Use of Foreshadowing and Irony in A Thousand Splendid Suns
Middle Eastern women are still the center of discrimination due to excessive male patriotism. In a nation overflowed with violence, terrorism, and war, women emitionally struggle to maintain hope as they are constantly subjected to persecution in their own homes. In the novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled Hosseini depicts the lives of very different women, Mariam and Laila, who live Afghanistan under the control of a tyrannical husband and the infamous rule of the Taliban. Throught “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, Hosseini uses foreshadowing and irony effectively to shape and reinforce the theme of the suppression of women in a war-torn society through marginalization, powerlessness, and violence.
The first type of oppression, marginalization, is foreshadowed through the discrimination and alienation that Marimam encounters in her life. The novel introduces Mariam, the main protagonist, as a harami or a bastard child. Hosseini states that, “Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word “harami”… a harami was an unwanted thing; that she … was an illegitimate person who would never have legitimate claim to the things of other people” (A Thousand Splendid Suns, 1-4). The harami status has foreshadowed the marginalization of mariam as an outcast by society and has reduced her rights to have love, family, and acceptance. It was also foreshadowed that mariam would be expelled by her father from his family because he never had the audacity to accept her legally. Housseini states that, “Jalil would lift Mariam high and swing her in the air, and Nana said that one day, he would surely drop her”. This is ironic, because Jalil, who only cares about his status, neglects her when he refuses her entrance to his house and then married her to Rasheed, an oppressive husband.
The marginalization has also continued in her marriage. Rasheed himself treats her like someone who is worthless of respect. Hosseini states that, “For years, he had eaten without looking up, without speaking…as though some judgment were being passed, then broken only by an accusatory grunt…a one-word command for more bread, more water” (A Thousand Splendid Suns, 224). It happens because Mariam cannot give him a son, and moreover, she is a harami. In the beginning, Mariam wasn’t aware of the meaning of this name, however, with maturity, the label foreshadowed the marginalization she encountered in her life.
The novel foreshadows the oppression of powerlessness as it is experienced by Mariam for several years of her marriage. This is foreshadowed by Mariam’s mother saying to her that she should “ Learn this now and learn it well… Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.” (A thousand Splendid Suns, 7). Ever since Mariam miscarriages, Rasheed is easily annoyed by her minor faults and every thing she does always infuriates him. As a retribution for not cooking according to his preference, “he shoved two fingers into her mouth…and forced the cold, hard pebbles into it, urged her to chew it” (A thousand splendid suns, pg 104). Mariam lives in terror of his impulsive fault fighting that often ends in ridicule and violence. In the beginning, she thought they would both “ make good companions” (85). This is ironic because they never become companions, only master and slave. Mariam passively accepts her violation instead of fighting it. Her uneasiness around Rasheed shows that she is not strong enough to build her self defence against his foolish accusations.
Mariam also does her household duties in pursuit of a comfortable and happy marriage. But Rasheed only treats her as his object of fault finding and humiliating. Houssini states that Rasheed was “more apt to these days, to fault her cooking, to complain about clutter around the yard or point out even minor uncleanliness in the house” (A Thousand Splendid Suns, 100). Rasheed offends Mariam by speaking rudely toward her and easily judges her innocence as a stupidity. Mariam later agrees with what her mother said because when she married Rasheed, she encountered abuse for every fault. By picking at her faults and continuously abusing her for them, he intends to make her believe that she is powerless and unable to fight against him.
Lastly, Mariam and Laila’s oppression of systematic violence is foreshadowed as later being committed by their husband. In the beginning of the marriage, Mariam found a picture of Rasheed and his former wife in a drawer which makes her feel anxious in the way “he seems to loom over his first wife…has his hands on her shoulders and wears a savory, tight-lipped smile while her face is sullen and unsmiling.” This foreshadows how Rasheed must have treated his first wife and how he will smilarily oppress Mariam and Laila through violence. Mariam later realized how much women can tolerate when “she lived in fear of his shifting moods, his volatile temperament, his insistence on steering down…a confrontational path that he would resolve with punches, slaps, and kicks” (A Thousand Splendid Suns, 104-105). Rasheed seems to loom over Mariam with dominance and supressees Mariam through violence which aims to damage her.
Due to the excessive torments and abuse from her husband, Mariam believes that she is somehow to blame for the abuse. She asks herself if Rasheed’s actions are reflected due to her being “a deceitful wife…A complacent wife? A dishonorable woman? Discreditable? (3.45.22). This is ironic because she doesn’t realize that Rasheed is the one who shows wickedness and unnecessarily blames her for little faults. The Photograph also foreshadows the inability of two women to escape the hands of the oppressor. As Mariam looks into the picture, she realizes that the wife’s “body seems to tip forward as if she is trying to wriggle free of his hands.” When Laila and Mariam plan to escape, they get caught and returned home by the police. For several days, Rasheed tortures them by punching and locking them in different places, without food and water as if they were prisoners. They do not have authority to make Rasheed stop damaging them and fail to escape from the brutal place.
In A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini uses foreshadowing and irony effectively to shape and reinforce the theme of the suppression of women in a war-torn society through marginalization, powerlessness, and violence. Due to the Harmi status, Mariam is subjected to marginalization in her family, society, and marriage life. Mariam is also powerless when Rasheed necessarily pin points her faults and abuses her for them. Lastly, just as he abused his first wife, Rasheed also oppresses Mariam and Liala through excessive violence. Despite the struggle that Mariam and Laila had to face, they still fought against unwanted subjugation, violence, and alienation to the best of their ability.
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