Violence, Misery and Abuse against Women in A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hussien

April 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

The aim of this study is to focus and illustrate the characteristics of female characters that demonstrate the inner strength and abilities of women being challenged by hard life conditions. Particularly, it aims to explain how a unified vision of selfhood and strong self-identity and self-awareness of women changes a condition of miserable, dependent and oppressed life, to an independent, dignified life, free of oppressive male dominance. Khaled Husseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns examine how women regain their inner strength and selfhood to fight the racism and oppressive male dominance. In the novel the female characters suffer tremendously from the ills of racism, sexism, and inequity, but in the end they reemerge as women with dignity and self-confidence. Khaled Husseini is known as one of the very successful writers in American literature who has appeared recently. He is important in American literature and in general for English speaking world, he took the English speaker’s audience into the culture, live stile, and history of Afghanistan. Afghan women were still voiceless and faceless, until Khaled Husseini broke up the silence with the story of Mariam and Laila’s troublesome lives, A Thousand Splendid Suns.

In his novel, Husseini reflect the hardships and sufferings of Afghan women in a society where law, custom, traditions and religion have put hands together to narrow the circle of a free and independent life for women. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a novel about women’s life in Afghanistan. It’s the story of Mariam and Laila’s life, both of whom are married to the same man. Mariam and Laila, indeed shares the same husband and the same destiny. The author chooses two women from a completely different background. The main characters of Husseini’s novel, Mariam and Laila live an oppressed life. But at the end of the story, they transform into brave, dependent and women with dignified self-identity. Mariam is an illiterate girl from the southern city of Qandahar and Laila is an educated girl from Kabul. Through the novel, both characters face hardships and difficulties of a male dominated society, and react in their own ways. Mariam, who is an uneducated girl, is unaware of her individual right as a woman. Mariam during her childhood always doubted Nana’s sayings. She thought that Nana (her mother) doesn’t want her good because she didn’t let her even talk about going with her father. Nana always said that don’t believe Jalil, he is lying and he won’t let you live with her family. But Mariam could not believe that unless she saw every think Jalil did to her by her eyes. Jalil sold her to a shoe maker from Kabul, with whom she experience very hard days in her life. She is surrendered to the wills of a man, but Laila is an educated girl. She stands against her husband and tries to defend herself and Mariam. Mariam is a victim of a forced marriage; she is the victim of her father’s dominance as a man. She is married to a man who is a shoemaker and not less dominant than her father. Mariam is called a harami, a bastard. She was five years old the first time she heard the word harami by her mother. “You are a clumsy little harami. This is my reward for everything I’ve endured. A heirloom-breaking, clumsy little harami.”(Husseini, 04)

Her mother, Nana who has lived a miserable and oppressed life shapes Mairam’s basic perceptions and understanding about the society where male is considered superior then female. Nana says: “This is what it means to be a woman in this world. Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman.” (34) Nana tells what a hard and troublesome life she has experienced. Through the years of hard times she has learned one thing and one skill, Tahamul, endure. She insists on tahamul or endurance as the only way a women like her can choose to survive. Nana knows better than anyone else Mariam’s destiney and miserable life that waits her. Women are regarded as commodities and properties of men; they are not seen as honorable wives or mothers. The both the main characters of the novel are tortured tremendously on many occasions. They are suppressed. Mariam and Laila are treated like animals, because they are forced to do things against their wills and desires. Both characters face the worst types of violence imposed by husband. In a society where women are treated as the properties of their husbands, women are definitely objectified and claimed by their husbands. It’s accepted almost the right of a husband to beat his wife. Mariam is beaten for making up reasons; one day she is beaten for not cooking well and one day for not cleaning the house. Rasheed punishes Mariam by putting pebbles in her mouth and mercilessly hurts her, because he does not like the rice Mariam has cooked. “Good,” Rasheed said. His cheeks were quivering. Now you know what your rice tastes like. Now you know what you have given me in this marriage. Bad food, and nothing else. Then he was gone, leaving Mariam to spit out pebbles, blood, and the fragments of two broken molars. (Husseini, 2007: 104)

