A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Rasheed Character Analysis

The undeniable villain of the novel. Rasheed owns a shoe shop in Kabul, and is initially a successful businessman, though as things unravel in Afghanistan, he ends up struggling and eventually losing his business. Before marrying Mariam, he had already been married once before, but his wife and son had died—his son drowned while Rasheed was drunk and passed out. He is initially kind and solicitous to Mariam but soon becomes a grunting, hostile bundle of nerves, who treats Mariam with scorn and beats her. The same process is repeated when he marries Laila after her parents’ deaths—Rasheed becomes increasingly violent to both his wives up until the book’s climax. Rasheed doesn’t mind the Taliban, and indeed his character is meant to reveal the worst of men’s treatment of women in Afghanistan during the time span of the novel.

Rasheed Quotes in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The A Thousand Splendid Suns quotes below are all either spoken by Rasheed or refer to Rasheed. 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 I: Chapter 10 Quotes

“But I’m a different breed of man, Mariam. Where I come from, one wrong look, one improper word, and blood is spilled. Where I come from, a woman’s face is her husband’s business only. I want you to remember that. Do you understand?”

Related Characters: Rasheed (speaker), Mariam
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Rasheed is pleased with the dinner Mariam has cooked for him, and he offers to show her around Kabul the next day. But he will require her to wear a floor-length burqa: as he hands it to her, he scornfully talks about the more modern men in the neighborhood, who allow their wives to walk around in short skirts. Like Mariam, Rasheed is from a more rural part of Afghanistan, where more modern, Western customs are not only looked down upon but are often unthinkable.

It is not so much that Mariam is bothered by these customs of dress, but rather by what these customs symbolize in Rasheed's mind. For him, the burqa is meant to proclaim that Mariam is his property, that she belongs to him alone. Even her face cannot be seen by others for risk of allowing other men to have so much as a glimpse of this property. Mariam feels suffocated, not to mention intimidated, by these assumptions, which seem to rely on a code of violent patriarchal honor and reputation.

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Part I: Chapter 15 Quotes

It wasn’t easy tolerating him talking this way to her, to bear his scorn, his ridicule, his insults, his walking past her like she was nothing but a house cat. But after four years of marriage, Mariam saw clearly how much a woman could tolerate when she was afraid.

Related Characters: Mariam, Rasheed
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has had multiple miscarriages in the years since she first married Rasheed, and she knows that her husband is furious at her for not giving him a son, a prized and crucial possession among traditional families. Rasheed has lost any minor tenderness that he once may have shown Mariam, and now in addition to feeling scorned and ridiculed Mariam also has to deal with being frightened by Rasheed's unpredictable moods and tendency to beat her. 

Rasheed treats Mariam not as a fellow human being, much less his own wife, but as an animal or a possession, something hardly worthy of attention. Mariam had hoped that she would find long-sought love with her new husband, but now that hope seems wildly naive and optimistic. Instead, Mariam begins to espouse some of the same beliefs that Nana had tried to equip her with when Mariam was a child. She has learned to "tolerate" all that Rasheed hurls at her, rather than fight or challenge him. Fear, rather than preventing her from persevering through the shameful way he treats her, is what ensures that she will be able to accept what happens to her.

Part III: Chapter 38 Quotes

Laila dropped the spoke because she could not accept what the Mujahideen readily had: that sometimes in war innocent life had to be taken. Her war was against Rasheed. The baby was blameless. And there had been enough killing already. Laila had seen enough killing of innocents caught in the cross fire of enemies.

Related Characters: Laila, Rasheed
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

Rasheed has hinted to Laila that he knows that Aziza is not his child, and he threatens her with all he could do, legally, as her husband, to punish her. Laila’s rage has not gone away by the time she realizes that she is once again pregnant, this time with Rasheed’s child. Her anger is such that she comes very close to completing a homegrown abortion, ensuring that she won’t give birth to the child of the man she despises.

