ending." Hassan is shot by the Taliban, while Mariam, after she kills Rasheed when she sees him strangling Laila, is arrested by the Taliban and stoned. It is the finality of their deaths that fully demonstrates the sacrificing nature of these characters and is the final uniting force between these two fascinating and tragic people.

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