A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Fariba (Mammy) Character Analysis

Laila’s mother. She was originally a curious, joyful woman but, by the time Laila is growing up, she is increasingly depressed at the departure of her two sons to fight in the Mujahideen. Their death drives her into further desperation, and she remains in her room for most of the time, unable to take care of Laila and not able to function fully. Mammy blames Babi for his inability to stop their sons from leaving, and for his bookishness and lack of practical savvy, though Laila comes to understand that these accusations stem from her grief and desperation.

Fariba (Mammy) Quotes in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The A Thousand Splendid Suns quotes below are all either spoken by Fariba (Mammy) or refer to Fariba (Mammy). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of A Thousand Splendid Suns published in 2007.
Part II: Chapter 19 Quotes

It was hard to feel, really feel, Mammy’s loss. Hard to summon sorrow, to grieve the deaths of people Laila had never really thought of as alive in the first place. Ahmad and Noor had always been like lore to her. Like characters in a fable. Kings in a history book.

It was Tariq who was real, flesh and blood.

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq, Fariba (Mammy), Ahmad, Noor
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

Ahmad and Noor, Laila's two brothers, have been killed in the course of fighting, and Mammy, who has always adored them, is beyond comforting. During the funeral, Laila attempts to understand her mother's feelings, and to feel her sorrow herself, but is unable to. Ahmad and Noor, off fighting since Laila was very young, have long remained abstract figures to her rather than real, present, loving brothers. She understands the importance of their positions and their courage in fighting for their country, but these ideals have never gained a sense of reality for Laila. She can only contrast the way she feels about her brothers to the way she feels about Tariq, whom she has grown up with, and to whom she feels more loyal and loving than she feels even towards her own brothers. While Laila would never be able to vocalize such sentiments, she does allow herself these silent feelings as she attempts to come to terms with her family's loss.

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Part III: Chapter 27 Quotes

She was remembering the day the man from Panjshir had come to deliver the news of Ahmad’s and Noor’s deaths. She remembered Babi, white-faced, slumping on the couch, and Mammy, her hand flying to her mouth when she heard. Laila had watched Mammy come undone that day and it had scared her, but she hadn’t felt any true sorrow. She hadn’t understood the awfulness of her mother’s loss. Now another stranger bringing news of another death. Now she was the one sitting on the chair. Was this her penalty, then, her punishment for being aloof to her own mother’s suffering?

Related Characters: Laila, Tariq, Fariba (Mammy), Hakim (Babi), Ahmad, Noor
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

As Laila struggles to react to the news of Tariq’s death, her mind returns to an earlier moment of another person’s suffering, in another reaction to horrific news. As readers, we too can recall that moment and remember how Laila struggled to feel a real sense of loss at the death of her brothers, even as her own mother broke down in grief at the news. Now Laila can finally recognize what Mammy was feeling at that long-ago moment, but she also feels that she is being made to pay, in some cosmic way, for her lack of grief when Ahmad and Noor died. At that moment in time, she had contrasted the abstract figures of her brothers to the real, visceral presence of Tariq. Here, that comparison is tragically fulfilled, as Laila learns that the person who has always seemed most real and true to her has died. In a tragically ironic twist, Laila can only fully understand her own mother’s suffering when she is made to experience something just as painful herself.

