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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Contrasts and Similarities of Mariam from A Thousand Splendid Suns with Female Characters in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner


Mariam from A Thousand Splendid Suns shares similarities with female characters in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner through her resilience and struggle against societal constraints. However, she contrasts with them in her specific cultural and personal battles within Afghanistan's unique context, highlighting different aspects of female endurance and resistance in diverse settings.

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

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam is a dynamic character who begins the book as an introverted and neglected child and experiences hardship and abuse which embitter her further. However, she is able to feel solidarity with Laila and grows to love her and her children, finding an outlet for her maternal instincts.

The polar opposite of Mariam, therefore, would be a girl who grows up with many advantages, able to do whatever she wants, but who becomes or remains hard-hearted despite her good fortune. The Thorn Birds contains several candidates, the best of them being Mary Carson, an immensely wealthy woman who uses her wealth and power to manipulate others and indulge her own spite.

The Kite Runner is a more male-dominated novel than the other two and contains no character who is a perfect fit as Mariam's polar opposite. Sanaubar is initially the opposite of Mariam, as she is promiscuous and confident in her beauty, as well as being a negligent mother. However, her behavior as Sohrab's grandmother is rather similar to the maternal protectiveness Mariam shows towards Laila. The best fit as the opposite of Mariam, therefore, is Soraya, whose assertiveness and determination to live a self-directed life contrast with Mariam's victimhood. Soraya, despite being a relatively complex character, also does not change much over the course of the novel.

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Who is the opposite of Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns in The Thorn Birds?

Though Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns has similar life experiences to Mary Carson in The Thorn Birds, she deals with them in a completely different way. Both women are initially consumed by jealousy: Mariam is jealous of her husband's second wife, Laila, while Mary is jealous of her niece Meggie for being close to Father Ralph de Bricassart, whom Mary had earlier tried to seduce.

Eventually, however, the two women's paths diverge, and sharply. After Laila stands up for Mariam, Mariam starts to warm to her, seeing her as an ally and a friend rather than a love rival. The two become close, and it is no exaggeration to say that a bond of love develops between them.

As for Mary Carson, however, she never gets over her feeling of bitterness and inadequacy. The ultimate woman scorned, she deliberately sets out to destroy the burgeoning relationship between Meggie and Father Ralph. If she can't have Ralph, then she's absolutely determined that no other woman can, including her own niece.

Unlike Mariam, Mary shows herself to be completely incapable of love and entirely lacking in magnanimity. Unable to give or receive love, she makes certain that no one else in her orbit will be so blessed.

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Who is the polar opposite of Mariam in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner?

Two characters who can be seen as polar opposites to Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns are Luke O’Neill in The Thorn Birds and Assef in The Kite Runner. This contrast is based on their different genders and Mariam’s fundamentally kind and generous nature, as opposed to the two male characters’ selfishness. Luke obsessively works to expand his property and grow wealthy and shows little regard for his wife and children. Assef is a bully in his youth and grows up to be a ruthless tyrant.

Mariam becomes the first wife of Rasheed. Her husband is verbally and physically abusive. Mariam, who has no children of her own, develops a protective stance toward Laila, Rasheed’s second wife, and her children. To do so, she overcame her jealousy of the younger woman. Ultimately, Mariam takes the risk of defending Laila from Rasheed’s violent attack and in the process kills him. Despite having no children of her own, she plays a maternal role.

Luke is a husband and father, but he is not interested in those roles. After marrying Meggie to gain access to her assets, he focuses on empire-building. He exploits others, such as by sending Meggie away to work in service.

Assef is a one-dimensional villain who seems to be a sociopath, incapable of warm feelings. All his actions are geared toward exercising and expanding his power, both through personal physical attacks on others and in his leading role with the Taliban.

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

Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns is a woman who has to endure a great deal of hardship in her life: her own illegitimacy, her mother's suicide, and her long, childless marriage to an abusive husband. When she is in danger of giving way entirely to bitterness, she is redeemed by her love and protectiveness towards Laila and Laila's children. Her story is still an unhappy one, but it has the dignity of high tragedy, rather than the squalor of self-centered bitterness.

Self-centered bitterness is a good phrase for the end of Mary Carson's life in The Thorn Birds. She has had none of Mariam's hardships to endure; indeed, her life has been remarkably easy. She married a man of immense wealth, whom she found she could manipulate without difficulty, and, when he died, she used his wealth to manipulate everyone else around her.

Luke O'Neill is, like Mary Carson, an unsympathetic character: an insensitive, selfish, tyrannical skinflint. However, he does not have the same level of manipulative malice as Mary Carson, and his life has been tougher than hers. Mariam manages to care for others despite the hardness of her life, while Mary Carson becomes ever more selfish and malicious despite (or perhaps because of) the softness of hers. If only because of this stark contrast, Mary Carson is the polar opposite of Mariam.

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

In Colleen McCullough's novel The Thorn Birds, Mary Carson is the polar opposite of Mariam in Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns. Let's look at some reasons for this assertion.

First, Mary Carson is a domineering woman. She wants to control her life and her situation and manipulate other people, and she does. Mary is Paddy Cleary's sister, and she pretty much demands that Paddy move his family to Australia so that he can learn how to run Drogheda, her homestead. She implies that Paddy and his family will inherit her property at her death. Yet Mary is tricky. She makes two wills and allows Father Ralph de Bricassart to decide which one will be effective. He makes the choice to disinherit the Cleary family, just like Mary probably figures he will. She thereby excuses herself of any fault (or at least tries to).

Second, Mary is also firmly in charge of her marriage. She convinces her husband, Michael, to marry her for both her looks and her brains, and she dominates her husband. Mary, however, marries not for love but for position, and when she becomes a widow, she retains that position and all her acquired power.

Now let's compare Mary to Mariam. Mariam spends most of her life under the control of other people. She is an illegitimate child, and her father either ignores her or disgraces her. She is forced into a marriage with Rasheed, who is much older than she is. She has no choice in the matter at all. Her father arranges the relationship, and she must obey. Mariam then lives under the control of her husband, who abuses her and then marries a second wife when Mariam cannot have children. Mariam comes to care for Laila (the second wife) and her children. In fact, when Rasheed attacks Laila, Mariam takes one of the only steps of resistance she has made and hits Rasheed with a shovel, killing him. Mariam does not escape punishment, though, and she is executed. She has given her life for Laila.

Indeed, it is difficult to see how these two characters, Mary and Mariam, could be any more different. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum in personality and fate.

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Which female characters in The Thorn Birds and The Kite Runner are similar to Mariam?

Mariam in A Thousand Splendid Suns is a complex character who has similarities with several of the female characters and The Kite Runner. Those with whom she shares especially significant features are Anne Mueller in The Thorn Birds and Farzana in The Kite Runner. These similarities inhere in the characters’ maternal or sisterly behavior toward other women to whom they are not related. Mariam, an unhappy woman who entered an arranged marriage with a cruel, self-centered man, initially seems to lack empathy. However, through the course of the novel, she grows very close to her husband’s second wife, Laila, and even risks her life to save her and her children.

The character of Anne provides a surrogate mother figure to Meggie, who is separated from her husband and from her own mother. Through Anne’s steady mentoring, Meggie gains confidence and even trusts Anne to keep the secret of Dane’s father’s identity.

The female characters in The Kite Runner are rather undeveloped, but Farzana can be compared with Mariam. Although Farzana has a happy marriage, unlike Mariam, she also proves to be a compassionate person. In her case, it is an older woman, rather than a younger one, to whom she extends her warmth and protection. This is her husband’s destitute elderly mother, whom they taken into their home when she returns after years of absence.

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