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A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

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Comparative Analysis of Character Similarities Across The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and The Thorn Birds


The characters in The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and The Thorn Birds share themes of personal struggle and redemption. They navigate complex relationships and face societal and familial pressures. Despite different cultural settings, they all seek love, belonging, and identity, often making profound sacrifices in their journeys toward self-discovery and acceptance.

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Who is a similar character to General Taheri from The Kite Runner in A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Thorn Birds?

General Taheri is a kind but domineering person who definitely believes that his wife should be submissive to him. He also has some extreme ideas about women, as he almost killed his daughter, Soraya, when she was living with her boyfriend. In this sense, he is similar to Padraic Cleary, or Paddy, Meggie's father in The Thorn Birds. Paddy also believes that women should be submissive to men, though Frank, one of Paddy's sons, secretly helps his mother against Paddy's wishes. McCullough writes about Frank (the "he" in the first sentence) and Paddy:

"It was a furtive, fearful game he and his mother played, for the most stringent rule in Paddy's domain concerned the proper delegation of duties. The house was woman's work, and that was that. No male member of the family was to put his hand to a female task." 

Paddy is still secretly incensed that Frank, who is the oldest child in his family, is not his biological son but the offspring of his wife (Fee's) illicit union with a married man before Paddy and Fee were married. Paddy still resents his wife for having had this affair, and he resents Frank as a result. In this sense, Paddy is similar to General Taheri, who resents Soraya's former union with her boyfriend.

General Taheri is similar to Jalil in A Thousand Splendid Suns, as Jalil does not totally accept his daughter, Mariam, who was born out of marriage. Like the General, Jalil isolates his daughter, as he feels that her existence is contrary to the rules of society. Also like the General, Jalil has a more positive side as he eventually feels sorry for having spurned Mariam and for not having gratified her wish to see the movie Pinocchio. He follows traditional ideas about women but has a softer side towards his daughter, as does General Taheri in The Kite Runner

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Which characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Thorn Birds are most like Rahim Khan from The Kite Runner?

It is Rahim Khan who tells Amir at the beginning of The Kite Runner that "there is a way to be good again." Despite his relatively minor role, Rahim Khan is important for two reasons, both suggested by this initial telephone call. In the first place, he is one of the principal voices of sanity and decency in the novel, close to being its moral center. Second, he is a father figure to Amir, guiding and encouraging him in a way that his actual father, the forceful and demanding Baba, often does not.

We see Rahim Khan principally through the lens of his relationship to Amir and his effect on Amir's life. In the same way, Hakim (Babi) in A Thousand Splendid sons appears mainly as a father and a teacher. His relationship with Laila is the center of his life and, though he is a mild-mannered personality, he is fiercely protective of her and her education. He tells Laila that she can be any thing she wants and that she has a role to play in the future of her country. He encourages her with her studies in the same way that Rahim Khan encourages Amir's writing.

In The Thorn Birds, the character who most resembles Rahim Khan is Archbishop (later Cardinal) Vittorio di Contini Verchese. Vittorio is a kind, calm, reasonable figure of authority, who acts like a good father to Ralph, considering the ultimate welfare of the young priest over and above his religious vocation. Like Rahim, he he is a quiet, self-effacing character, whose strength of character is not immediately obvious but becomes apparent in the wisdom of his conduct and advice.

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Who is the character in The Kite Runner and The Thorn Birds most similar to Jalil Khan in A Thousand Splendid Suns?

Jalil Khan is the patriarch of a large family and a wealthy, well-respected man. His illegitimate daughter is a source of shame for him, hence his refusal to acknowledge her. Although he visits Mariam each week, he feels guilty, finally apologizing to her and seeking her forgiveness, which she withholds.

There are no exact parallels to Jalil Khan in either The Kite Runner or The Thorn Birds. One would not expect a character to share his personality, his status, and his function in the novel. However, taken overall, the closest character to Jalil Khan in The Kite Runner is Baba. Baba shares Jalil Khan's high status, though he is a more heroic figure and less of a plutocrat. He has a difficult relationship with his son Amir and despite his being a widely-admired example to others, ultimately fails as a father.

