Using text support from A Thousand Splendid Suns, explain how an individual experiences redemption.

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

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To experience redemption, Hosseini in A Thousand Splendid Suns suggests that individuals must act towards something larger than themselves.  This becomes the redeeming path that Mariam walks. 

It is easy to see Mariam as predisposed towards isolation from others. She is a deemed a harami child. Mariam must experience her father's rejection, her mother's suicide, and suffer the indignities of a loveless marriage.  She undergoes pain on personal and political levels in Rasheed and the Taliban. Such a narrative could lead her to withdrawing from human contact. However, Hosseini is deliberate in outlining how she is reclaimed from the clutches of such pain:  "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."  Redemption is rooted in a yearning for human contact. 

Mariam demonstrates this yearning when she befriends Laila. While initially favoring isolation, Mariam does not succumb to it.  She embodies hope in serving as "friend and a doting alternative mother" to the younger Laila.  She tends to her when she is hurt and sick, and even helps her escape from Rasheed.

It is here where her sacrifice is on full display.  When Mariam gives herself up for Laila's happiness by accepting the punishment of death, her redemption is fully achieved.  The experiences of denigration and hurt have served to define much of Mariam's reality:

The past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion. And whenever those twin poisonous flowers began to sprout in the parched land of that field, Mariam uprooted them.

Yet, in her actions for Laila and her children, Mariam demonstrates that love is not an illusion. Her past does not define her.  Mariam understands that redemption is evident in what she can be, not what she was.  It is the way in which individuals can find hope.  

This transformation happens because Mariam understands the power of sacrificing towards something larger than oneself.  Sacrifice as a means of absolution is evident in her final thoughts:

Miriam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she 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. No. It was not so bad, Miriam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate belongings.

For the individual to experience redemption, Hosseini suggests through Mariam that people cannot take the form of the world around them.  They must not succumb to isolation and emotional withdrawal.  In a world of weeds, they must act as flowering plants. Mariam demonstrates how individual sacrifice is the way for individuals to find restoration through love.  

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