Mariam portrays true motherly instincts in A Thousand Splendid Suns. She learns from the death of her own mother how deep Nana's own love (albeit dependant affection) was for her daughter. Mariam looks forward to the birth of her first child with Rasheed, and she knows that despite their age differences and the circumstances of their arranged marriage, she will grow to love him and make him a good wife. When she discovers the true, cruel nature of her husband, she transfers her motherly instincts to Laila and her son. Her final act of accepting full responsibility for Rasheed's death so Laila can escape is a true act of motherly affection.
Laila exhibits a true independent streak not always found in Afghan women. Her father, a schoolteacher, has brought her up to think for herself, and despite Rasheed's attempts to subjugate her completely, she still yearns to be free of him. Her attempt to leave, with Mariam and her son, is unsuccessful, but she never completely gives up hope. Her final act of returning to Afghanistan to bring up her children surprises her husband, but for Laila it is a way to honor her own parents and her heritage.