In The Thorn Birds, the choice of a parallel figure to Jalil Khan is even more contentious. Paddy Cleary is the obvious patriarchal figure. He is perhaps the character who most resembles Jalil Khan in terms of his role in the narrative. However, the two are not similar in terms of personality, and even their circumstances are not particularly similar apart from their role as father of a family. Luke O'Neill is also a possible parallel, but he is a much more villainous and intentionally abusive character than Jalil Khan. The same is true of Mary Carson. If either of these two characters had shown remorse for their manipulative behavior, they would be closer than Paddy Cleary, but since Jalil Khan is, despite his mistakes, a fundamentally well-intentioned person, it seems reasonable to say that Cleary is somewhat more like him.

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Who is Jalil Khan in A Thousand Splendid Suns most like in The Kite Runner and The Thorn Birds?

Jalil Khan in A Thousand Splendid Suns is chiefly notable as Mariam's father—although, because she is illegitimate, he conceals her existence. To the outside world, he is a solid and prosperous figure, the father of a large legitimate family, and a successful businessman.

In The Kite Runner, the closest character to Jalil Khan is Baba, the father of Amir, also a wealthy and well-respected man who, for different reasons, has a difficult and distant relationship with his son. Amir does not repudiate Baba in the same way that Mariam rejects Jalil, but Baba still fails as a father, since Amir turns to Baba's friend Rahim Khan for the support and encouragement he never receives from his father.

There is no character in The Thorn Birds who closely resembles Jalil Khan. In terms of his social position, he is probably closest to Luke O'Neill, or even the rich and influential Mary Carson. However, both these characters are manipulative and vicious, which Jalil Khan is not, even initially. He also tries unsuccessfully to build a relationship with Mariam, something neither of them could be imagined doing. Perhaps the closest character, therefore, in his position as a patriarch and his fundamentally good intentions towards his children and the world in general, is Paddy Cleary.

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Who does Hakim from A Thousand Splendid Suns resemble in The Kite Runner and The Thorn Birds?

Hakim in A Thousand Splendid Suns is seen principally through his effect on Laila as a kind and supportive father who is deeply committed to his daughter's education. Hakim tells Laila that she will play a vital role in the future of her country and does everything he can to nurture her in preparation for this, as well as passing on his knowledge and experience.

In The Kite Runner, Amir's father, Baba, a wealthy businessman, is a rather forbidding figure who does little to support his son. Instead, Amir turns to his father's mild-mannered business partner, Rahim Khan, who encourages his writing, listens to him, and supports him as his father does not. Rahim Khan is one of the most thoughtful characters in the novel and is close to being its moral center. He is therefore the closest parallel to Hakim.

The closest character to Hakim in The Thorn Birds is Archbishop (later Cardinal) Vittorio di Contini Verchese. Vittorio is a Father in the sense of being a Catholic priest, which prevents him from being a literal father like Hakim but allows him to take a kindly paternal interest in the life and progress of Ralph de Bricassart. He is also a generous, modest, and self-effacing person, mainly notable for how much he cares for others, Ralph in particular.

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Who is Hakem in A Thousand Splendid Suns like in The Kite Runner and The Thorn Birds?

Hakim in A Thousand Splendid Suns is most readily compared to Rahim Khan in The Kite Runner and Cardinal Vittorio Scarbanza di Contini-Verchese in The Thorn Birds. All three are men who are either actual fathers or function as paternal figures to the protagonists in the novels. Hakim is slightly different in that he is the biological father of a daughter. Neither Rahim nor the cardinal (who is first seen as an archbishop) has children of their own, but each serves in a paternal or mentor capacity to a younger man.

As the father of Laila, Hakim nurtured his daughter in ways that were unusual in Afghan society in the years when she was growing up. He instilled in her a love of learning and encouraged her to become educated. While this encouragement her development as an independent thinker, his ability to support her further was severely curtailed.

Rahim Khan is a strong positive influence on Amir, especially after the younger man’s own father, Baba, dies. Rahim has also played a mentor role to Baba’s other son, Hassan. It is Rahim’s influence that enables Amir to shoulder his family responsibility to Sohrab.

Beginning while he is an archbishop, Vittorio is a primary mentor for the young priest, Father Ralph. He guides the newcomer to Rome through the intricacies of faith and Church politics. This relationship is especially crucial as Ralph did not know his biological father. In this respect as well, the cardinal resembles Rahim in serving as a secondary father.

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