Laila’s decision not to go through with the abortion is portrayed not as a sign of acquiescence to Rasheed’s power, but rather as a decision Laila makes herself to cut off the endless cycle of suffering and retribution. From her brothers and her parents to Tariq, Laila has seen first-hand how innocent people have suffered as a result of others’ desires for justice and revenge. Here she recognizes that such a process of violent vengeance can easily go on forever: it is up to her to choose, in this individual case, not to continue the cycle. She makes the decision to treat the baby as an “innocent caught in the cross fire” rather than as a symbol of Rasheed’s own malevolence.

Part III: Chapter 41 Quotes

Mariam regretted her foolish, youthful pride now. She wished now that she had let him in. what would have been the harm to let him in, sit with him, let him say what he’d come to say? He was her father. He’d not been a good father, it was true, but how ordinary his faults seemed now how forgivable, when compared to Rasheed’s malice, or to the brutality and violence that she had seen men inflict on one another.

Related Characters: Mariam, Rasheed, Jalil
Page Number: 309
Explanation and Analysis:

Mariam has gone to the Intercontinental Hotel with Rasheed to attempt to call Jalil. They want to ask if he can help the family, as the children are going hungry and they are in a desperate situation. Mariam has not seen Jalil for thirteen years, since he came to see her at Rasheed’s house, and she had refused to go out to meet him. Thinking back on that moment, Mariam decides she was wrong to stubbornly refuse to see her father. She does not argue that Jalil was blameless, or that she should forgive him for his behavior with her and Nana. But having lived longer and having seen greater suffering and greater evil, Mariam now acknowledges that Jalil’s sins are not on the same level as those of the Taliban, for instance, or even of Rasheed.

Mariam has developed a more nuanced understanding of the way that love and loyalty can function in families. She does not expect love to mean that families will be perfect, or that family members will not hurt each other, but she has come to accept that she can still acknowledge her father and respect him without forgetting about the pain he caused her.