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Fariba (Mammy) Character Timeline in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The timeline below shows where the character Fariba (Mammy) appears in A Thousand Splendid Suns. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: Chapter 10
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
A round, light-skinned woman taps Mariam on the shoulder, introducing herself as Fariba and saying she must be Rasheed’s new wife. She says her husband is Hakim, a... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...who think they’re modern intellectuals. Rasheed says they’re spoiling their honor and pride. Hakim and Fariba are one of these couples, he says—it’s embarrassing. Rasheed says that where he comes from,... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 12
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
...Mariam and Rasheed walk the streets and she is astounded by the liveliness. They see Fariba and her husband, and when Fariba waves and calls out to her, Mariam only nods.... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 13
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...a women’s hamam, where she is scrubbing herself when, suddenly, there is blood and pain. Fariba rushes over to take care of her. She takes another bus ride with Rasheed, who... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 15
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...to a massive demonstration in Kabul. Mariam sees outside the window neighbors milling about, including Fariba with another woman, holding a little boy’s name—Tariq, Mariam has heard her say. (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Down the street, Fariba has just given birth to a baby girl, with jade-green eyes that her son Noor... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 16
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Downstairs, Laila’s parents are fighting like usual—Mammy, angry and ranting, and Babi, quiet and sheepish-looking. Afterward, Babi calls for Laila, and she... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Babi shows Laila a rip in the screen door, and says that Mammy has complained it’s letting in bees. Laila feels sorry for Babi, a small, delicate man... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...two men sitting inside are, and Babi says it’s not their business. Laila recalls how Mammy yelled at Babi for making nothing his business, even his two sons were going to... (full context)
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
After school, since Mammy doesn’t show up, Laila walks home with her classmates Giti and Hasina. Hasina is clever... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 17
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...dared to do it if Tariq was there—but also that it wouldn’t have happened had Mammy showed up. She grows angry at her mother’s abandonment. On Mammy’s good days, she bathes,... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...away fighting. Laila barely remembers them, since she was two years old when they left. Mammy always refuses any suggestion as unworthy of her boys. These conversations make Laila think of... (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
After these reminiscences, Laila slowly enters Mammy’s room, where she is greeted by a smell of unwashed linen, leftover meals, and clothes... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Laila tells Mammy to wake up, and she slowly emerges from under layers of blankets. She asks Laila... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 19
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...sees the man whisper something at her parents, and then Babi’s face turning white, and Mammy screaming. (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
...Giti and Hasina arrive with their families. Babi also feels useless, and the only thing Mammy says is to keep him away from her. (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...the Koran. Mariam, Rasheed’s wife, enters in a black hijab and sits across from Laila. Mammy sways back and forth, her gaze blank. But Laila struggles to really feel the loss,... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 20
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Mammy begins to have mysterious aches, pains, and lumps, and although doctors find nothing wrong she... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Sometimes, Laila lies next to Mammy in bed. One day Mammy tells a story about Ahmad’s talent for architecture and sketches,... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
After hesitating, Laila says she’s been meaning to ask Mammy something. Already, with Hasina, she’s gotten rid of the house’s supply of aspirin and has... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 21
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Babi says that he often brought Mammy up here, back when she was adventurous and alive. He smiles at the memories, and... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
When Babi is done, they both grow quiet, knowing that Mammy would never leave the land of her martyr sons—and Babi would never leave without her.... (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...April 1988, Babi returns home to announce that a treaty has been signed in Geneva. Mammy claims that the communist puppet president, Najibullah, is still staying. She won’t celebrate until the... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 22
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...her parents and Hasina to watch the departure of one of the last Soviet convoys. Mammy holds a photo of Ahmad and Noor over her head. Tariq taps Laila and Hasina... (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
...Babi that the Soviets will continue to send weapons to Najibullah, their puppet in Kabul. Mammy mutters prayers to herself over and over again. (full context)
Part II: Chapter 23
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...Najibullah finally surrenders and the jihad is over—the comrades of Ahmad and Noor have triumphed. Mammy knows the names of all the leaders of each faction, separated by ethnicity and alliance.... (full context)
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
The day after Najibullah’s surrender, Mammy stops wearing black, cleans the house, and invites all the neighbors over for a big... (full context)
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Nevertheless, it irritates Laila that Mammy has criticized her, when she’s been aloof and distant for so many years. Still, she... (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...enemy, and begin to turn on each other. Rockets begin to fall on Kabul, and Mammy changes back into black and retreats into her room. (full context)
Part II: Chapter 24
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...below. He explains to her the constantly shifting boundaries of warlords’ territory in Kabul. Now, Mammy’s heroes are called warlords, or else Mujahideen but ironically, scornfully. (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
...Tariq leans in to kiss Laila. At that moment, Laila doesn’t care at all about Mammy’s warnings—she can’t think of anything better than kissing Tariq beneath a tree in the midst... (full context)
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
...as well. Girls are raped and bodies found tied to trees. Babi tries to convince Mammy to leave Kabul, but she insists that the fighting is temporary and that they’ll work... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 26
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Babi calls to Laila from upstairs, saying that Mammy has agreed to leave. The three of them sit on the bed as rockets fall... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...splinters onto her face. It was this small hole in the gate that finally convinced Mammy she could lose her one last child as well. She looks resigned, but embraces Babi. (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...of books from the house to the yard, where they’ll take everything to a pawnshop. Mammy tells Laila to come up when she’s done sorting everything in the yard, and they’ll... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 32
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Laila recalls a gathering years earlier on one of Mammy’s good days. Their neighbor Wajma had told the others how Rasheed’s son died: Rasheed used... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 49
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...hidden in their video camera went off —they were probably from Al-Qaeda. Laila recalls how Mammy had always refused to blame Massoud, even after the warring between factions. Laila, though, remembers... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 50
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
...hears Babi in her head telling her she can do anything she wants; she hears Mammy saying she wants to be in Afghanistan when her sons’ dream of a new country... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 51
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...street corners. Laila wishes that, like Jalil’s letter, Kabul’s rebirth hadn’t arrived too late for Mammy and Babi. (full context)