A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Zalmai Character Analysis

Laila’s son with Rasheed, whom she nearly aborts, but whom she ends up loving just as much as she loves Aziza. When Zalmai is with his father, however, he becomes cranky and difficult to handle. He misses his father desperately after his death, which leads Laila to understand one of the many costs of her happiness.
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Zalmai Character Timeline in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The timeline below shows where the character Zalmai appears in A Thousand Splendid Suns. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part III: Chapter 40
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...forty, has lost two front teeth, one knocked out by Rasheed when she accidentally dropped Zalmai. (full context)
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Zalmai is two now, plump with curly hair and rosy cheeks like Rasheed. When Laila is... (full context)
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Aziza is 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... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 41
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...dried bread, stolen canned ravioli, raw turnips and blackened bananas. Aziza grows extremely thin and Zalmai becomes listless and pale. (full context)
Part III: Chapter 42
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...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 piece of... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
...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 knows how much trouble it... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...looks vulnerable and almost harmless. They all take the bus to Titanic City. Rasheed tells Zalmai and Aziza to pick something out, but after trying to haggle, he snaps at Aziza... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
When they arrive home, Zalmai yells at an unknown man to get away. Laila follows his pointing finger and sees... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 43
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Mariam is looking after Zalmai upstairs, and he’s in a troublemaking mood. He had looked at Tariq suspiciously, and soon... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 44
Gender Relations Theme Icon
That night, Zalmai will tell Rasheed that Mammy has a new friend—a man. “Does she, now?” Rasheed will... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Back to dinner that night: Zalmai says the man has a limp. Rasheed, stony-faced, says that Laila let Tariq into his... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...tons of letters, he says, even though he doubted she’d receive them. At that moment, Zalmai starts crying upstairs. (full context)
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Gender Relations Theme Icon
That night: Rasheed asks if Laila let Tariq see her face, and Zalmai pipes in that she did. (full context)
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...afternoon: Tariq says that her son doesn’t like her much. Laila feels guilty, knowing that Zalmai is simply a child who loves his father, and his dislike of a male stranger... (full context)
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
That night: Rasheed asks Zalmai if he talked to the man too, and Zalmai seems uncertain, aware that he’s stumbled... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 45
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
After Rasheed extracts the final parts of the story from Zalmai, he accompanies him upstairs. Zalmai shoots a sorrowful, contrite glance at Mariam and Laila before... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 46
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
...though, seems thoughtful. She tells Laila to sit down. They have to move him, she says—Zalmai can’t see him like this. (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Laila finds Zalmai waiting for Rasheed to say his prayers with them. He asks where his father is,... (full context)
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
...responds—she’s killed their husband, so it isn’t right that she run. She can never face Zalmai’s grief. (full context)
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
Mariam packs a lunch for Aziza and Zalmai, and tells Laila to kiss Aziza for her. Laila says she wants to see Mariam... (full context)
Part III: Chapter 47
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Female Friendship Theme Icon
...at her. Earlier, she had feared she would panic or weep, but she thinks of Zalmai, of the father she took from him, and she’s able to walk steadily. She knows... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 48
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
Zalmai, on the other hand, is sullen and rebels against Tariq, saying he’s not his real... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 49
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
That night, Zalmai wakes up coughing, and Tariq rocks him back and forth. When he comes back to... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 50
Shame and Reputation Theme Icon
Love, Loyalty, and Belonging Theme Icon
...night in a hotel, Tariq finds Laila a taxi, since she wants to go alone. Zalmai starts to cry when she leaves, but then he reaches for Tariq, which both comforts... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 51
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...NGO that fits land mine survivors with prosthetic limbs. Laila heads out with Aziza and Zalmai. The streets are busy with rickshaws and UN trucks. Flowers are potted in the empty... (full context)