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Rasheed Character Timeline in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The timeline below shows where the character Rasheed appears in A Thousand Splendid Suns. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: Chapter 7
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Khadija tells Mariam that she has a suitor named Rasheed, a friend of Jalil’s business colleague. He’s a Pashtun who lives in Kabul, but speaks... (full context)
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Nargis says that Rasheed’s wife died during childbirth, and his son drowned a few years ago, so he’s suffered... (full context)
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Mariam tries to imagine living in Kabul, 650 kilometers away, and cooking and cleaning for Rasheed. She is particularly terrified of what Nana told her about chores of intimacy that women... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 8
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...green veil, and mirror on the table. Nargis places the veil on Mariam’s head, and Rasheed enters the room, smelling of cigarette smoke and thick cologne. The man is tall, with... (full context)
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The mullah says that the wedding ceremony or nikka will be brief since Rasheed has bus tickets to Kabul for that day. When the mullah asks Mariam if she... (full context)
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As Mariam and Rasheed wait for the bus, Jalil tells Mariam how beautiful Kabul is. Unable to stand it,... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 9
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The next evening they arrive at Rasheed’s house, which he explains is in the southwest part of Kabul, near the zoo and... (full context)
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...the street have flat roofs and are made of burned brick, with small walled yards. Rasheed’s house looks like it was once blue. Inside there is a barren, unkempt yard, with... (full context)
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Upstairs, there are two bedrooms, and Rasheed gives her the guest room since he likes to sleep alone. Mariam is relieved. He... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 10
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The first few days, Mariam mainly stays in her room, watching Rasheed leave for work on his bicycle. She looks through the house, everything reminding her of... (full context)
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When Rasheed arrives home, he tells her about his day at the shoe shop, and things he’s... (full context)
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...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 teacher, and invites her to tea... (full context)
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That night, Rasheed seems pleased to see dinner set out. Mariam is nervous, but Rasheed says that it’s... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 11
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...and is unnerved by the suffocating fabric and her inability to see peripherally. She and Rasheed take a bus to a park, and to a kebab house near the Haji Yaghoub... (full context)
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Rasheed taps Mariam on her shoulder and shows her a maroon shawl he’s bought for her.... (full context)
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That night, Rasheed enters her room and lies down on her bed. Mariam starts shivering as he begins... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 12
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...breaking the fast each night with the entire city, one of her only communal experiences. Rasheed only rarely fasts, since hunger makes him irritable. One night Mariam is late with dinner... (full context)
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This year, Mariam and Rasheed walk the streets and she is astounded by the liveliness. They see Fariba and her... (full context)
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For Eid, Rasheed invites friends to her home, and tells Mariam to stay upstairs while they’re there. She... (full context)
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...though it also seems almost as if the wife is sullen and leaning away from Rasheed. Later, she regrets having sneaked around the room, and feels sorry for Rasheed and the... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 13
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Mariam rides a bus home from the doctor’s, where she learned that she’s pregnant. Rasheed is in an excellent mood and is convinced that it’s a boy. He points out... (full context)
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The next day Mariam finds Rasheed building a crib that the baby, which he continues to refer to as a “he.”... (full context)
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The next night, Rasheed invites friends over to celebrate. Mariam cooks and cleans all day. She sits upstairs as... (full context)
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...pain. Fariba rushes over to take care of her. She takes another bus ride with Rasheed, who is no longer in a good mood. Once they arrive home, he fumes that... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 14
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...thinks that she is being punished for abandoning Nana. Other days, she is angry at Rasheed for celebrating prematurely, or at herself for eating the wrong things or sleeping in the... (full context)
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Rasheed, meanwhile, has grown moody and silent, complaining about Mariam’s cooking or cleaning. He no longer... (full context)
Part I: Chapter 15
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Rasheed says that Mir Akbar Khyber had been a communist, and his supporters are blaming his... (full context)
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Mariam is increasingly afraid of Rasheed’s violent moods and increasingly common beatings. In the four years since her first pregnancy, she... (full context)
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...Republic of Afghanistan, claiming that a new era of freedom and democracy is at hand. Rasheed says this change will be bad for the rich, but possibly not for people like... (full context)
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Back at Mariam’s, Rasheed shoves a ball of rice into his mouth and then spits it out disgustedly, saying... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 16
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...and on the way she spots a blue Benz car parked across from the shoemaker Rasheed’s house, where he lives with his “reclusive” wife. Laila asks who the two men sitting... (full context)
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Laila walks the last few blocks alone, and sees the blue Benz still parked outside Rasheed’s house, with the elderly man standing outside it looking up at the house. She hears... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 19
