There are many examples of irony—verbal, dramatic, and situational—in Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.
The first category of irony is verbal, which occurs when a character says one thing but means another. For example, when Jalil’s wife, Afsoon, tells Mariam they have good news for her—that they have found her a husband—it is actually good news for them but bad news for her. It is verbal irony when a character protests too much. When Laila tells Tariq she won’t cry over him in a thousand years, they both know otherwise. When they watch a romantic wedding scene, they say, “I’m never getting married” and “Weddings are stupid” when in fact they both desire a wedding. Sarcasm is another venue of verbal irony. A shopkeeper assures Rasheed that an item is valuable, and Rasheed replies, “And I’m Moshe Dayan” (in reference to the famous Israeli statesman).
When irony is dramatic, readers know something the characters don't know. There are several scenes of dramatic irony involving Rasheed, Mariam, and Laila. When Rasheed tells Laila he hopes she doesn't mind that he prefers to sleep alone, readers know she would prefer it too. When Rasheed thinks he is consoling Laila when he tells her there is no shame in married sex, readers know she feels not shame but loathing for him.
In situational irony, actions produce unintended or unexpected outcomes. In this novel, the lives of Mariam and Laila contain several examples of situational irony. Mariam worships a father who abandoned her and she has little sympathy for her harsh mother, until she learns too late who really cared for her. She lives a bitter loveless life, finally finding love with a woman she at first loathed, then loses her life just when she is happy. Laila’s beginnings are happier than Mariam’s, but when she finds herself pregnant she makes a marriage of convenience—only to learn that her lover is still alive. In Rasheed’s household, Mariam is docile and Laila is assertive, but in the end it is Mariam’s strength that saves Laila and her children.