How does Laila's conflict between her love for Tariq and her financial stability with Rasheed illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole?
Instead of focusing on the plight of boys growing up in Afghanistan as he did in The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini uses A Thousand Splendid Suns to address the oppression of women in his native land under the rule of the Taliban. While Mariam never has it easy throughout the novel because she is an illegitimate daughter and then marries an abusive husband, Laila knows what it is like to be cherished by her father and then later by her young lover Tariq. After all that is lost and she marries Rasheed, life is difficult, but Laila knows that it is not as bad as it would be if she were forced to beg and daily be confronted by Talibs for doing so. At that point in the book, life seems like a constant choice of lesser of two evils.
However, later Laila discovers that Tariq is still alive and that she might be able to be with a man who loves her and whom she loves. This might seem like an easy choice for some, but Laila wants her children to be secure, and knows the risk she runs if she tries to leave Rasheed. Hosseini uses her character to demonstrate that Afghan women rarely have love and security in any of their relationships (familial or marital). They are almost completely at the whim of the men in their lives, and if they want to be independent and make their own choices, they often must be willing to risk it all.