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...around the room to listen to a cassette player of chants from the Koran. Mariam, Rasheed’s wife, enters in a black hijab and sits across from Laila. Mammy sways back and... (full context)
Part II: Chapter 23
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...feels guilty when she thinks of him that way. She knows the neighbors gossip: recently, Rasheed passed by and referred to them as Laili and Majnoon, the lovers of a twelfth-century... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 27
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...That first week, the girl does little other than sleep, thanks to the pink pills Rasheed buys at the hospital. Sometimes she cries out names that Mariam doesn’t recognize, and grows... (full context)
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Rasheed had found the girl amid the rubble of her house, and had salvaged the few... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 29
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Rasheed tells the girl he’s very sorry, and knows the two of them were close friends.... (full context)
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Rasheed says that the CIA armed the wrong faction in the fight against the Soviets, and... (full context)
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Later, as Mariam is washing the dishes, she thinks about what a performance Rasheed has put on. She realizes with dread that she’s been witnessing a courtship.  (full context)
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When she finally confronts Rasheed, he simply says, “Why not?” and Mariam knows she’s defeated. Rasheed is at least sixty,... (full context)
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That night, Mariam tells the girl about Rasheed’s proposal. For a long time, she says nothing, but then tells Mariam that her answer... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 30
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Laila stays in bed the next day, up until Rasheed returns from the barber with a new haircut, a new suit, and a wedding band—he’s... (full context)
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Laila knows that her agreement to wed Rasheed is dishonorable, shameful, and unfair to Mariam, but she is committed to sacrificing anything for... (full context)
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...including Mariam watching, disapproving. Laila can’t bring herself to meet Mariam’s gaze. That night, as Rasheed undresses her, she starts shaking involuntarily. She asks him to turn off the lights. Later,... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 31
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...sometimes inevitably run into each other, leading to tension and awkwardness. Sometimes she can smell Rasheed on him—he never sleeps with Mariam anymore, thankfully, and even thinking about him makes her... (full context)
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At night, Rasheed insists they all eat together, and tries to get Mariam to talk to the girl.... (full context)
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Rasheed says that he doesn’t want to speak ill of the dead, but he is concerned... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 32
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...earlier on one of Mammy’s good days. Their neighbor Wajma had told the others how Rasheed’s son died: Rasheed used to drink sharab and was drunk that day, passed out on... (full context)
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Laila is thinking about this story when she tells Rasheed about the baby. He immediately cycles to the mosque to pray for a boy. Rasheed... (full context)
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As fall turns to winter, Rasheed comes home with news of ever-shifting alliances: Sayyaf is fighting the Hazaras, who are fighting... (full context)
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One day, Rasheed takes her to his shoe shop. She has to concentrate while wearing the burqa so... (full context)
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Rasheed asks how things are with Mariam, and she doesn’t tell him about their first real... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 33
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One morning the next spring, in 1993, Mariam watches from the window as Rasheed, overly attentive, accompanies “the girl,” as Mariam continues to think of Laila, through the gate.... (full context)
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Rasheed complains constantly about the crying for the first few months, saying he wishes he could... (full context)
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Mariam finds the girl’s enthusiasm annoying, but also impressive. Rasheed is not nearly as enthralled by Aziza, and rolls his eyes at Laila. Mariam recalls... (full context)
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One night, Rasheed says that he’s heard on the radio that one in four Afghan children will die... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 34
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...to Aziza and watching her, whispering stories about her father Tariq. Sometimes she notices that Rasheed looks at Aziza oddly. One night he asks what things were like between Laila and... (full context)
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Laila shivers to think what would happen if Rasheed knew that each week since Aziza’s birth, she’s been stealing from him, little by little.... (full context)
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...Laila finds a stack of girl baby clothes outside her room, neatly folded. That night, Rasheed mentions the rumors of alliances shifting once again, and warns that if the commander Dostum... (full context)
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Later that night, when Rasheed is asleep, Laila goes down to the kitchen, where Mariam is cleaning trout. She thanks... (full context)
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...three cups, as gunfire is heard over the hills. Then Aziza wakes up crying, and Rasheed yells for Laila. But the two exchange a look of trust, and Laila knows that... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 35
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For a week, even Rasheed stays home because of the violence. He says that the Mujahideen are forcing young boys... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 36
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That morning, in spring 1994, Laila is convinced Rasheed knows of their escape plan. But he leaves for work as usual. As she and... (full context)
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Laila begs him to let them leave, saying that there’s no telling what Rasheed will do to them if they’re sent back. The soldier seems uncomfortable but says that... (full context)
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Rasheed drags Laila upstairs. She starts to insist that it was her idea, not Mariam’s, and... (full context)
