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The story begins with a description of the first time Mariam heard the word “harami”. She was five at the time and living with her mother in a small hut outside Herat. Her father would visit her once every week. This was because Mariam was a bastard child who would cause embarrassment to the rest of her father’s legitimate family, thus she was banished together with her mum to the outskirts of Herat. During one of her father’s visits, Mariam broke her mother’s Chinese sugar bowl, left to her by her own mother as inheritance. Mariam’s mother is very annoyed and calls her “harami” and even though she does not know what it means, she can tell it is an offensive word. This opening shows the position Mariam is in, with regards to the prevailing social structures, and the word signifies the myriad of problems that Mariam would encounter throughout her life, coupled with her inability to change her situation.
In the closing, Laila would have wished to know where the Taliban buried Mariam and, although, she does not have this information, she believes Mariam to be alive in the rebuilding process and in her heart. She considers her among the people who died in order to restore hope to the people of Afghanistan.
In the opening Mariam is condemned to her fate because of her background but in the end she is revered as a martyr and the source of hope for Laila’s family.
The opening scene alerts the reader to Mariam's shame of being a 'harami' as well as our first insights into the way her life has been so far. This, to some extent, explains to us how she later just puts up with the abuse she receives at the hands of her husband, Rasheed. It is almost as if she believes that she deserves it due to being illegitimate (in more ways than one) as well as a woman.
The final scene takes us full circle, from Mariam's initial situation, as we see Laila take on the role of educator and nurturer. Far from being worthless, Laila is shown to the reader as being the hope of Afghanistan. This represents how women are important to the rebuilding of the country.
It is also here that we fully and finally understand that Mariam's life did matter: 'Because, if it's a girl, Laila has already named her." Mariam is not only representative of a troubled past but also of a hopeful future.
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