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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To what extent is the novel A Thousand Splendid Suns a condemnation of the misuse of power

The novel is a condemnation of the misuse of power.

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In the novel, Khaled Hosseini shows the abuse of power on both personal and socio-political levels. The marriage of Rasheed and Mariam exemplifies personal abuses, while the post-Soviet occupation conflicts among the Afghan factions convey the wider-scale power struggles, leading to Taliban rule.

After Mariam is forced into an arranged...

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In the novel, Khaled Hosseini shows the abuse of power on both personal and socio-political levels. The marriage of Rasheed and Mariam exemplifies personal abuses, while the post-Soviet occupation conflicts among the Afghan factions convey the wider-scale power struggles, leading to Taliban rule.

After Mariam is forced into an arranged marriage with an older man named Rasheed, her husband imposes his conservative views on her. This misuse of power ranges from the external coverings of her body, as he makes her wear the burka, through his insistence that she become pregnant again every time she miscarries, to his physical violence when she loses the babies. Mariam is denied autonomy over her own body and subjugated to patriarchal control. While this is exacerbated to some extent by Rasheed’s marriage to Laila, the female solidarity also drives a wedge that both enables their liberation and seals Mariam’s fate.

As the novel is set in late twentieth century Kabul, much of the political action concerns the chaotic situation created by the Soviet retreat after almost two decades of occupation. The effects of that occupation are still evident, such as through Tarik’s landmine-inflicted injuries. The constant conflicts among the Mujahedeen and other factions make the city unsafe, with frequent shelling and bombings.

Once the Taliban take over, the misuse of power becomes the norm. Both men and women must follow sartorial, religious standards. Education and employment are both denied to women, whose freedom to appear in public and to travel are denied. Higher education is also ended with the closure of the universities; cultural expression is severely restricted and artists considered to be not in compliance are imprisoned. Hosseini unblinkingly portrays the bleakness of life under fundamentalist rule in this phase of Afghan history.

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