What are two important symbols and their significance in "A Thousand Splendid Suns"?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are so many important symbols in A Thousand Splendid Suns and, because you asked for two, I thought it might be interesting to speak of an obvious one and one that isn't so obvious:  the burqua and snow.

The first (and more apparent) symbol is the symbol of the burqua.  A burqua, of course, is an all-encompassing blue or black covering that a Muslim woman wears.  The dictionary definition is as follows:

A loose, usually black or light blue outer garment worn by Muslim women that covers the head and face and sometimes the entire body.

The burqua in A Thousand Splendid Suns is a symbol of being trapped under the rule of man.  "Luckily," through this trap, the women also are able to hide their negative emotions about their state in life.  What is also interesting is that, although women are not required to wear a burqua at home with their family, the husband do require them to wear one when they go out into public.  Therefore, the women are not able to hide their emotions to their husbands, only to other men.  As a result, they are truly trapped.

A second (and less apparent) symbol in A Thousand Splendid Suns is the symbol of snow. It is Mariam who watches from her window as the snow falls down.  She is trapped under the influence of her abusive husband, Rasheed.  Mariam thinks about the words of her Nana saying that each snowflake in a sigh from an individual woman upset by something in the world. They fall upon others and make no noise:

As a reminder of how women like us suffer. ... How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.

So, even though it is a lesser known symbol in the book, snow is an IMPORTANT symbol.  The women of A Thousand Splendid Suns are ever oppressed and must vent their emotions in some way in order to keep on living.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The author uses eyes to symbolize the complex emotions of the characters at different times in their lives. After Mariam is taken in by her father Jalil, she discovers that he does not care for her as much as she thought he did. She sees “…the weight of eyes on her” symbolizing the strained relationship between her and her father’s co-wives as well as between her and Jalil. They resented her, looked down upon her and wanted her gone. This realization deeply hurt Mariam. On her bus ride home from seeing the doctor, at the thought of her pregnancy, Mariam’s eyes clearly reflect her emotions. The author says that “It is as though a rainbow melted in her eyes.” The rainbow is symbolic of happiness.

The other symbol in the book is the burqa. This traditional dress whose length reaches the floor and covers one completely from head to toe is symbolic of the hardships of a woman in that society. She has no rights living in a patriarchal society and even her dress code is decided for her. The woman has been denied the opportunity to go to school or work and is subjected to intense hardships to which she has no option but to persevere.

mkcapen1 | Student

In the book A Thousand Splendid Suns Mariam is a little girl who lives with her mother in a kolba.   A kolbais a very small mud house.  The kolba is a symbol of the entrapment and poverty that Mariam will experience for all of her life.  It is a home for her as a child, but it is also a prison.  She is a child born out of wedlock which places her in a terrible status and kept there away from others.

Another symbol in the story is the burqua.  Mariam nor Laila had to wear one before, but when they become Rasheed's wives he makes them wear one when they go into the community.  For the women it is again a symbol of entrapment.  It also symbolizes their loss of identity in their marriage and later when the Taliban control the community.

The burqua is also a symbol of hiding for both women.  When they appear in public they are able to look around and not have to smile or show expressions that they do not feel.

Read the study guide:
A Thousand Splendid Suns

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