illustration of two women standing in burkas with two overlapping circles between them and the title A Thousand Splendid Suns written above them

A Thousand Splendid Suns

by Khaled Hosseini

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Comparing Laila from A Thousand Splendid Suns to characters in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner

Summary:

Comparing Laila from A Thousand Splendid Suns to characters in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner reveals her resilience and determination. Like Meggie in The Thorn Birds, Laila endures personal hardship and societal constraints. Similarly, her strength and pursuit of a better life parallel Amir's journey in The Kite Runner, showcasing themes of perseverance and redemption.

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Who contrasts Laila from A Thousand Splendid Suns in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner?

I would say that the characters of Sanaubar in The Kite Runner and Ralph de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds are polar opposites of Laila in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Laila loves Mariam, Tariq, and her children and puts her relationships above all else. In contrast, Sanaubar puts her pleasure above her relationships, including her relationship with her son, and Ralph puts his ambition above his relationships.

Laila is a bright young girl who is capable of forming strong bonds with the people she loves. She loves Tariq, and their relationship contrasts markedly with the relationship that Sanaubar has with Ali. Laila loves Tariq despite his physical deformity—he lost a leg when a landmine exploded. In contrast, Sanaubar flaunts her own beauty and mocks Ali for his appearance and his crippled leg. She is described as “a beautiful but notoriously unscrupulous woman who lived up to her dishonorable reputation.”

Laila and Tariq have much in common, and she is his intellectual equal. In fact, when he returns from visiting his ailing uncle, Tariq jokes that Laila is envious of his “masculine smarts.” She teasingly retorts,

Your masculine smarts? Really? Tell me, who always wins at chess? ... And who failed math? Who do you come to for help with your math homework even though you're a grade ahead?

In contrast, beyond some shared similarities such as their religion and that they are cousins, “Ali and Sanaubar had little in common.”

Laila loves Tariq throughout and is willing to sacrifice for him. By contrast, Ralph sacrifices his love for Meggie because of his ambition. He even accepts the inheritance that would have gone to her family in order to gain prestige within the church and rise through its hierarchy, an action that seems particularly questionable given that he is a priest and also strips Meggie of the money that would have come to her otherwise. Moreover, while Laila protects her children, Sanaubar literally abandons her son, and Ralph figuratively abandons his.

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Who contrasts Laila from A Thousand Splendid Suns in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner?

Rasheed in A Thousand Splendid Suns is depicted as a villain with no redeeming qualities, and he dies a violent death. He can be contrasted to many characters in the other two novels who are both good and complex and who survive.

In The Kite Runner, Sohrab is the character who seems to be the polar opposite of Rasheed in almost every way. Although both characters are male, Rasheed is an adult man who inflicts damage on others, including his wives and children. Rasheed not only wreaked havoc on his home and family, but he can be considered responsible for his own death, because Mariam killed him to save the rest of their family. Sohrab is at the other end of the spectrum, because he is a child and innocent of any wrongdoing.

In The Thorn Birds, Justine offers an extreme opposite to Rasheed. While the reader sees her growing from childhood innocence into adulthood, her intentions and actions show a kind of purity. She suffers from grief over her brother when he dies but finds a true union with Rainer. Thus, Justine is loyal to the ideals of family in two ways. Though different from Sohrab in many ways, both characters end up in loving, happy homes.

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Who contrasts Laila from A Thousand Splendid Suns in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner?

Two characters who can be considered polar opposites of Tariq in A Thousand Splendid Suns are Luke O’Neill and Sanaubar. Tariq, who is absent for much of the novel, is a good person who remains loyal to Laila during their separation. In The Thorn Birds, Luke is portrayed as self-centered and so obsessed with work that he is indifferent or even cruel to his family, becoming even more emotionally distant from the children after Meggie leaves.

After the young Laila and Tariq fall in love, Tariq must leave with his family because of the country’s violent political conflicts. When he leaves, he does not know that Laila is pregnant. Although the war interferes with their relationship, Tariq does not forget Laila and returns to her as soon as possible. He is compassionate toward her after her ill-fated marriage and cherishes her other children as well as his son.

Although it is unclear if Sanaubar had a positive intention in giving Ali a son in The Kite Runner, her pregnancy did result from a sexual relationship with Baba. Like Luke and unlike Tariq, she lacked strong parental connection. Sanaubar abandoned her family and left her son motherless, to be raised by a man who was not his biological father. Unlike Tariq, she left of her own volition for a more exciting life, not because her family obliged her to go.

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Who contrasts Laila from A Thousand Splendid Suns in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner?

The character of Tariq in A Thousand Splendid Suns is first the friend and later the lover of Laila. Characters who seem to be polar opposites of Tariq are Mary Carson in The Thorn Birds and Assef in The Kite Runner. Although Tariq is separated from Laila when his family flees, he continues to love her. When he is finally able to return to Afghanistan, he seeks her out. Not only are they able to resume their relationship but he also learns that they have a child and then becomes a devoted father. Mary Carson and Assef are similar in some ways. They are both fundamentally selfish people who feel justified in doing whatever it takes to achieve their goals. In the process, Mary does help Father Ralph, but she is motivated by the desire to assert influence on the church hierarchy. Assef is not only selfish but cruel, and he exerts physical violence as well as emotional control over others.

Tariq is one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel: he is separated from his beloved, Laila, largely because of his youth and his loyalty to family. That loyalty again becomes evident when he returns home and is able to resume his relationship with Laila, as well as stepping into the role of father. Mary has few redeeming qualities, but she is not totally evil like Assef, who commits rape, admires the Nazis, and becomes a Taliban leader.

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

Laila in A Thousand Splendid Suns is parted from her true love, Tariq, and must marry Rasheed to find a legitimate father for her child. However, her marriage to Rasheed is brutal and abusive. In this sense, Laila is similar to Meggie, the protagonist of The Thorn Birds. Like Laila, Meggie loves someone she can not marry. In Meggie's case, this is Father Ralph de Bricassart. She loves him deeply, and he loves her back. Ralph cannot marry, however, because he is a priest. Eventually, Meggie has a love child with Ralph, whom she names Dane, but she is married to Luke. Like Rasheed, Luke is abusive toward his wife, and they have a loveless marriage. 

The character in A Thousand Splendid Suns who is most like Laila is potentially Hassan, who is brutally raped by Assef. In many ways, Hassan accepts this abuse in order to protect his best friend Amir (who turns out to be his half-brother). Like Meggie and Laila, Hassan does not receive the love he truly deserves. He is Baba's son, but Baba does not recognize him as his son. Later, Hassan dies, and Amir ultimately takes care of his son, hoping to make up for the love Amir did not give Hassan when he was alive. Meggie, Laila, and Hassan do not always receive the love they crave, and their children are all born into perilous circumstances. As a result, they share some similarities. 

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