Introduction to A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns is the second novel by Khalid Hosseini. In the wake of the popularity of Hosseini‘s first novel, The Kite Runner, the author chose to focus on a different type of relationship for his sophomore effort. Whereas The Kite Runner focuses on the relationships between men–specifically fathers and sons—A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on the role of women in Afghan society and the relationships formed between those who are trying to survive in difficult circumstances. The novel was well received by critics, with some believing that it surpassed The Kite Runner in quality. Hosseini interviewed numerous women in Afghanistan prior to writing the novel, and he used the knowledge gained from these conversations when developing the novel's protagonists, Mariam and Laila, in an effort to reflect the real experiences of Afghan women.

Women and the relationships between them are a central focus of the novel. Both Laila and Mariam are stuck in an unhappy marriage with the sexist and abusive Rasheed, and although they are initially at odds with one another, they bond over their shared dissatisfaction and a mutual love for their children. Mariam's sacrifice on behalf of Laila is a testament to the deep love and understanding between the two, and she become an almost martyr-like figure. Women have minimal power in Afghan society to begin with, and the rise of the Taliban only further restricts their lives. However, Hosseini provides a balanced perspective, criticizing the laws and policies that restrict women while also imbuing his characters with a deep love for their country. Although Afghanistan is where Laila suffered many hardships, it is still her home, and she believes in the ability of her people to overcome prejudice and political turmoil.

A Brief Biography of Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini (born 1965) grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, before moving with his family to Paris, France. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, his family was prevented from returning and sought political asylum in the United States, where Hosseini studied medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Hosseini practiced medicine full time after graduation and devoted his spare hours to penning his first novel, The Kite Runner. Published in 2004, The Kite Runner enjoyed massive critical and commercial success, as did Hoesseini's second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns. His novels—all of which take place at least partially in Afghanistan—have been credited with bringing global attention to current issues facing Afghanistan. In addition to his literary contributions, Hosseini has been recognized for his humanitarian work, including his role as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador.

Frequently Asked Questions about A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Mariam has to listen carefully to understand Rasheed when he speaks. This is because he speaks a different dialect from hers. He comes from a region of Afghanistan called Kandahar and speaks Farsi...

Latest answer posted November 22, 2021, 12:54 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Tariq is presented as a kind, moral, compassionate, selfless and occasionally playful man who has a physical disability—he has only one leg. As the story progresses, we...

Latest answer posted November 22, 2021, 1:40 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Laila inherits a fairly substantial amount of money from Mariam's deceased father and wants to use it in a way that will honor her dear friend's memory. It's important to consider the way Mariam's...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2021, 7:18 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Nana's lack of a husband comes down to two events in her life that ultimately prevent her from being married in her hyper-patriarchal society. At the age of fifteen,...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2021, 11:27 am (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

While trying to “sell” the middle-aged Rasheed to the teenaged Mariam as a good prospective husband, Jalil’s wives appeal to her sympathy; they tell her that his first wife died during childbirth...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2021, 2:50 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

When Mariam realizes that Rasheed intends to kill Laila, she decides to determine her own fate for the first time in her life. With the shovel in her hand, she uses all of the force in her body to...

Latest answer posted November 22, 2021, 1:20 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Near the end of the novel, Laila discovers that Tariq is alive. Having heard that Laila recently received a visit from Tariq, Rasheed viciously attacks her. Mariam saves Laila's life by hitting...

Latest answer posted November 21, 2021, 4:49 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

After Mariam kills Rasheed in order to save Laila's life, she is imprisoned for doing a "wicked thing." Mariam has no legal council and no examination of evidence during her trial. Though the judge...

Latest answer posted November 21, 2021, 1:46 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

A jinn in Arabian and Muslim mythology is a spirit that can enter and possess a person's body. The main jinn that enters Nana is epilepsy. Mariam witnesses Nana's jinn many times during her...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2021, 11:43 am (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Not long after they are married, Rasheed gives Mariam a beautiful maroon shawl embroidered in gold with a beaded fringe. Mariam's previous context for gifts are the presents that Jalil would bring...

Latest answer posted November 23, 2021, 12:13 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

When Mariam tells Laila that Rasheed wants to marry her as a second wife, Laila quickly accepts his offer. She knows she is pregnant with Tariq's child and wants to consummate the marriage with...

Latest answer posted November 21, 2021, 12:32 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Mariam is called "harami," which means bastard, because she is illegitimate. At the very beginning of the novel, Mariam breaks a porcelain teapot, an heirloom from her grandmother, and her mother,...

Latest answer posted November 20, 2021, 1:19 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns delivers a message of hope and optimism. For example, despite all the hardships she suffers, including sacrificing her life to save Laila and Laila's children, Mariam's...

Latest answer posted November 20, 2021, 12:32 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

The text offers the bare facts of the events surrounding Nana's death: we are not privy to Nana's interiority or, in other words, her private thoughts, so we have to piece together her reasons for...

Latest answer posted November 21, 2021, 12:16 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Jalil loves Mariam to some extent, but her illegitimacy, in part, is what interferes with his ability to love her fully. We know he must have some feelings of affection for her as his daughter...

Latest answer posted November 21, 2021, 12:49 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Rasheed is almost thirty years older than Mariam, who is forced to marry him at the age of fifteen. Mariam is the illegitimate child of her father, Jalil, and she is...

Latest answer posted November 22, 2021, 4:26 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

Mariam is never able to have children of her own. Much to her intense disappointment, she is unable to conceive a child throughout her marriage to the cruel Rasheed. In a culture where women are...

Latest answer posted November 22, 2021, 11:17 am (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

In chapter 8, Mariam wakes up to a hasty wedding ceremony with Rasheed. As the illegitimate daughter of the wealthy Jalil and his housekeeper Nana, Mariam is a reminder of Jalil’s infidelity to his...

Latest answer posted November 20, 2021, 5:12 pm (UTC)

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

In Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam kills Rasheed after Rasheed attacks and almost kills Laila. Rasheed is a violent, abusive man who is married to both of these women. Mariam is...

Latest answer posted November 20, 2021, 6:16 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Near the end of the novel, Mariam is condemned to death for killing Rasheed with a shovel. The judge says he would like to show her mercy because of the circumstances that led to the murder, but he...

Latest answer posted November 20, 2021, 1:05 pm (UTC)

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Summary