Although A Thousand Splendid Suns is filled with hardship, a strong sense of love is expressed throughout the novel. Mariam is madly devoted to her father when she is young, and he is very fond of her as well. However, her father is a weak man who does not stand up to his three wives, so Mariam turns against him. Laila’s father also very much loves his daughter and wants to make sure she receives a good education. He dotes on her as much as Laila’s mother ignores her. Laila and Tariq are the most successful of the lovers in this story. They must fight through many challenges to finally be together, but they succeed. Laila and Mariam also develop a love for one another as they stand together to fight off Rasheed, their abusive husband. Both women enjoy a shared love for the children, Aziza and Zalmai. In a sense, there is also love of country. Despite the wars and subsequent loss of life, Tariq and Laila want to return to Afghanistan even though they have established a comfortable life in Pakistan.
The suppression of women is another dominant theme. Forced marriages and the wearing of the burka are two ways that women are shown to have no rights. They must always do what their fathers tell them and cannot complain about their abusive husbands. If in a dispute with a man, the woman is assumed the guilty party. That is why Mariam had no hope of successfully pleading her case to the Taliban after she killed Rasheed. Either she or Laila had to pay the price, no matter that their own lives were threatened.
Also prevalent in the novel is the theme of terror. Women, especially, live in terror. Brutally beaten without any way of protecting themselves, they are the objects of their husbands’ frustrations and short tempers. And there is, of course, the terror of the Taliban, who control almost every detail of the Afghanis’ lives. Spies always lurk close by, ready to turn in their neighbors for trivial “offenses” such as listening to music or radios.
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