“Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have.” How does this sentiment inform Mariam’s life in A Thousand Splendid Suns and how does it relate to the larger themes of the novel?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is important to remember that above all this novel paints an incredibly moving picture of two women who struggle to eke out any form of existence against the backdrop of a repressively harsh patriarchal society. Both Laila and Mariam are shown, again and again throughout the text, to lack opportunities, dignity and even the most simplest and most basic of rights that women enjoy in the West today. As a result of this, the only option they have is either to give up or to try to endure the massive hardships of day to day life as best as they can and not surrender themselves to despair. This quote therefore could be used to accurately sum up this massive central theme of the novel which helps reveal what life is like for women in a radically different society and culture, and the way that this impacts their lives and futures to such an incredible extent.

In particular, given the way that Mariam meets such a terrible and shocking end, we could argue that this statement above all applies to her. She has no lover to await her, and indeed it is debatable whether she has actually ever experienced love at all. Let us also remember that she is executed in the most brutal and public way possible for a crime that she did not commit. Whilst this gave her an opportunity to show her love and fellowship with Laila, her end is a reflection on the kind of life she has lived throughout her unhappy years: one that is characterised by oppression and lack of liberty, and where even enduring is not necessarily enough.