Using evidence from A Thousand Splendid Suns, explain how the accumulation of power and money inevitably leads to a loss of spirituality.

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

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In A Thousand Splendid Suns, the best evidence of how the accumulation of power and money inevitably lead to a loss of spirituality is Rasheed and the Taliban. 

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, women in Afghanistan are shown to occupy the lowest of social and political domains of power.  It makes sense that the narrative's forces of redemption are predominantly women.  Laila and Mariam represent individuals who lack power and money, but are spiritually rich in how they sacrifice for one another and represent universal values.  This helps to show why men like Rasheed and the Taliban showcase a loss of spirituality even though they experience the privileges associated with power and wealth. One represents the theme on a personal level, while the other one embodies it on a political one.  

Rasheed's loss of spirituality is a the result of his ascension to power in patriarchal social setting.  Taliban- led Afghanistan embraces men, and empowers them over women.  Rashid's cruelty is enhanced as a result of social practices that enable men to exert power over women without limitation.  When he puts a gun in Laila's mouth because she objects to his treatment of their daughter, he does so to display the power he has over her.  This same type of abuse is seen in his treatment of Mariam:

Soon, Rasheed returns with a handful of pebbles and forces Mariam’s mouth open and stuffs them in. He then orders her to chew the pebbles. In her fear, she does as he asks, breaking the molars in the back of her mouth. He tells her, 'Now you know what your rice tastes like. Now you know what you’ve given me in this marriage. Bad food, and nothing else."

Rashid's cruelty shows a loss of spirituality that has accompanied the power he has as a man in Taliban Afghanistan.  His lack of emotional growth is a result of masculine constructions of power. While he might not be Even economically prosperous, his sexist attitudes make him spiritually forlorn. Hosseini develops him as the prototypical "patriarchal, tribal character." It is for this reason that he indulges his son and then tells his daughter to beg in the streets for money. The power given to men has created a loss of understanding for the truth. This highlights his loss of empathy towards women, particularly evident in his treatment of Laila and Mariam.

Hosseini is direct in his argument that the Taliban's consolidation of power has denied any notion of inclusive, transcendental truth towards women.  This is evident in the judge who presides over Mariam's trial:  “God has made us differently, you women and us men. Our brains are different. You are not able to think like we can. Western doctors and their science have proven this. This is why we require only one male witness but two female ones.”  The power of the Taliban has silences the voices of women.  Interestingly enough, Rasheed points out how power and money play vital roles in who possesses power in Afghanistan:  “Meet our real masters...The Taliban are puppets. These are the big players and Afghanistan is their playground.”  Rasheed's point is that power and money define modern Afghanistan.  In this construction, spirituality is absent.  The Taliban reflect such a reality. 

The world of power and money shown through the Taliban and Rasheed deny the spiritual truth that Mariam learned as a child.  She learns from her spiritual teacher that “God’s words will never betray you, my girl."  When she is about to die, Mariam has embraced this universal ideal.  It is something that the Taliban and Rasheed cannot understand because of the conditions of power and money that govern their very being.  

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