Unlike Mariam, Laila Rasheed’s second wife speaks out when she can’t resist the extreme unjustified treatment of man towards her, and try to make them notice the wrong judgment they make. But she always receives the same careless and ignoring treatment from men. Laila is educated. She belongs to a family of higher values, where there no violence was used. She has never seen such a thing happening inside a family. Thus, she seriously feels responsible to prevent it from happening. Indeed, Laila is a typical educated Kabul girl who has been to university and has sufficient awareness of human values as an individual. She is more aware of her rights as an individual, while Mariam is ignorant and uneducated. She has accepted man as a superior power. She prefers to stay silent. She is surrendered and obedient, while Laila dares to say: They can’t make half of the population stay home and do nothing,” Laila said. Laila saw that…This isn’t some village. This is Kabul, women here used to practice law and medicine; they held office in the government, said Laila. (279) Laila, Rasheed’s second wife, Mariam earlier rival has grown up in an educated and relatively civilized environment. She puts the first step towards Mariam to help her and show sympathy. When Rasheed is wildly intending to beat Mariam, Laila steps in and tries her best to stop Rasheed from beating. Mariam reminds Laila that the same thing will be going to happen to her. “I couldn’t let him, Laila said. I wasn’t raised in a household where people did things like that.”; “This is your household now. You ought to get used to it” “Not to that. I won’t.” (249)

Mariam remembers that during twenty seven years of life with Rasheed, she lost lots of freedom, including her, honor, dignity, identity, freedom. She transforms from a girl who suffers a constant feeling of embarrassment and uselessness into a woman who has loved and has been loved. Her useless and unintended life can bring peace and comfort for the ones she has loved. Now she is watching Rasheed beating Laila so violently. She finds herself in a situation to decide whether to choose to continue the miserable life with Rasheed or live a life without his existence. That is the time that Mariam remembers all her past, twenty seven years of her life that she has served and worked for Rasheed. But, none of the things she has done for him has made him happy. And, now he is going to take her dearest one, Laila from her. Mariam saw how in those same eyes what a fool she had been. Had she been a deceitful wife? She asked herself. A complacent wife? A dishonorable woman? Discreditable? Vulgar? What harmful thing had she willfully done to this man to warrant his malice, his continual assaults, the relish with which he tormented her? Had she not looked after him when he was ill? Fed him, and his friends, cleaned up after him dutifully? Had she not given this man her youth? Had she ever justly deserved his meanness? (324)

Mariam, the disgraced and bastard creature owns dignity. She proves it by the extraordinary act of generosity and sacrifice. For a long time she remains silent and enduring to make her husband contended. She does whatever she is asked. But her husband never brings any change in his brutal and violent treatment of her. The endurance of twenty seven years life with Rasheed teach her this fact that during all those years she has just been a fool. Moreover, the strong feeling of love that grows between Laila, the children and her teaches her this reality that if she can do something for the good of Laila and the children it means her wishes in life are fulfilled. That would mean she has lived an honorable life. Eventually, all the experiences and lessons that she learned during the troublesome life with Rasheed gives her the ability to make a decision that belongs to her own self. During the years Rasheed has taken lots of thing from her.

And now she is trying to kill Laila, but Mariam won’t let that to heppen. She “brought down the shovel. This time, she gave it everything she had.” (Husseini, 349) She kills Rasheed. She gains that freedom for Laila and the children. Her generosity for the betterment of Laila and the children’s lives are limitless. Mariam gives another sacrifice. She asks Laila and the children to leave the city and go to Pakistan for their safety, and she stays at home until the Taliban come and arrest her. She doesn’t agree to escape with Laial and the children because Mariam believes that if they are caught together, Taliban will create problem for Laila too. Laila and her lover named Tariq who had left Afghanistan because of Taliban returns to Afghanistan and works in organization and takes part in the reconstruction of their country. Finally Mariam finds her comfort in give the last and the greatest sacrifice one can give in love. She sacrifices her life to save Laila, Tariq, her lover and the children. By giving these sacrifices Mariam feels contented. She says: “For me it ends here. There’s nothing more I want. Eveyting I’d never wished for as a little girl you’ve already given me. You and your children have made me so very happy. It’s all right, Laila jo. This is all right. Don’t be sad.” (359)

After the years of shame and disgraceful life, Mariam now feels dignified and graceful. She had come to this world as an unintended creature that brought shame for her mother. She felt the shame of being a bastard. She lacked the love a good father, suffered 27 years of living with a man to whom she was sold. She was beaten neglected and silenced and hided under the burqa by her husband. And, now all those year of dishonorable life, and punishing moments has changed her to a person with the most sacrificial heart. She feels in love and being loved. Indeed, the novel tries to picture a better future and create hope for women. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, there is not an open outcry against the oppressive male hegemony. Only the situation and hard life condition of women are depicted. The novel tells the story of women who are condemned, silenced, oppressed and are violently victims of brutal male dominance. In the beginning, the women as main characters undergo the aforementioned injustice and inequity. But, throughout the novel all the tough and hard circumstances puts hands in hands to propel the characters towards a greater, superior and unified identity, selfhood and self-awareness.


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