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Rasheed nails boards across Laila’s window, so it’s impossible for her to tell the time of... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 37
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Rasheed admits that the Taliban have no past or home, but they can only be better... (full context)
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...that this is what will be done to infidels who commit crimes against Islam, and Rasheed smirks as he listens. (full context)
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...population in Kabul, where women have practiced law and medicine and have worked in government. Rasheed calls her arrogant, telling her that she knows nothing about the “real” Afghanistan, where such... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 38
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Rasheed doesn’t mind the Taliban. Every Wednesday he listens to the names of the condemned on... (full context)
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Rasheed tells Laila that he’s noticed Aziza has an interesting eye color—it’s neither his nor hers.... (full context)
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Rasheed’s words make Laila sick, especially since she knows they’re true. But her queasiness persists, until... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 40
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...devastating drought. Mariam, now almost forty, has lost two front teeth, one knocked out by Rasheed when she accidentally dropped Zalmai. (full context)
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Zalmai is two now, plump with curly hair and rosy cheeks like Rasheed. When Laila is alone with him, he’s sweet and playful. Her stomach turns when she... (full context)
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...now six, and is quiet and even-tempered. She loves taking care of Zalmai. One day Rasheed comes home with a TV. Aziza presses the power button, and Rasheed snatches her wrist... (full context)
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That night, in fact, Rasheed tells Laila he’s decided to send Aziza into the street to beg at a corner—many... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 41
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Later that summer, a merchant falls asleep without putting out his cigarette, and Rasheed’s shop is one of the ones consumed in fire. Thrown into poverty, they must sell... (full context)
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But Mariam has a plan. She and Rasheed walk to the Intercontinental Hotel, and Rasheed greets one of the doormen, who Mariam finds... (full context)
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...had so much pride, and had forgiven him—his faults seem like so little next to Rasheed’s malice or the violence of the Mujahideen. She reaches the mayor’s office in Herat on... (full context)
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...realizes that Jalil was dying back then, and had driven from Herat to say goodbye. Rasheed looks at her, and Mariam shakes her head. Rasheed calls her useless. (full context)
Part III: Chapter 42
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...school where the children stay to eat and sleep, rather than telling her the truth. Rasheed and Zalmai wait two blocks from the barracks-style building, and Rasheed carelessly holds out a... (full context)
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...way home Laila can’t get her cries or desperation out of her head. At first, Rasheed accompanies her, Mariam, and Zalmai to the orphanage for visits, though he makes sure Laila... (full context)
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One day Rasheed says he won’t accompany Laila anymore. She keeps trying to visit the orphanage, though half... (full context)
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On one visit in June 2001, Rasheed relents, as he does rarely, and accompanies all of them to the orphanage. Aziza tells... (full context)
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That Friday, they leave with Aziza for a short outing—Rasheed soon has to return to work as a doorman for the Intercontinental. He’s wearing his... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 43
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...wonders which of them had plotted the lie with all its details, and how much Rasheed had paid Abdul Sharif to tell Laila the story of Tariq’s death. (full context)
Part III: Chapter 44
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That night, Zalmai will tell Rasheed that Mammy has a new friend—a man. “Does she, now?” Rasheed will reply. (full context)
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Back to dinner that night: Zalmai says the man has a limp. Rasheed, stony-faced, says that Laila let Tariq into his home, with his son. Laila says that... (full context)
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That night: Rasheed asks if Laila let Tariq see her face, and Zalmai pipes in that she did. (full context)
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...again, that she thought Tariq was dead. She asks for his forgiveness for having married Rasheed. Tariq doesn’t blame her. But Laila continues, saying that there’s something—someone—he doesn’t know about. (full context)
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That night: Rasheed asks Zalmai if he talked to the man too, and Zalmai seems uncertain, aware that... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 45
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After Rasheed extracts the final parts of the story from Zalmai, he accompanies him upstairs. Zalmai shoots... (full context)
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Rasheed returns with a belt, and swings it at Laila, hitting her temple. He lashes her... (full context)
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As Rasheed approaches Mariam with his belt, Laila picks up a drinking glass from the ground, and... (full context)
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...so that he’ll see, and when he looks up, she hits him across the temple. Rasheed touches his head and his gaze almost seems to soften—maybe, Mariam thinks, he sees something... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 46
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Rasheed is lying over Laila, and she begins to see stars. As darkness falls, she vaguely... (full context)
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They wrap Rasheed in a bedsheet and carry him into the yard, though at one point Laila collapses... (full context)
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Laila finds Zalmai waiting for Rasheed to say his prayers with them. He asks where his father is, and Laila tells... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 50
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...comfortable and calm, the kind that Laila used to dream of when she was with Rasheed. She is thankful for it, but one night in July 2002, she and Tariq are... (full context)