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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Student Question

In A Thousand Splendid Suns, where and why is there a loss of innocence?

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Loss of innocence on a personal, community, and national level is a central theme of the novel. For the central characters who grow up during the war years, innocence becomes a luxury that is soon cast aside over concern for the necessities of survival.

Mariam’s path can be said to begin with her mother’s death. Although she already had little relationship with her father, her dependence on him and the loss of her mother are double blows. With her enforced marriage to Rasheed, a man three times her age, the compounding of lost innocence is clearly visible. At only fifteen, Mariam becomes a wife and then begins suffering the pain and humiliation of multiple miscarriages.

In Laila as well, lost innocence can be seen. As her parents become unwell, she assumes the burden of their care, especially her distraught mother. Although her father supports her educational efforts, her responsibilities at home thwart her desire for schooling. Laila grows up even faster when their home is bombed and she loses both parents.

Although these characters and others lose their innocence in distinct ways, the wartime environment is one central cause, as are the social inequalities that characterize Afghan society of the time.

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