In A Thousand Splendid Suns what events and circumstances can Mariam control to a certain extent and what can she not control?  How does Hosseini utilize the experience(s) of Mariam to convey his...

In A Thousand Splendid Suns what events and circumstances can Mariam control to a certain extent and what can she not control? 

How does Hosseini utilize the experience(s) of Mariam to convey his theme of destiny vs self-determination?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the final chapter, as Miriam awaits the executioner's fatal blow, she thinks to herself that she achieved beauty--"splendid suns"--in her sisterhood with Laila,

[S]he was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last.

 What Miriam Cannot Control (Determination)

  •  In the Muslim world of Afghan, controlled at times by extremists, Miriam can do nothing to about the laws that oppress women.
  • She is made to marry a man thirty years her elder; she must suffer his physical and verbal abuse. In short, very few options are open to her.
  • Certainly, as a harami, or bastard child, Miriam is lessened as a person; then, as a female she is denied much education and is instructed only that "A man's accusing finger always finds a woman."
  • Even Miriam's mother holds her back in her conviction that all a woman needs to know how to do is "to endure."
  • After her father forces her to marry Rasheed, Miriam is told to wear the burga whenever she is outside.
  • She cannot prevent Rasheed from marrying Laila
  • She is unable to prevent Rasheed's sending Aziza to the orphanage, 

What Miriam Can Control (Self-Destiny)

  • In Part 3, Miriam and Laila form a sisterly bond, united in their misfortunes, although for a time there is an awkward tension between them when Laila weds Miriam's aging husband Rasheed. This sisterly bond affords Miriam, especially, choices and meaning. For, after Laila has her baby, Miriam gazes at her one night and Aziza takes her finger, melting Miriam's hostility. The next day, she gives Laila the baby clothes sewn for the daughter whom she has never had; this act is a show of gratitude for Laila's having protected her from Rasheed's physical abuse and warns Laila that Rasheed may turn against her, too.
  • Aziza give purpose to Miriam's life. Having developed a friendship with Laila in her efforts to protect her and the baby,sharing secrets and an escape from Afghan.
  • Miriam provides strength and succor to Laila, who in turn enriches her life as Miriam is able to love and provide support, both motherly functions she has not heretofore been able to do. When, for instance, Leila goes into labor and the Mujahideen will not allow her into a male hospital, Leila must give birth in the one hospital for women that has unsanitary conditions and no anesthesia. Because she must have a Caesarean birth, Laila has to endure excruciating pain, but bravely tells the woman doctor, "Cut me open and give me my baby." The stalwart Miriam holds her hand as Laila digs her fingers into it.
  • Having made Aziza go to an orphanage after his business is lost, Rasheed later discovers that the girl is not even his daughter. As he violently beats Laila, the protective and loving Miriam grabs a shovel from the toolshed and beats Rasheed over the head with it, killing him.
  • She urges Laila to flee with her children, telling her that she will take full blame for the murder. At Walayat prison, she reflects upon the mullah's words to her as a child, "Allah is the Mighty, the Great Forgiver."  Mariam feels forgiveness for her deed completed to save Laila's life. She feels she is no longer a victim, but has chosen how she will die. She is, indeed, "a person of consequence at last." 
  • Miriam goes to her death believing there is some hope for women: "One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or the thousand splendid suns...,"  
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A Thousand Splendid Suns

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