illustration of two women standing in burkas with two overlapping circles between them and the title A Thousand Splendid Suns written above them

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

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What does the burqa reveal about Muslim society?

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A Thousand Splendid Suns is a novel that revolves around the trials and tribulations of two women who become unlikely friends due to their similar and unfortunate circumstances. Mariam and Laila find a mutual antagonist in their abusive husband, and indeed, the majority of pain that they encounter in their respective lives comes from the tyrannical rule of the patriarchy.

Miriam, an illegitimate child, initially resents the comparatively fortunate Laila. However, when both of them find pain and suffering at the hands of the abusive Rasheed, they are forced to band together. The tragic truth of the work is that the pain that Mariam and Laila feel is not at all exclusive to them, and the suffering that all women feel is represented by the burqa, both literally and symbolically.

In regard to the society portrayed in the book, the burqa reveals the levels of control that men exert over the lives of women, and how the most virtuous women are considered to be the most subservient. Among all head coverings, the burqa is the strictest, allowing only a translucent screen before the eyes for sight, however limited. The burqa implies that, to a Muslim man, his wife is his property, and it is no one else's business to see his property.

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